|Me standing in front of my brand new site, and NGO called Granitos de Paz|
Those of you keeping up with the blog just learned all about the work that I had been doing at my primary site, the local High School where I had been working. However, four months in Peace Corps has decided to rock my world and change my site! Allow me to share a little bit about the process that brought me to my new home away from home…away from home...
I arrived at my original site, CASD Manuel Beltran, knowing that the school was on probation of sorts. The previous volunteer did not recommend a new volunteer be sent there and the higher ups in the the Peace Corps office had a serious talk with them that if they didn´t shape up, I would ship out.
After several months of banging my head against a brick wall and a routine check-up by the office, they recommended a site change. I was told that all they could do was encourage a site change, but the decision was up to me. I was told that the site change would be a unique opportunity, allowng me to be the only volunteer working outside of a school setting and with an NGO (for more information on Non Governmental Organizations please see the following link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngo) I asked for more time to consider my options, the feeling of quitting weighing greatly on me.
After several weeks and no answer from me, I got a surprise visit from some of the staff from Barranquilla. They came all the way to Cartagena to introduce me to the enthusiastic folks at Granitos de Paz, or Grains of Peace, the NGO they wanted me to work with. Basically they came to give me the kick in the pants I needed to make this difficult decision. I spent an amazing morning getting to know the people at Granitos de Paz and about the work they do. Their enthusiasm was astounding and infectious. Although it pained me leave CASD, I felt it would be foolish to let such enthusiasm and grandiose ideas go to waste. The following week I started visiting Granitos and have now started working with them full time.
Granitos de Paz is an NGO created in 2004 to serve one of the poorest communities in Cartagena in the neighborhood of Olaya.
The program is centered upon the entire family and focused on sustainability. By the entire family participating in five main pillars of the foundation or fronts, they hope to permanently move these families and the neighborhood out of extreme poverty. These five pillars are: education, health and family planning, habitation and environment, training and income generation, and culture and sports.
Granitos has a wide variety of programs including their own 15-room early learning center for infants through preschoolers. Seeing as 21 out of every 100 children in the area are malnourished, basic health and nutrition are covered as well as classes for the parents in values, job training and health. They also have an air-conditioned center for the older community members where they receive a daily balanced lunch, health care and develop educational and leisure activities geared for active aging. Focused on sustainably there is an urban farming project that extends from food-producing backyards, to a community restaurant and a distribution apparatus to sell the fresh produce to local hotels, restaurants, and stores. Other projects include a store at the port where they cell handmade artisan goods from the community, an industrial sewing course, a sports school for children between 5 and 16, a computer room with internet and digital literacy classes, construction to provide adequate housing, waste removal construction to combat the lack of a sewage system, and a bakery to create revenue to fund other projects.
|Finally surrounded by kiddos again!!|
|The outdoor play area at the Early Learning Center|
Obviously I will be focusing my efforts on education. I have specific plans to support local teachers thus making my work here sustainable and Granitos de Paz has a goal to hire a full time Enlgish teacher when funding is available that I will help train. I will be focusing on three main areas: the early childhood center, the primary school, and teaching English to those seeking jobs in tourism. However, I´m looking forward to learning more about the community and how to best offer support. I am already planning charlitas regarding HIV/AIDS as well as financial planning classes to help the families who are seeing an influx of money into their budget.
The support that I am receiving from Granitos de Paz is overwhelming and I can´t wait to see where this partnership takes us! After the difficult move to Barranquilla and another big move to Cartagena just as I was getting settled in there, I'm looking forward to a little stability with no big traumatic changes!
Miss you all and can't wait to be back stateside for my birthday is less than 2 weeks!!