Ecuador Project Reports: Sara Gomez & Matt, Oct.–Dec. 2002

Sara Gomez and Matt,
Planet Drum Volunteers,

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Matt and I arrived in Bahia over the weekend, and have been settling in for the past few days. We have been working on the middle room of the apartment (the one with the new floor), since that’s where we have been sleeping. Matt did some work with cement patching up cracks and holes in the wall, and whitewashed it in preparation for painting. We will paint the walls blue tomorrow. 

Besides that I have accompanied Kristen a couple of times to Fanca, and have been helping out with the seed planting project. Today we got a good start on thatching the roof at the patio for the seedlings. 

I am still getting a sense of things that need to be done, and am just helping out with various projects. 

Monday, October 28, 2002 

The first few days Matt and I were here we did some work on the room—plastering, priming, and painting the walls. We also did some work with the seed planting project at Fanca and started thatching the roof at the patio. 

Since then Matt has been helping Chris with work in the park, doing maintenance and rebuilding the steps for the third time. Rita and I painted the place markers [to match the self-guided tour map] for the park (dark green background with white lettering), and Chris and Matt are going to start working on putting them into the ground with cement. 

We are going to talk to the police about what has been going on in the park—stealing, drugs, etc—and see what other measures we can take to deter future vandalism. 

As for the Bosque project, the timeline states that we should be continuing step repair, creating and placing place markers, maintenance and developing participation with residents. The repairs to the steps are done, place markers are ready to be placed, and I have started working on a project for local resident participation. 

In the past week, I have been meeting with residents of both Maria Auxiladora and San Roque to increase awareness about the park and to try and get together a group of community members who could work as guides to the park. Just yesterday I took a group of 10 enthusiastic residents from San Roque, including consejera Graciela Moreno (one of the heads of the community), on a tour of the park. Only one of them had ever entered the park before and they were very excited to see it. Rita and I went to their community meeting on Friday night to introduce ourselves, talk a little about Planet Drum, and the park. It was the women themselves who suggested we give them a tour. 

I have met with two heads of the community in Maria Auxiladora, but it has been more difficult to coordinate with them since there are four different sections of the barrio and four different committees. We went to a meeting on Saturday night but no one showed up because of a big party that was going on that night up on the hill. The president of the main committee suggested that I speak at the women’s Community Bank meeting on Tuesday so I will go to that tomorrow. I will also be attending a meeting with San Roque Residents on Wednesday to follow up after the tour, and a meeting with one of the committees of Maria Auxiladora on Friday. 

My hope is that if there is more awareness of the park, it will foster respect and perhaps help to decrease instances of vandalism. If people know that the park is there to help prevent erosion and therefore protect the people who live below, they might think twice before removing trees. Also, if more people from the community start using the park, it might also deter those who are not supposed to be there. As of now it is a good place for people to hide their illegal activities because very few people go there. 

The other issue that I will be discussing with residents of Maria Auxiladora, is the idea of starting a community-run tour operation—a group of residents (maybe a couple of families) who could give tours of the Mirador at La Cruz and the park. Rita and I started designing a flyer describing the tour that residents could give out to tourists. In this way the park could directly benefit the residents of the community and serve to further foster the idea that it is a resource for them also, not just tourists and other gringos. It could also be a source of money to help with maintenance of the park. 

About five days ago Matt sent out an email letter to try and raise some funds to build the greenhouse. He is waiting to hear the responses, but he hopes to raise $100 to $200. In the meantime, Jeff suggested it would probably be a good idea to build a more temporary structure that we can use to house the seedlings. Matt is going to start clearing out the area and can begin building the structure very soon. It will probably be like a bin, similar to the worm bins, that can be covered in plastic, shade provided by the trees overhead. 

Saturday, November 2, 2002

Some good news, Matt has managed to raise $325 so far for the greenhouse (any money not used for that project can be used for the other projects).

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Matt and I have been working on the greenhouse since Tuesday and it has been going up really quickly. The entire stucture is up, and today we hope to finish building tables for the inside. Then all we have to do is put up the cover for the walls and the roof. 

Things are going very well with the Maria Auxiliadora project too. We finally had a very successful meeting last night, and made some concrete plans, and got a group formed. We have at least 4 people who are eager and serious about being guides, one woman who will be the coordinator (she is also vice president of the barrio and a very motivated, eager and trustworthy person), and at least 5 or 6 others who will be part of the group. We did some planning on tour logistics, will have a work party in the park with the community on Sunday, and plan on having a kind of Re-inauguration party (to put in the signs as a symbol of a re-commitment to the park) 

I have been taking photos of lots of things, and will send you some writing later on when i get it together…documentation of what we have been doing and progression of the projects. 

I also bought two signs for the park yesterday (signs for the outside so people know how to get to the park/where the entrance is, etc), and plan to get those painted and up by next week. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

We are still working on painting the two signs for the entrance (one for the entrance and one for halfway up the hill). We finished putting in all the little tree marker signs, and had a work party to clean up the park on Sunday (collected trash, cleaned up trails etc…). about 25 or 30 people (lots of children too) showed up to the work party, and worked for about 2 hours. We ended with fresh orange juice and cheese sandwiches for everyone. 

Today Rita and I went to speak to the Municipio about other requests for assistance with park development. We asked for a large sign at the bottom of the hill near the mural, a couple of lamps for safety, a trash can at the entrance near the white apartment, and publicity for the park on the radio. 

Tomorrow we are having a kind of Re-inauguration Ceremony to symbolize a recommitment to the park with cooperation from the surrounding communities. 

When the next volunteers arrive I can be in touch with them about this project so they can follow up on the work that we have done. The group in Maria Auxiliadora is very motivated but also concerned with our continued involvement and support. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Leslie did not show up yet. I do not think that a lot has been done recently with Fanca. Compost production should be continuing as before, but the worms are not there yet. Jeff went to Porto Viejo before leaving to ask about worms, and they told him they would be ready two weeks later, I believe. 

Before I left most of the work was concentrated around Maria Auxiliadora and building the greenhouse. 

Simon and I are going to go to Fanca today to talk to Cesar and see how things are going.

Monday, December 9, 2002

Here’s an update on the park project and Maria Auxiliadora since that is what I have been working on. 

We have been speaking with Patricio from the Department of Tourism at the Municipio to develop the project. He is helping us develop a powerpoint presentation so we can present the project to other people…it includes the idea of guided tours, work parties with community members, environmental education for children of the community, the creation of a museum that would commemorate and give information on the area and the phenomenon of El Nino.

Later this week, the group will have a meeting with members of the surrounding communities to update everyone on what we have been working on. We are also going to have a little work party to create steps for a second trail to enter the park.

We have been working on the large sign (2 by 4 meters) that will be put at the bottom of the hill, and will probably finish it and install it this week. Also the same artist who has painted the sign is creating silk screen t-shirts for the guides and for tourists to buy, which have the logo of the park (the one on the brochure with the hands) and the name. Those should be ready within the next two days.

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