Our week with Self-Help International was a continual trial of patience, perseverance, and courage. After arriving in San Carlos on Monday afternoon, our first evening there was pretty relaxing as we just stayed within the boundaries of the hotel by going to the restaurant next store for dinner before taking a short walk around the harbor.
Each morning started off with breakfast at the restaurant right next to the hotel before going to the Self-Help office to pick up Orlando, our project guide, materials, and sack lunch. After gaining all of our staff, we traveled an hour by car to the community of Los Chiles. Upon arrival on the first day, we broke up into two groups: Michael Gleason, Tyler, Michael, Jeremy, Taylor, Jena and I went to work on the water committee project, while Fred, Bethany, Kelsey, and Paige stayed to paint a building intended for use as a child care/recreation center.
The Self-Help International organization is run much differently from El Porvenir. After hiking to our site 2km away from the painting group, we were divided into 2 farther groups to complete the water project. The boys all stayed down towards the bottom of the stream while the girls hiked on the side of a hill to get to the top of the water source with Teresa, a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Los Chiles. Little did we know what a huge impact Teresa would have on our stay and how much she would help us to eliminate the language barrier between us and the community members. Hiking on the side of the moutain required the first factor, Courage. We were traveling on a tiny tiny path about 6 inches wide, which if not navigated properly could send you tumbling down into the rocks of the stream, which we couldn´t see. While at the top, the girls cleaned the water source of leaves, sticks, and mud with sticks and shovels while the boys were down digging up old pipes, digging trenches, and carrying new ones for 2km. It was a day of incredibly hard work, which unfortunately, may have caused Tyler to feel very ill the next day.
Self Help International is run much differently from El Provenir. Most of the time, we had no idea what was going on and what was expected of us. We learned about the water campaign not from any Self Help International staff, but from Teresa. The goal of all our hard work was to but a new water filtration system in which would deliver clean water to the community. Also, with this new system, many members would be receiving water for the first time. This was a significant project, because the last water committee in office collected dues from the community only to run off with all their money. So while we felt we were being used for cheap labor, it was only because the community has no real trust in the water committee anymore as a result of their past experiences. The new water committee is dedicated though, and was not elected into office, instead, they were nominated by the community. So these people really are working hard to do a good job, and execute their first signficant project.
Unfortunately, I need to sign off as we are heading to a Waffle House for breakfast! Hope this short summary may have given you some context to last week. If you have any questions please feel free to comment, and I will try to better explain.
Thinking about and praying for all of you back at home and the other groups abroad for May Term.
p.s. We are traveling to Ometepe today.