IYIP Blog: Nicaragua in 10 Pictures

Clare Esler, YCI’s CIDA IYIP in Nicaragua has been working with ANIDES since March. She has been taking lots of pictures and for this blog entry is sharing 10 of her favourite photos from work and play in Nicaragua. Enjoy!

Facilitating a watershed workshop with 6th and 7th graders in the watershed community.

Observing one of ANIDES’s gender workshops for the first time.

Presentation and workshop on watersheds with youth promoters.

Receiving 4 cats to take care of for 1 month in my tiny apartment!

Not all work and no play, here I am swimming through Somoto Canyon with some friends in North Nicaragua.

Visiting Pueblo Viejo and mountainous rural Nicaragua for the first time.

Working in green mountains!!!

Visiting and speaking with one of the youth who will participate in our (ANIDES) 5 year program. This is his cabbage crop.

Visiting a women’s indigenous weaving cooperative in a peaceful mountain community.

Enjoying a Matagalpa Sunset from my back step.

-Clare Esler, Environment Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Nicaragua 2012

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IYIP Blog: A day /week/month in the life of a CIDA Intern

Clare steering a meeting with students who are supporting Anides with the diagnostic project.

Being an intern for a small, under resourced grassroots environmental organization is not always as exciting or thrilling as one might think, or as I thought before arriving in Nicaragua. Initially, the words, “grassroots,” “under resourced,” “small,” and “environmental organization,” all took on a certain charm. They all formed to create a very novel picture in my head and I don’t think I knew what they implied until arriving and sinking my teeth into my work. At times, it can be boring, run of the mill, Monday to Friday, 9-5 office work. Development work is a waiting game. It’s a money game. It’s a creative game – my experience has become “what can I turn this internship into to make it the most rewarding experience?” Another question I have contemplated is “how can I contribute to Anides in a sustainable and long term way?” This is obviously a challenging task as I am only here for seven months, but I thought there must be one; partnership development. It was a challenge at first. I would have to dive into the pool of organizations that are aligned with Anides’s vision and mission….and that pool is very large.  What an overwhelming task!

I started out doing a lot of reading and looking at the numbers. What kind of money are organizations bringing in or where are they receiving their funding from?  The more I narrowed it down, the more fun the task became. I ended up learning more than I thought I would, analyzing the way an organization had designed their website, for example. Was the information accessible and was the right information presented? I have become a very good judge of an organization and their marketability. The task became easier as the organizations that knew how to get the most important information across, were the ones I ended up choosing.

Presentation and workshop on watersheds with youth promoters.

From there, the next task seemed slightly daunting and intimidating, a cold call. Since Anides did not necessarily have an “in” or connection with these organizations, I would have to write an e-mail stating my case and what kind of partnership I was looking to forge. I honestly think that what has caught some of these organizations’ attention has been the mention of a “Canadian government sponsored internship.” I guess if that will be my leverage, then so be it. These are organizations that either my supervisor has always passed by, not even thinking of ways they might be able to support Anides or ones she has been dying to get even a meeting with, but has been unable due to a language barrier. I am happy that I can be the one to support, after all that is part of what I am here to do.

My initial expectations have been turned upside down and my perspective has really had to shift. I have had to go from thinking “what can this internship do for me to, what can I bring to this internship?” The seemingly boring and slow days or weeks, it turns out, are quite meaningful in the grand scheme of things. They are where the nitty gritty is planned and thought out and where idle minds develop creative ideas. They are the build-up to the most fulfilling tasks which are spent day after day in the field conducting focus groups and surveys. It is when you have a project in which you become emotionally invested, that the seemingly menial work turns into fun, creative-bursts of ideas- kind of work. I have become a report and proposal writer, facilitator, strategizer, designer, analyzer, surveyor and creator among many things.

Development work is paper work!!

If you had to ask me to synthesize this experience at this point into one phrase, I would say it has been like receiving a fresh slap in the face, and a voice that accompanies that slap says “ Wake up Clare and welcome to the world of development.”

-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. They have all written a blog post detailing the beginning of their placements and are now in the second half of their internships. Check back often to find out what they are up to now!

 

IYIP BLOG: Welcome to ANIDES, The Nicaraguan Association for Sustainable Development

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.

The office at ANIDES.

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.

The country road on the way to the communities.

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!

Community members having a great time.

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!