Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Unexpected Gift (Day 699)

On Sunday, I was given a gift.  Its value was equal to a month of rent on the house where I now live.  It came with no directions as to how it should be used; just my name on the outside of the envelope.  To me, this is a large amount of money; it's nowhere near what we need to equip the health center in Los Encuentros nor enough to buy a 4x4 vehicle to transport injured people, but it was significant enough that I couldn't just think, "Wow!  Thanks! I think I'll go get an ice cream cone with this!"  So, I contacted the giver and asked what it was for.  This person told me, "It is a personal donation for whatever you need."  Wow.  I mean...what do I do with that?

With the way I was brought up, there are very few things that I need in life. Food on the table, yes, but it doesn't have to be meat (expensive), and it certainly isn't going to be McDonalds (expensive and bad for the health). Clothes, yes, but it doesn't have to be the newest or most stylish clothing; hand-me-downs and Salvation Army have always been good enough for me. Water, okay, but that's Q9 which will last me a whole month. I have most everything I need. Sure, there are things I'd like, but I don't need them.

So, I thought about it a good while, and for now I'm saving most of it.  However, each month I pay Q145 for internet access.  It lasts me about a week at good speed (tops 10 days), and then it reverts to a slower speed.  This slower speed does not allow me to upload pictures or videos; nor does it allow me to study Spanish at Duolingo.  Now, I haven't yet decided if I'm happy enough with Duolingo to give it an endorsement or not, but the fact of the matter is that although I've picked up a lot of my fluency in the street, there are a few finer points that because of my years of formal education I'm probably not going to pick up in the street.  That's why I've shifted to try a program.  So, yesterday I bought my new month of internet service, but instead of picking out the Q145 plan, I picked the Q199 plan.  It allows for 3 times the amount of upload/download and it's 4G instead of 3G.  It's not a need, but it's something that I can use for the ministry that actually affects me.  I spent the gift for me on me, but it will benefit them as well hopefully.

Thanks. :)  You know who you are.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

More needs (Day 689)

This actually happened about 2 weeks ago, but I've just been slow about posting it.  I was talking to Ismael the other day, and he had a few more things to add to his list.

1. It really isn't anything new, but he felt the need to reemphasize the importance.  The universities here will place medical students in their final year in rural clinics IF the rural clinics are properly stocked.  The community has a clinic, but as I believe I mentioned before, it is not stocked.  I do not have a list of what is needed to stock this clinic (beyond a scale), but I will get that list.  This seems like one of the best projects we can do for the community.  (More about their processes in a bit.)

2. He wants a playground for the children.  As you may have seen in my video, the children go to school, but then they come home and work.  Part of the reason is because the family needs the money.  The other part of the reason is because there really are no organized activities nor places for the children to play during the vacation months.  Ismael has already organized a hike for the children, but he'd like more.  For now, we're looking at a swing set and a slide; he also drew something that looked like a merry-go-round.

3. This sort of ties into #1, but it is a separate issue.  The community is looking to "pave" the road to the medical center.  It currently has a dirt path that leads to it.  It has been reinforced with a little bit of gravel, but if the medical center actually gets stocked and can be used, vehicles will be driving over this path.  Between the mud and just the spinning force of the tires, the fear is that the path will be destroyed quickly and it will be more difficult to get to the center.  What Ismael explained to me is that if they can get brick pavers, the road will last.  The community council has apparently already had an engineer in to give them a quote.  He named a price of Q600,000 (roughly $77k).  I looked at that price and said, "That can't be right;"  Ismael agrees with me but says it is what the engineer told him.  We would need to purchase the pavers and we would need to hire someone who knows how to do the job, but I think with a good team of volunteers we could do the job for much less.  We need to find out the base price of pavers and work from there.

4. The final thing on Ismael's additional list is an idea that I like, but I don't like his anxiousness with it.  Let me explain.  Ismael is concerned about the number of women in his community who don't own a güipiel.  This is the traditional top worn by the women.  He thinks they are losing their culture by dressing like Americans.  And, you know, I agree.  He wants to set up classes so that these women can learn how to weave and make their own clothes.  And, you know, I agree.  He wants to purchase the supplies for all of them at the same time (Q100,000), and I don't agree.  Okay, to be fair to him, after debating about this for a good half hour, he told me that the guy would give him a 10% discount on materials if he bought them all at once.  So that is really just Q90,000.  I think it's a good deal to get that discount.  However, I see it as the women learning in classes and then selling what they make to help buy the material for the next women to learn.  A "pay it forward" kind of thing.  The women sell all of their "learner" crafts to support the project, and then they keep their final project--the güipiel--for themselves, their own graduation present.  He still sees them as doing this in groups as I do and them giving back as I do; however he just wants to purchase the first set of materials all at the same time so that they can get the discount.  Maybe I'll acquiesce on this one.

One thing that groups often struggle with is whether or not the resources they bring to a community will actually be used for their intended purposes or if they'll get sold off for parts.  Ismael explained the method which his--and other--communities use.  For example, the medical center is for everyone.  Therefore, they wouldn't just want people to go into the center and take things to sell.  Also, the chicken coops from the other post, while they aren't for everyone, have an intended purpose.   Basically, a community meeting is called.  Everyone who wants to benefit or have a say is required to attended.  There is one person leading the meeting, but everyone has the option to speak and vote.  When they've reached an agreement, they write up the terms of the agreement and everyone in attendance signs the paper.  If anything goes missing or isn't where it should be, the paper is taken to the authorities.  "Here is this person's signature.  They are violating the agreement."  And the matter is dealt with either by repayment of materials or funds to the community.

Last note: Don't forget about the vehicle they hope to have for the medical center!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Paying less than you bargained for (Day 688)

I was corresponding the other day with my mother (via e-mail as almost always) when I said something that struck me a little funny. I had gotten the tires on my bike changed as well as a patch on one of the tubes. All of that had cost me Q80. To me, this sort of a small fortune. To you, it probably isn't. For two brand new tires and a patch on a bike tube, I paid $10. I quickly forgot mentioning this to my mother until I was cooking vegetable soup this morning. I recalled how much I had paid for my vegetables the day before and how stressed out I was over the price. I knew the guy was overcharging me, but I just didn't feel well enough to fight him about it. (I've been having some trouble with my digestive track and needed to purchase a whole new set of vegetables to deal with the issue.) So, when the guy totaled my celery, 3 bell peppers, bag of bean sprouts, 2 zucchini, 1 cucumber, 1 eggplant, and 5 avocados and came up with Q28...well, let's just say that in America you can't get all that for $3.50, but for me it was expensive.