Friday, May 9, 2014

Teamwork makes the dream work

These past couple of days have been long and frustrating but equally as worthwhile and rewarding. 

Attendance at the workshops in the afternoon had been pretty low earlier this the week...ranging from about 6-8 people the first two days. The groups varied, but it was an easy observation that with each day, the group demographic became younger and younger. To improve attendance and collaboration, we decided to reach out to the community by visiting homes in the Batey yesterday morning and early afternoon. 

We walked around visiting individual homes in the community in three different groups. Each group was led by a leader who lives in this community, and every group had someone who could translate. Our purpose was to ask people what they think the needs of the community are. Initially, a lot of people referred to the bakery project that has been at a stand still for 5 years now. When we asked what else they want to see happen in the community, we got a range of several answers. 

Some want people want to get the roads and neighborhoods cleaned up and think that everybody needs to take better care of their community. Others believe that the more well off people need to help their neighbors who are struggling to keep a roof from leaking every time it rains or who barely have enough to eat. Some more people suggested that a need of the community is to help the elderly, and others want to see a playground built for the kids. Another thing we heard others suggest is more security throughout all areas of the community. The people of Jalonga know what their needs are and want to see change, but they aren't finding effective ways to communicate well among each other. 

When the three groups met up after our visits around the community, we all shared that a lot of people had expressed interest in attending the meeting. We waited in the church in anticipation of how many people were going to show up and were thrilled when over 10 people arrived. The group was young, enthusiastic, and willing to let their voices be heard. Toward the end of the workshop, we shared what we've learned from each other and how we're going to apply that to our own communities. For example, Emily talked about listening not only with her ears but with her eyes and looking past the superficial things and looking beyond the face value. *applause* 

Last night, we had a class discussion about one of our textbooks. The discussion was centered around Mary's role in the birth narrative and the Magnificat. We also shared our opinions on the difference between prayer and politics and also the separation of church and state. Our discussions can get lengthy and heated at times because of our different backgrounds and denominations, but it has only helped us to open our eyes even more to new faith based perspectives.

This morning, we were a little rushed to get ready. At the beginning of the week, when Dr. Jones said to be ready by 9, it really meant 9:45-10 because that's when Father Potter was actually likely to show up. However, these past couple mornings, our taxis have been prompt right at 9:05. 

The construction project we have been working on is office space for the school next door. Today we spent time moving and breaking apart rocks that will be used to level the trenches before they pour concrete. After lunch, a majority of the group went back into the community to invite people to another community meeting that would be led by the young leaders of Jalonga and one in which we would not be present. 

While they were having their meeting, our group got together to share our thoughts on how we think things are going. A lot of us expressed that we're really frustrated because we're not seeing immediate results with the things we have been working on. To explain this further, Gracie used this analogy: "For those of us who don't go to the gym very often, when we do, we get frustrated when we don't see immediate results. It's like we do 5 crunches and we expect to see a 6 pack the next day. Also, everyone has different ways to work out. Some people prefer to swim while others run or use the elliptical, and yet others value lifting weights." This scenario rings true for both the community of Jalonga and our own group.  The people of the Batey want to see immediate results with the changes they say are needed in their community, but they just continue to be discouraged and frustrated when the projects aren't finished before another one starts. The members of the community also have varying ideas of how to reach their goals which results in discord among everyone. Similarly, a majority of us came here expecting to see immediate results in the community and the work site, and we've had neither which has resulted in quite a bit of frustration. However, our perspectives are beginning to change, and we are all beginning to realize that what we're doing is participating in real life. This is a real community with real needs and real opportunity, but the reality of the situation is that change is going to take time. We have to remember that a big part of us being here is for us to build relationships, not walls. 

All is well!

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