Peace Corps often talks about the cycles of one’s service, and here we are again. We have now been up and running for four months in my community’s soup kitchen. It has been a real roller-coaster ride, though I have never experienced one so long and bumpy… but with any luck we at moving in the right direction.
It all started, as one may recall, with an unplanned inauguration last December in which we all got together on a Monday and collaborated funds for veggies and meat to feed some of the less fortunate children in the pueblo that very next Wednesday. Despite lack of planning and some serious skepticism on my part, day one (even month one), went off without too much of a hitch. Granted we didn’t have any chairs, lacked sufficient cutlery/plates, and were cooking on a BBQ pit as we don’t even have an oven/stove… but people did get fed.
By the end of the first month, however, things started to get pretty messy. People were angry at each other’s lack of support in time and money to maintain the project, volunteers were running low, and more and more kids kept showing up without the infrastructure to hold them all. It was looking pretty bad. So, we decided to finally get organized by putting together an official commission. It was time for my organization skills to step in. And for about a month- we did good. We raised funds with polladas, got a volunteering schedule, and pedido-ed around town for meat from the local butchers (5 kilos/month each one). We even started going family to family with a census on our client’s education, national identification, living, medical, and religious needs. It seemed to be looking up. However, somewhere in there we lost motivation again… and here we are with an empty pocket-book and little to show for all that hard work.
This particular project is at another low. It’s time to get back on the horse and start riding some burros. This week, pollada number two is to be organized and next week a radio marathon to raise funds. This time around, we are looking at making sustainable choices- buying a freezer to store donated meat whenever the butchers have it to give, building a massive fogón to cook on during the winter, and doing building construction so that the kids have a place to sit when the weather turns. My VAC members too are pitching in to help us plant a veggie garden so that we have all the vitamins we need right out back. All we’ve got to do now is keep it together one more month, then at least we’ll have the basics covered. From there, with any luck, the rest of the path won’t seem so steep and insurmountable (for me and my counterparts!). Perhaps it’ll even be time for a party to celebrate 6 months of operation. Hmmm… not a bad incentive, nobody can scoff at a bocadito/vino night!