Today is the first day of a two week vacation for the teleseconardy students in Purushila. I am not sure that I could find another group of 40 students ages 15-22 who would meet at a large plot of land at 8:00 AM prepared to put in three straight hours of hard labor on their first morning of vacation. But that is exactly what happened this morning. In addition to the students were Kelsy and me, as well as Ismael and his three sons Hanssel, Jesse and Franklin. Ismael talked to the group and also deferred to his appointed student leader, Sergio. The students divided themselves up and went to work with machetes, pick axes, rakes and hoes.
What is really cool is that at one point I looked up and noticed that the mother of one of the young ladies had come with two of her smaller children equiped with tools. They picked a spot and went to work. At another time I noticed a man watching us from outside the fence. Soon he came back with his machete and came in and joined his son, Sergio, the student leader. I did not miss the opportunity to speak with both parents and to thank them for their participation.
While most were hacking away at knee-deep weeds and growth, others went to collect large palm branches which were to be used to reinforce the bottom part of the surrounding fence to keep out animals. Ismael was with this second group. We would watch them take off if the truck and return with lots of palm leaves which were unloaded in a pile outside the fence. Then they would take off and repeat the process. When Ismael returned, I teased him about being lazy (perizoso) implying that it was more work to be using the machete than to be working on a truck with the palm leaves. He laughed. Later I was involved in moving and splitting these leaves to use around the fences. I went back to Ismael and said that working with the leaves was hard work. He laughed again.
I can tell that I have been here for a while. I no longer have a deep fear of the machetes. To see dozens of kids swinging them very close to one another can be scarey. If one flew out of a hand it could cause great injury! I think the person most in danger was the person working to my left as I was the most likely to lose the grip on my machete and send it flying. I am getting better and never lost the machete today. At the end of the day we were comparing our blisters!
After three hours of labor with the agreement to return again tomorrow for another round of work, the kids piled into our two trucks for a trip to Ismael's house. The plan was for Ismael to show them his gardens, his chickens, his septic tank and his fish pond. This has been a dream of SewHope: to use Ismael's home as a showcase of what can be done with lots of work. Ismael was excellent and in his glory explaining the various processes to the students. For example, he explained organic gardening and the sustainable cycle of the land. He said more than once that no chemicals were used in his gardents, that the chicken poop is used as fertilizer and the weeds are used to feed the chickens. Basically, he wanted them to see what can be done with lots of determination and hard work. I think the kids got it. It will help us all to visualize the goals for the land in Purushila. It was a real education!
We are all tired but very happy! The kids included! Just SO exciting!!!
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012