Saturday, September 4, 2010

Feelin' the Love in Cajamazing

It doesn't get much better than this. I have a host family that is very supportive, a great living environment, community counterparts who are excited and actively working with me, and a city full of youth eager to get started.

I have only been here for a week and a half and I have already done so much. While setting up my room and buying the things I need to make it feel like home, I decided I could better motivate myself to gather and organize my community diagnostic information if I turned my walls into a decorated excel sheet of sorts. Every time I learn something new about my community I write it on a note card and stick it to the wall under its appropriate heading. It helped me decorate my very bare walls. I also bought a portable fabric closet and posted up photos of friends and family to make it feel more like home.

Hanging with the locals.
I have a host uncle names Willy Castro... how cool of a name is that? He is a historian/biologist/professor here in Cutervo and is well known in and around town. While talking over dinner one night he learned about how much I love camping, hiking, and the outdoors and asked me to join him on a camping trip out to a small farming community in the mountains named San Pedro. I jumped at the opportunity and was not disappointed. I saw some amazingly gorgeous views, met some really generous and friendly people, and drank a good portion of the local rum (called ayunque). It is always an eye opener to see the difference between how people in the cities live from those in the surrounding country side.

These very nice people may not have much, but what they
do have, they are more than happy (insist even) in sharing.
While out on that trip, I was telling Willy about an idea I had to start an environmental sustainability youth group that we can train as promotors to go around education others. In this group we can do workshops, movie and discussion nights, camping trips, and trips to the countryside to give classes on the environment. He sounded interested in the idea and then invited me to fill a 30 minute spot in his upcoming environment and eco-tourism conference later in the week. I was a little (read a lot) nervous after hearing that over 150 youth would be in attendance and experts from England, New Zealand, and Spain would also be giving talks on their areas of interest.

San Pedro
Never-the-less, I put together a segment about the need for changing attitudes and behavior about trash in Cutervo. The mountains around the city are literally covered in trash and it is very depressing – especially given the abundance of natural beauty being ruined in the area. The kids seemed to like my presentation and lined up afterwards to ask some very insightful questions and give some ingenious solutions. They also filled my sign up list for starting a youth group! I will be asking the municipality for space and materials and then begin the process of planning and contacting all of the youth. (Photos of the conference). I also plan on doing every step with at least two counterparts from the community in the hope that the group is sustainable after I leave.

One rarely gets to tell 150 kids what to do all at once.

I was put in contact with a professor who also helps run one of the local radio stations, Radio Cutervo. He interviewed me about my experience, motivations for volunteering, what Cuerpo de Paz is, and what my goals are for my two years here. I am psyched about that interview because now people are beginning to recognize me and approach me with ideas for projects. One young man, Christian, came up to me and asked me if I would be interested in working with an already existing youth group at his school! Also, I have begun working with a Catholic youth group focusing on capacity building for young people in Cutervo. I gave a charla (small informal workshop) on self-esteem and we played a few games along that theme. I love my job.
Needless to say, I have been keeping busy. This week I will be meeting with as many city and organization leaders as possible and then we will plan that televised conference I keep telling you all about. I am almost done with the presentation for that as well.

Kicking butt in Cutervo, Cajamarca, Peru,

This is Chris Huey (Cris Way as they pronounce it here) signing off.

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