Tuesday, May 18, 2010

San Ramon and Seeds of Learning!

¡Hola, mis amigos!

After saying goodbye to our talented guide, Ben Beachy, and Witness for Peace in Matagalpa on Saturday, we headed for the small municipality of San Ramon to the north which is surrounded by thousands of acres of coffee plantations. The weather is mercifully cooler and damper up here at a few thousand feet, and our hotel, Sueño de la Campana, is situated on a ridge overlooking the quaint town with a breathtaking view of the surrounding hills. We were greeted by Daniel, our new guide who works for Seeds of Learning, who explained his organization´s mission and history in Central America and more specifically in the San Ramon area.
Seeds of Learning helps fund and organize school construction projects in communities that either lack a school or have an inadequate facility. Daniel explained that the community we were going to start work in on Monday, Santa Isabel, only had a temporary wooden structure in the middle of a coffee field. The sturcture is extremely dark and cramped and not a dignified space in which to learn. Also, Nicaraguan law requires that the preschool be in a seperate room which meant those students currently have to meet in someone´s house in the community. Daniel made sure to point out that they are unlike other organizations that just swoop in, build a structure in a few days, and pack up and leave. Seeds of Learning works in solidarity with the people it serves by fully including them in every part of the process. Additionally, both the locals and volunteers work together to build the school, which takes longer, but it develops important relationships that help close the gap that countless years of arrogance and oppression have created. Needless to say, we were all excited to be a part of this project.
On Monday, we rode in the back of a couple of trucks up into the misty hills surrounding San Ramon. We could hear Congo monkeys with their powerful calls that carry for miles while light rain cooled our bodies. We hopped out, and after a short welcome that included songs and poetry from some of the local students, we eagerly began work with both the adults and children of Santa Isabel. Some of us organized into groups that mixed concrete and laid bricks on the foundation which was already poured while other trucked off into the campo to get choice compacting dirt from a distant hillside. The work is tiring but the local residents have been extremely gracious hosts, including offering us freshly cooked meals to eat during breaks. Also, we all took turns socializing with the adults or playing with the children because while the school is the excuse for everyone to gather, the point is developing relationships which is the heart of social justice. Not too far in, the wet season decided to arrive and mother nature dumped at least a couple inches of rain on us in a period of less than an hour which halted work as everyone huddled under a few shelters. We only completed a little more before the work day was done and some of the community leaders invited us to see their homes. The hike was treacherous at times as we climbed 45 degree hills of moving mud, but we were playing tag and other games with the group of children who were gleefully following our every move as a group. During the tour, the residents explained some of the difficulties of campo life which were similar to what we observed during our homestay in Ramon Garcia, but with the important difference that this community lived on a finca which is a large plot of land owned by one person who does not live in the community. This community depends almost solely on coffee production unlike the families of Ramon Garcia which were able to sustain themselves by having diversifed crops on land that they themselves owned.
Tuesday proved to be much more productive in terms of the actual amount of work that we completed on the school. We laid more than triple the amount of bricks that we laid on Monday thanks to the beautiful weather that was remarkably rain free. The project is shaping up nicely and pictures are soon to come!

¡Hasta luego and Adio!

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