Monday, July 14, 2008

Anatomy of a fledging service project

Saludos from Quito, Ecuador, where Nicole and I are getting ready for the arrival of Andrea and Araminta tonight, and for the arrival of Jesùs and Jaime tomorrow morning. It's been a day of chores, including grocery shopping and renting the 3-bedroom apartment where we'll live for the next 4 weeks. We are excited to COOK, after a month of mostly eating in restaurants. This is Nicole's first time in Ecuador, but I lived here in 2002 and worked here in 2005, so it's fun for me to be walking familiar streets again.

On our way from Lima to Quito, we spent a day and a night in Tablazo Norte, the 6,000-person agricultural town in the province of Piura where Jesùs Valencia grew up. It's an extremely poor community that receives practically no attention from either foreigners or from the Peruvian government. Our little stopover was something of a major event for a number of the locals.

One meeting revolved around the needs of Tablazo Norte's Comite de Vigilancia (Security Committee), a volunteer group of 15 men that have taken it upon themselves to try and provide a bit of law and order to a community that, though lacking in serious crimes (e.g. homicide), has plenty of weekend problems with drunken and abusive behavior. The 15 men are doing the best they can, but they have no budget, equipment, or training, and are struggling. In 2005, when I first visited Tablazo Norte, they formally presented me with a petition asking for help purchasing a set of 5 walkie-talkies, so they could communicate while working.

During this visit, we gave them advance notice that we would have a formal meeting about their proposal. At the meeting, we talked about the community's needs and their goals as a group, and we suggested they create a more comprehensive proposal, since there's more to being a competent security force than having radios.

Through a hour or two of discussion, we worked with them to outline a proposal that includes uniforms, radios, other equipment, training at a local school for police and security guards, and carving out a headquarters/meeting space from existing public buildings. They will write it up, along with a mission statement, and correspond with us via email to refine the proposal, which we will then translate into English.

We will then contact one or more police stations in the Twin Cities, probably in heavily Latino neighborhoods where the police force may be more likely to have Spanish-speaking and possibily immigrant officers who know something about Latin America. The idea is for us to act as brokers, creating a relationship between the Tablazo Norte group and one group of Spanish-speaking police officers in Minnesota. From there, we would help and facilitate as needed, but ideally the relationship would be theirs to maintain, and the task of fundraising for the needs of the Comite de Vigilancia would fall to the Twin Cities police officers. Will it work? We shall see. If anyone reading this has any likely suspects/contacts, do let us know! Thanks.

1 comment:

Curtis said...

My wife and I recently returned from a self-organized service project in Ecuador. I'd be willing to talk with you more about the possibility of doing fund raising in Minnesota for these types of projects in Ecuador. Feel free to get in touch with me.