Daniel Baptiste (Nexos Comunitarios)
As a student of International Development I have always taken what I now view to be a somewhat naïve view of grassroots development initiatives. I was under the impression that NGOs worked with their host communities in relative harmony. I thought that while finance could be a perennial difficulty for NGOs, the work itself would be straightforward and universally rewarding. Halfway into my time with Nexos Comunitarios, I can honestly say that I was right about the rewarding nature of the work, trekking up a mountain to visit Cuncani, knowing many of the families and their children by name, and seeing familiar yet otherworldly sights is rewarding. Being part of an organisation with a proven record of achieving and implementing development roles is also rewarding. There are however, huge challenges associated with working in communities like Cuncani.
On June 23rd I was had to go to Cuncani to participate in a meeting with the community to discuss about the next steps of our work together. After arriving in the community I found myself in a room with many community members. As few of them speak Spanish, Saturnina, our local coordinator, was there to talk to the parents too, and to translate. Quickly, I realised that the meeting would not go as I expected. I explained everything as planned, but people just did not seem interested. At least, that what I thought that time.
After my relatively brief outline of our activities in Cuncani, the school director took over the meeting. I was not expecting the changes within the meeting after his participation. After hours of discussions, participation from parents, another teacher and the principal I understood he was upset and frustrated due to the fact that the government was not paying on of the teachers in the school, to the poor test results of students. The feeling in the room became tense, there was yelling, screaming, arguing, it disintegrated fast. Perhaps I was shielded from the events as the entire meeting was in Quechua, and aside from what my limited Quechua skills could ascertain, the translations to Spanish from our local coordinator were all I could understand.
When the meeting was over, I came back to Urubamba and had a meeting to reflect on what just happened. There were many things to take into account! The dynamics between the principal and the parents, as well as the impact this could have on the initiatives we are developing concerned me. This was not simply because the the PhotoVoice Project takes place in the school, our Lunch Program and the future initiatives.
Despite the gravity of the issues at hand, and the difficulties posed by these, I wittness through it all, there remains a palpable desire by community members to keep working together to effect positive change. Last week we had our first walk as part of the ‘Participatory video’ we are working on, together, it was a great sucess! Maybe we all need to remember that, We, at NC, believe that ever challenge leads to a great success!
This meeting was a very important lesson to me, one that I didn’t learn from a book or a class, but one that I learned from the field and won’t ever forget.