It has been 3 weeks since our last day of work at the Centro Explorativo in La Pista and Nebaj, Guatemala. Our team has split up and we have returned to our “normal” summer lives in North Carolina, as well as Boston, Saint Louis, and even Guatemala. The work that 4 weeks allowed our group to achieve has concluded, but there is much left undone both on the ground for CES as well as for our Nourish team.
On our last day we successfully raised the greenhouse and had reason to believe that it would remain standing for a long time to come. With a mounted structure and around 50 square meters, the greenhouse is ready to be utilized by the Centro for food production. Pavak is developing a manual that holds all the secrets to the greenhouse so that if there is ever a need to replace something or even rebuild the entire thing, they won’t need a new team of American students to do it for them.
Two other very important feats occurred on that day. First, the last portion of the floor was placed in the actual Centro by Miguel’s team of masons, leaving only the painting and clean-up on the to-do list before the building was to become operational. I can say that it was an honor to work side-by-side with the masons of La Pista. And finally, David successfully interviewed 50 families from the community and obtained the data from 29 questions that will be used to cater the Centro to the community’s specific needs and wants. Currently he is tabulating these results and will be analyzing and sharing them over the course of the summer.
Our last meeting with the CES staff left us all with a better idea of the meaning of our work and the necessary next steps. The peanut butter business that will support the Centro is still only an idea, but the needed human capital to launch it will be provided (hopefully) by Guatemalan university students through the program Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). The English language DVD’s will be finalized over the summer by Steve and a volunteer guideline will be developed by Nick. These materials will improve the quality of service offered by CES at the Centros (plural!) and will engage future volunteers by leveraging our experience. Finally, the hours and hours of film are being digitized and a story is being sown with them by Catarina in order to create a documentary of our endeavors.
With all of these amazing results and another successful project under the Nourish belt, I believe that it is important to catch ourselves and understand why this project was really successful. It is not because we are putting check marks to a list of bullet-pointed, poverty-reducing initiatives (especially if we are to consider the number of points we were unable to get to!), but rather it is because of the now invisible marks that Nourish left on a rural, Guatemalan community and a group of students. It is the relationships that we built with people like Mek/Miguel, los Felipes, the staff of el Descanso (Ana, Cash, Diego and Chico especially!), the teachers of the Centro (and the kids!), and the families that took us into their homes in Nebaj and La Pista. I think that the project in Guatemala was successful because our team was, like our chosen image suggests, a bridge connecting two peoples. We connected American and Guatemalan, we connected University and Community, we connected wealthy and poor, we connected ventures to development; we connected students to reality and through that did our best to Nourish those in poverty by Nourish’ing ourselves.