Saturday, June 28, 2008

Intern Report: Janelle Frail CCDA (Part 2) (2007-2008)

Hello to everyone,

I hope this finds you all well.

It´s been awhile since I last wrote and I have to tell you the time has flown by. Things with work are busier and busier. I spent some time working at the coffee processing mill and am now in the office and at meetings in the capital most of the time.

I go with people to meetings since I don´t have a full grasp on the language and because I´m here in solidarity, to work WITH people and not FOR them. I feel this is very important for me to understand and do since what happens when I leave and all that information is in my head? Who will have time to carry on with ´my´ work when people have a million and one things to do all the time here?

I´ve learned a lot from the meetings I´ve been to so far. I enjoy the laid back attitude of people coming and going whenever they please, people nodding off in the middle of a presentation (I like this aspect a lot since as some of you may know I have happened to do this once or twice in a meeting or during class and things are no different here especially with the heat! it makes it worse!). Women also bring their children and they run around (surprisingly quietly) and fall asleep on the floor. All minutes and activities are written out on chart paper or on a computer and projected onto a screen for all to see. One of the most amazing things for me has been the ability to call 10 people the day before a meeting and have 100 people show up. Great networking here!

I do ´simple´ things here in the office as well like clean, label bags of coffee and do house calls with the nurse who´s new in the office. I like this type of thing because I can do it, these things need to be done and give others time to work on things that I can´t. I´ve been working lots to get things ready for two delegations that are coming from Canada next week. I´ll be translating and guiding one group and look forward to that. There´s a group from Ottawa here right now so I´ve been enjoying having them here and eating the food that the local women are making for them! So tasty!

Home life is good. I think I´ve learned just as much at home as I have during my six weeks in language classes! The kids are great teachers and really fun to hang out with.

I´ve been trying to weave and that´s been trying but it looks so beautiful I haven´t given up yet though I´m taking a long time with it. It was supposed to be a scarf but I think it will serve well as a cleaning rag! :^)

John´s doing well learning about permaculture and plants here in Guatemala… learning lots of things he wants to try out back in Canada!

I have a feeling March will go by even faster than January and February what with groups arriving and friends coming to visit…

I have to say that I´m looking forward to returning to Canada but I´m not finished here! Guatematecos are so strong physically, carrying 100 pounds around on their back and forehead (men) and on the top of their heads (women), and mentally, so many have had someone leave to live and work in the United States (imagine a husband having to leave 6 kids behind?) and so many have had a relative die either in the war and/or because of hunger or bad water.

And still people carrying on and some people do even more than carrying on, they speak out. Some people speak out in spite of or despite the government that doesn´t want to acknowledge that there were murders committed by their own members, despite the fact that it would be ´easier´ to work to get some food to feed the family and then just try to forget about the rest of the problems. It will be very difficult to leave the people I know here who work and preserve everyday.

Friday we had a meeting for all the representatives of CCDA to acknowledge the 26th anniversary of the CCDA. It wasn´t a celebration because there´s so much more to do Leocadio said (one of the leaders of CCDA). People came from all over the country to talk about what more needs to be done and how it can happen. People are working on obtaining their own land and are able to do this a little more every year with help from the CCDA and the Breaking the Silence Just Us! coffee brand they sell in Canada. And it´s working. CCDA has helped over 750 families obtain 21 farms, more than any other organization in Guatemala. They´ve been able to do this with the help of the coffee they sell so another plug for Fair Trade coffee! And I think I said to drink Fair Trade coffee in my last email but now I´m saying drink Breaking the Silence Just Us! coffee! You directly help people with construction of homes, community kitchens and chicken coops. CCDA uses the money they receive from the sales to help communities develop and become sustainable.

To paraphrase what Caren Weisbart (past intern) and Daniel Martinez (friend of Breaking the Silence Network) said in their ariticle about CCDA: Drinking fair trade coffee turns consumers into activists. I love this simple and delicious idea!

So become an activist today! Drink Breaking the Silence coffee!

Take care all,

Janelle