June 17, 2007

Weekly happenings

On Wednesday I was at a meeting all day at the Casa de la Juventud (youth house) in Danlí. It’s basically a hangout out for youth that’s open 7 days a week. The purpose is to provide activities and learning opportunities to keep adolescents out of otherwise risky behavior. The house has been there for awhile but in the last few years, there hasn’t been much going on. The meeting was to motivate volunteers (foreign and nationals) to bring life back to the place.

On Thursday I accompanied Luke on a trip to an aldea about 1 ½ hours on a dirt road into the mountains from El Paraíso. We went with the other PC engineer (about to end her PC service but plans to stay on with the organization as an employee), the Catholic Relief Service’s engineer who is working with JAM, and a técnico. We went to look at an aldea that has a water system that needs improved due to damages caused by landslides. We were about a 20 minute hike (along a steep mountainside – see pic below) from the car looking at the mountain where the pipes have been damaged when some dark clouds appeared and it began to rain.

The trail alongside the mountain

A house tucked away in the mountains (view from the trail)

We thought we’d wait it out a bit. Neither Luke nor I had our jackets with us but I did have my tiny travel umbrella. The rain didn’t let up so we decided to hike it out of there but we were already soaked to the bone. We go to the truck, drove back down to the aldea, had some sweet break and coffee and started to head home. We didn’t get more than a few minutes from the aldea when we saw that the small stream that we’d crossed over on the way in had turned into a raging amount of water resembling more of a river. We got out of the truck to check out the situation. Luke put a stick at the edge of the water and within a few minutes the water had grown 20 centimeters past the stick. We knew it would be awhile before the water would start to go down and slow down so we decided we’d go back to the aldea and find somewhere to stay the night. Just as we were about to turn around to head back, a smaller truck came from the opposite direction, paused for only a few seconds at the crossing, and then drove through the raging water with two kids and an old woman in the cab. We all just laughed about how hard we’d analyzed the situation and then this guy, obviously from the area, didn’t even give it a moments notice. So we put the truck in 4-wheel drive and crossed the water (Luke is really sad he isn’t allowed to drive). We made it back to Danlí by about 4.
The ¨river¨ we crossed to make it home

Earlier last week we’d made a contact with Heifer International which I’m sure many of you have hear of. A fellow PC volunteer is working with them in the west and has been really impressed with their work. When we called the office in Tegus we were directed to Heifer’s counterpart NGO in the department of Paraíso which is Vecinos Mundiales (World Neighbors). We contacted them and made plans to meet with the employee who was passing through Danlí on Friday. On Friday morning we met up with him at a restaurant here in town and he gave us the lowdown on the several projects in the area. He invited to us to go with him to an aldea to check out where they’ve been working to see if we thought it might be somewhere we could work. The aldea is about one and a half hours from Danli, about an hour of which is on a dirt road that hugs the side of a mountain with really only enough room for one car to pass. The drive to this aldea was beautiful. The first 30 minutes or so of the drive is through an area that is practically uninhabited so there is very little deforestation. When we got to the aldea, we were served lunch and introduced to 6 men who are the leaders in the 12 small communities on that mountain. They had lots of questions for us about how we could help, what our experience was, etc. It’s hard to explain to them that the support we offer in through trainings and technical support but no financial support (although we can always help them look for it by presenting projects to NGOs, etc.). They’re looking for help with several things, the first one being with water systems. 4 of the 10 communities have functioning water systems, 2 communities have old ones that need replaced and 6 communities have no water system at all. They also have some agriculture projects going (apiculture and coffee) and according to them they need lots of health training in nutrition, basic hygiene, latrine use, and family planning. It was great to see a community where our services could be offered! The community leaders were going to do some investigating to see how interested the communities without water are in putting in a system. The community really has to be united in the fact that they want a system because the community members themselves will be the ones carrying the cement up to the source, digging to lay the tubs, etc. The leaders said they would give us a call when they knew more about where the communities stand but they were sure that they would be interested….we’ll see. A few downsides to working with this community…we’d be on our own (without a counterpart agency or NGO) because Vecinos Mundiales’ funding for these communities was cut recently cut off and because of transportation…2 buses leave in the morning from the mountain for Danlí and return in the afternoon. If we were going there to work, we’d have to take the afternoon bus from Danlí and spend the night, returning several days later in the morning (to have an entire day to do work). Seems to both of us it would’ve made more sense to send us to live and work in an area like this. Anyway, we’re hoping it works out to get something done in these communities. It would provide an opportunity for us to do some work together, to see some projects through from start to finish, and to get out of the city for days/weeks at a time to do the work.

On Saturday morning we went and saw the remains of an aqueduct system just outside of Danlí that was constructed in late 1700s by a Catholic priest that brought water from the top of a mountain outside of Danli to the city itself. The street our host family lives on is called the Calle del Canal (Canal Street) because the canal used to bring the water into the city along that street. See pics below.

This week I plan to start working with the schools. On Tuesday I’ll go to one school and on Wednesday another. On Thursday through Friday we have a retreat type thing with all the volunteers from the Department of Paraíso at the Central American Agricultural University (between Danlí and Tegus).


Erin said...


You guys look great! That village you were describing sounds like the perfect place for you guys to do some good work! I hope something works out! Have fun on your retreat!

love you, take good care!!!

love, erin

Dorianne said...

Sounds like things are picking up! That's great! hopefully you can make it work to spend chunks of time in that community that's kinda far away- I'm sure that'd break your time up a bit. You two look great (and cute shirt Annie).

love and miss you guys, dory