Last week began with a difficult reminder of the kinds of pressures that influence municipal decision-making…
On Sunday evening, Keily and I held the community workshop in Las Dispensas. We went through a really fun community mapping exercise and had, I think, a very productive set of discussions on community needs.
Near the top of their list of needs was some sort of system to reduce the speed of traffic on the paved road that runs through their community and into the town – rumble strips, speed bumps, speed limit signs, anything. This had been a big concern in the community for some time as many people (including Keily and I) walk up and down that road every day to get to work, school, shopping, etc. There are no sidewalks and the road is very curvy. It just hadn’t made it up the municipality’s priority list yet. The next day, Monday, a ten year-old boy was hit by a car and killed in Las Dispensas. And within a few hours, seven speed bumps were under already construction. So the objective is being met now, but at a very, very high cost.
So the work continues. Last week was my last week scheduled for interviews. So there were lots of them! I interviewed one of the rural health promoters (tasked with preventative education in some of the more remote areas); the director of the largest elementary school in the municipality; representatives from the NGOs Plan International and ACUA; a member of the board of directors at the gated community, La Hacienda; and two staff members at the municipality. These interviews yielded a great deal and a great diversity of perspectives – now it’s just a matter of figuring out what it all means! In addition to meeting with the folks above, we were conducting interviews in the sixth and last community on our list – San Paulino.
San Paulino is located near Las Dispensas and in the same “canton” (subdivision of the municipality). The canton there is also called Las Dispensas – just to keep everyone on their toes. It’s a Quebec, Quebec or New York, New York kind of a situation. After interviews with several community members, we held our last community workshop in San Paulino on Thursday afternoon. We did another mapping activity, followed by the same needs identification and prioritization activities as in the other spots. Top needs here included: road improvements, a school, and improved housing.
Another highlight of last week was my invitation to speak at Career’s Day at my old high school in San Salvador – Academia Britanica Cuscatleca (or ABC, as we fondly know it). At first, I was sad for them that they were clearly scrounging for speakers, but then I was excited for the chance to go back to my old stomping ground in an attempt to inspire today’s young minds. In my presentation, I went through the ins and outs of studying politics – lucky for me nobody asked whether I had a “job” now! I find words like “job” and “career” very difficult to define (and scary!).
By Friday, I was ready for a break! And what a break I had. I spent the weekend as the token Canadian with some lovely American friends – and Adolfo (a Salvadoran for good measure). It was an intense routine of beach-pool-restaurant-pool-hammock-beach. And repeat. For three days. Though I did also make time for studying needs assessment on the beach…
This week, Canadian Rotarian friend Doug is here with me to help tie together loose ends and consider next steps. I think that today we solved about 86% of the world’s problems. Hopefully tomorrow will be as productive!
As a final note:
Last week, another wonderful Rotarian friend, Ernesto Carballo, passed away. My thoughts continue to be with his family and with my my incredible friends in the Rotary Club of San Salvador Cuscatlan as they support each other through this loss. Cheers, Neto.