Monday, November 16, 2009

Oaxaca from a different point of view

by Corbyn Small

Now I know it's not Oaxaca Wednesday yet, but since I also spent a week in Oaxaca a few weeks ago, I wanted to share with our faithful bloggers some of my reflections as Plant With Purpose's Outreach Coordinator.

On October 21st, myself and some members of the PWP staff and about 10 individuals interested in learning what Plant With Purpose does internationally went to Oaxaca, Mexico for 5 days. This was my first trip out of the country as an employee of Plant With Purpose and it was everything I could have imagined and more. I had been sharing stories and testimonies with everybody that I met to get them excited about the transformational development taking place through PWP staff. However, everything I shared was second hand, either from reports, updates, or fellow staff, and all that I knew and shared was based on my trust in the 25 years of impeccable historical credibility that is Plant With Purpose today.

Well I am glad to be another source of encouragement to the rest of you as I say now that my experience was exactly what everyone said it would be. I saw the cisterns, latrines, chicken coops, and wood saving stoves. I met the families, students, rural farmers, and Plant With Purpose staff. It was all just as I had read and heard about! Hundreds of Plant With Purpose programs being implemented successfully by communities!

Over the course of our trip we visited communities in the mountainous Mixtec Alta region about a three hour van ride north of Oaxaca city. We intentionally started by visiting communities who have been working with Plant With Purpose for only 1-2 years. Then over the next 2 days we visited communities that had been participating in programs for 3-5 and 9-10 years. Plant With Purpose's overall strategy is to reach "transformational development" in 10-12 years. To explain very simply what this means, I want to share the differences between the 1st and 3rd day of our visits.

On the first day I saw many of the aforementioned projects, including cisterns and latrines. We

met many people who were happy to see our Plant With Purpose Mexico staff and each community hosted us most graciously. Throughout the day we received many thanks and blessings from community officials and leaders. On our second day we met a farmer named Claudio and his wife Milsa, whose current occupation was making charcoal. They were participating in Plant With Purpose programs and were very eager to be involved in anything else that PWP had to offer. On the third day we traveled to Loma Chimedia, a community who has been working with us for 10 years. Here we sat in a community center, which was planned and executed primarily by Loma Chimedia residents, and read timelines for the historical progress achieved by the community. We saw a vision statement that ultimately said their goal as a community was to work together to make it possible for their children to stay and not be forced to migrate.

I saw the difference between the first day, where there was more focus on individual projects that were being taught by PWP staff, to the second day where a family living in poverty was trying to transition from the harmful and difficult life of a charcoal maker to a more sustainable and healthy source of income, to the third day where a community of empowered local individuals was the driving force behind everything they did. Each of these communities were eager to participate, but it takes time and teamwork to create community change.

I saw our Mexico national staff coming alongside these individuals, each at different stages of their 'transformational development' and I saw the active engagement of community officials as there is a team effort to improve the quality of life for entire communities.

I loved seeing the expertise of our staff in every different capacity from teaching sustainable agriculture techniques like composting and agro-forestry to helping increase economic opportunity through women's craft groups and micro-credit groups. I could go on for days (and if you know me well enough I probably already have), but the main point is not that I went on a trip and had my whole world changed. The main point is that this trip took my faith and trust in Plant With Purpose and reinforced everything I have learned about transformational development and effectively restoring relationships between people, the land, and God.

As Plant With Purpose's Outreach Coordinator it is my job to reach out to students, volunteers, churches, and individuals with the goal of raising awareness, involvement, and funds. All of these increase our ability to continue service in the 220+ communities where Plant With Purpose works worldwide. I hope that you all are enjoying our blog and that you use it as a resource to learn and share what is being done in so many lives all around the world.

Make sure you don't miss Oaxaca Wednesday when Aly, Plant With Purpose's grant writer, dives into details about our programs in Mexico!

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