Short-term Rehearsing Change program in the community of Mariscal allows our work to reach the next level.
When Pachaysana works with a partner community, we do our absolute best to progress according to a development strategy in which the community makes the decisions. What this means is that before our semester-long Rehearsing Change program begins, we have been working “little by little” with the community for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Our focus during this time is the development of methodologies that empower the community to make informed decisions that help determine whether or not to continue working with Pachaysana. We hope the same process and methodologies will assist the community in understanding other outside interventions, such as those from oil/mining companies, local/regional/federal governments, NGO’s, etc., so that they can make decisions that are right for them. One important step in this process is a short-term program that serves as a test-run for the community.
Pachaysana facilitated such a short-term program with the community of Mariscal from Oct 29 to Nov 3. 20 international students from BCA Study Abroad, an international education provider based in the United States, joined 10 community counterparts from Mariscal to partake in a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding experience. BCA took a risk in joining us for this experience, as it was a first step in what we refer to as Applied Study Abroad (something very unusual for study abroad organizations). The idea behind the experience, from the Study Abroad perspective, was to transform a planned program educational excursion, usually just geared toward the education of the international students, into one that reaps equal, if not greater, educational opportunity/benefits for members of a local community. Below you can read stories from both a BCA student and a local community counterpart.
The program started with group integration, meaning activities to introduce our international students and local counterparts, at the Cave of Jumandy before journeying to the city of Coca, where we began a 1.5 day Toxic Tour. The Toxic Tour included visits to several of the contaminated sites that served as evidence in the class action lawsuit against Chevron, as well as a brief visit to the Cofan community of Dureno, where we heard first-hand accounts of how the oil industry changed their lives. Then, we took the long trek to our host community of Mariscal where the international students were assigned host families and we began 2.5 days of local activity. Together, international students and local counterparts spent one day with Pachaysana founding member Juan Kunchikuy, also a naturalist Amazon guide, hiking in primary and secondary rain-forest before having lunch at a local waterfall. Part of this hike included a few minutes of reflective theatre exercises above the waterfall that allowed us to communicate our thoughts and feelings of the experiences we had up until this point. On the other day, the group joined Pachaysana’s General Director Belen Noroña to the Kichwa community of Tzawata, where all had the opportunity to learn about this community’s struggle for their ancestral lands, which due to an unfortunate set of circumstances passed over to an international mining company. While at the community we were able to see a demonstration of a traditional cleansing by a local shaman, as well as visiting the community’s agricultural zone and partake in a traditional meal. In the evenings we participated in a community-wide Day of the Dead festival; went on a night hikes to see insects, amphibians and reptiles; played in an intense soccer match; and listened to the community musician-vocalist, Don Angel Rivera, play the guitar while singing original songs. We used our last half-day to prepare a small presentation for the community-at-large. International students and local counterparts shared theatrical games/exercises, as well as prepared/performed short theatrical pieces so that the entire community could learn about what we did and learned over the course of the experience. Our adventure came to a close with a community-wide lunch and some 30 minutes of goodbyes.
Now you can read about this experience from the different points of view: Kyle Molchany, a student from Elizabethtown College, and Patricio and Juan Rivera, cousins from Mariscal who were both counterparts.