"...He prayeth well, who loveth well, Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best, All things both great and small;
for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all..."

The Rime of the Anchient Mariner -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Leap of Faith

Occasionally, I have the special opportunity to make future plans, relying on my confidence in the future fulfillment of prerequisites hoped for. Those who speak to me for any length of time know that I believe coincidences are practically acts of God, and that I believe I have the ability to speak things into existence. Pretty crazy, I know!

All this manifested itself in a "Peace Corps 50th Anniversary" event that I lead and coordinated. To provide background, I have been working with a group of fishermen's wives who were participating in a Temp Empoyment Program (PET) cleaning up the surrounding Mangrove forests. To complement the PET program, I was asked to incorporate Environmental Education workshops into the scheduled work times. We took the group from a Participatory Analysis (where they ID'd trash/pollution as a problem), to a series of environmental topics, and Sustainable Development. During the Sustainable Development meeting, we did an exercise where we posed the question: "what would make your neighborhood better?" They id'd short term & long term projects. We focused on the Short Term projects w/ the idea to get funding from Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary funds (funds I thought were at my disposal), and voted on a Basketball/Speed Soccer Court renovation.

Our vision for the BBall Court renovation is to encourage these women to continue to work together voluntarily AFTER the PET program ended (july 27th), to improve their environment (in terms of people/community & nature). Twelve women signed up for this project. The Court has an adjacent wall with graffiti, which gave me the idea to make a mural with Environmental Messages. The women spread the word in the Colonia and got neighbors and kids to get involved (aka volunteering).

The long-term vision for this group is to have them be "Promotores Ambientales." or Environmental Promotors. The last session I did with them we talked about Gender Equality, and linked their social participation as being key to bridge the gap between men & women's rights in society etc; it segued into a presentation on Promotores Ambientales, which is a way for them to participate in improving their community and benefit the environment.

So one fine Sunday I'm laying on the beach, and in my head the big picture I just described was clear, but what do I know of paint, painting murals or even basketball court lines or futbol rapido? Well, nothing really. So I'm walking off the beach when I meet a surfer that I find out is a muralist. He says he's done several murals around town and would love to help out. I invited him to our meeting later that week and he was "in"! In addition to advising on materials and the paint, primering the walls, and painting, he even donated and planted trees around the court.

Once we knew how much paint to order, we requested the funds to our PC 50th Anniversary Funds person. His reply email didn't give me the warm and fuzzy, rather it alarmed me, something to the effect of 'government austerity measures'. They didn't reply back for nearly two weeks, and I wasn't about to halt my planning efforts until I got a reply. I made the decision that the show must go on!

Meanwhile, I'm telling everyone about our BBall Renovation Project, assuring them what a great event it's going to be & that they should come and help us! We continued to meet with the ladies to delegate resposibilities and meet to do prep work cleaning the court.

We decided we should let the local government know what we are doing, 'even though they probably won't care' (b/c their term ends next month, so they're probably napping). I go, and tell them, and I meet a Dept Head who thinks it's a great idea, and tells me to make the official request via correspondence, and they will help buy paint. I do this, and while I'm writing a letter I decide to ask for more ingredients that we need for the Primer mixture...and it gets approved!! Absolutely more than I expected, and 100% of what I needed b/c we didn't have those materials accounted for in our budget.

The week before the event, the funds are approved & family pledges to help out. (we went overbudget almost by the exact amount pledged by my fam)

Event day:

Some fellow PC Volunteers and friends coincidentally schedule their visit the same weekend as the event (one of which just completed a mural of her own)!

After a rainy night, the sun pierces through the cloud cover and dries the court!

On our way to the court in the morning, I was commenting on how we need a Basketball; later that morning an American Ex-Pat stops by the court and donates a Basketball!

Adults, kids, youth, including local graffiti artists and the neighborhood futbol league come and help!

My counterpart, who was unexpected to come, came and cleared an overgrowth that resembled a jungle between the court and the road!
After a long day in the sun, It. Was. Done., or rather we were done. We didn't put the nets up (bball & court soccer). I also left a section of the wall and the left over paint so that the graffiti artists could paint it. I had my doubts whether such trust was a good decision, but from a comment from one of the ladies who I've been working with, I don't think they'll betray my trust. Besides, it's their court too and I want them to have ownership of it.

Acting on faith can be pretty nerve racking, but it is beautiful to see in action.

I would say that the best thing about this project was the people I met in preparation and during the event. I firmly believe people are always the most important element!