"Conscious community-based development in Mariscal Sucre" - by Kayleigh Levitt
(Pachaysana Intern, summer 2015)
During my study abroad program, I got to visit the Mariscal-Sucre community for 4 days, and afterwards I knew I wanted to go back. I truly felt welcomed into my host-family. I really enjoyed playing with the kids, conversing with the family, and being close to nature. Then, I got to come back as an intern and stay for about 5 weeks during the summer. Another intern was there at the same time, Zoe Witt, so we worked together to teach English, help with the tourism project, and run a week-long summer camp for the little kids.
The community wanted to learn some English to help them converse with the tourists. It was challenging at first, but once we got the hang of it, class was really enjoyable and we were able to see a lot of progress. I felt that we really got to connect with the students which made the class a fulfilling experience.
There is a tourism project happening in the Mariscal that I think a lot of communities could learn from. They are consciously developing tourism so that it isn’t destructive to their culture. Instead of building hostels, tourists come and stay with families. The income goes directly to the families and it’s a more real and satisfying tourist experience. The activities reflect their identity: seeing the sugar cane process, experiencing nature, and just hanging out with the community, cooking, dancing, playing sports etc. I learned a lot from getting to participate in this project. As the world tries to pressure them to be a part of a larger bureaucratic system, maintaining ownership of their culture and time becomes more difficult. I got to see what conscious, community-based development looks like in spite of the pressures of globalization.
Running the summer camp was a blast. We played hard. I really enjoyed spending time with the kids throughout our time there. I was amazed by how creative and mature they were. I know that I’m going to miss them the most. I probably added 10 years to my life just from how much they made me laugh. I’m deeply grateful for my experience in this community. I will always feel like I have a home there.
As I reflect on my experience, I know I will continue to learn from their way of life, conscious development, and the friends I made there.