ANIDES’s cozy office faces an uphill, busy residential road. The front door of the office is always open with wind rushing in, repeatedly blowing paper after paper off the table and allowing for the street sounds to pervade the workspace. Much more refreshing than sitting in a falsely lit cubicle space, far removed from civilization. It is at times a quiet and calm environment, with only 2 or 3 people working at one time and at other times a flurry of movement and loud discussion, 8 people packed into a very small space. My concentration skills will be fine-tuned come the end of October.
There are basically two and a half rooms, with one large pine table in the central space where half of the staff crams with their computers, typing away, editing documents and reports or evaluating projects. At times, some of the staff begin at 8 and end at 5, and at others, they start at 7:30 and end at 6:30, occasionally working Saturdays and holidays. There are many long days, sometimes spent entirely in front of a computer. Many staff members work almost entirely in the field, facilitating workshops on a year-round schedule.
During the first week I was able to sit down with Gloria Ordoñez, ANIDES’s director to understand the needs of the organization and to discuss strategy. Underfunded but well-represented, it is a team of only 20 people that works hard to facilitate each of its 32 community’s needs. It is like many small organizations; they do good development work, but go largely unrecognized financially in the grand scheme of development. Although, it has developed a handful of useful partners that support its mission to provide rural communities with access to loans in kind, volunteer projects and capacity building trainings.
The first two weeks of work, I went with Gloria or another facilitator and community leader to observe and gain more knowledge about a community called Pueblo Viejo. Gloria was raised in this mountain village of about 160 people and this was one of the first communities where ANIDES started working. From the minute we started driving down the windy mountainous road, my vision expanded to see rolling green and ash brown mountains, speckled with yellow and fuchsia trees, in their prime of blossoming. As we continued driving, 5, 10, 15 minutes in, I also began to realize how remote these communities really are. We took a right onto the dusty rock strewn country road and I realized that countryside is countryside, wherever you go. I also realized that it is an exceptionally beautiful part of any nation and every day we drove into these communities, I felt a sense of peace; a part of me feels really at home in the countryside.
As I was introduced to the community by Gloria, I instantly realized this would be a very different experience than the one I had a year ago in a different region of Nicaragua. The last community I worked with had vibrant women who acted as leaders, motivated, with the energy of an ox. Most of these women in Pueblo Viejo appear shy and timid, and are almost in tears at the idea of participating. Initially, I understood it to be an environmental organization, but ANIDES has also performed workshops as part of a women’s only communal bank project, worked to increase women’s self-esteem and to improve business skills, among many things. Slowly, women are taking more initiative and organizing themselves, developing an amazing collaborative spirit!
For me this internship will be about learning curves, knowledge sharing and skill building, among many things. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead!
-Clare Esler, Environment Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Nicaragua 2012
As previously noted on the YCI Blog we have 8 IYIPs in the field. We will feature blog posts from each of them in the coming months. Check back often to find out what they are up to!