Today was such a fun day in Villa Catalina. We were in Villa Catalina for a meeting with all of the women who have signed up to do the garden project, trying to get them motivated for the summer to come to all of the trainings and care for their gardens. I realized today that the project is much cooler than I even thought.
The first cool new addition to my knowledge of the project is the presence of Gloria.
Gloria is a Chinandega-born nurse with a contagious passion for public health. When she talks about this project, especially the aspects she’s really excited about, she leans in real close and whispers real soft, as if the weight of her words was too much for full speech.
The meeting began a full 40 minutes after its proposed time. Nicaraguan time, I’m told. I sat there chatting with the women as they walked in. Everyone wanted to talk about their particular vision for their garden. Emily worries she has no space, with a papaya tree and a mango tree crowding her small backyard. Doña Catalina is excited about growing both yucca and beans, as they work well together she says. Here’s the health clinic where the meeting was held:
Once the meeting began, Gloria killed it with the pitch. To paraphrase her pitch (only less eloquently in my translation of my partial understanding of her Spanish) here’s a momentous moment:
“Here you are, 20 women. We (gesturing to herself, Megan and me) are women too. You know, we could have filled this room with men. To provide food for the family is their job. They already know how to do this. But we don’t need them. We are going to learn to do this together.”
The project is actually much more about women’s empowerment even than I thought. I always knew it was a larger, grander goal, but I was skeptical of how it would be carried through. Yesterday, with 14 single mothers in a room with this bombastic, kick ass nurse laying down the truth in front of them was just so inspiring. Yes, the project is about nutrition and food access. These gardens will provide food, and cheap, nutritious food. But these gardens will also provide something to take pride in. And ultimately, Gloria has her sights set on economic development. These gardens can provide an alternative livelihood for these single mothers, selling produce to other members of Villa Catalina and ultimately in town.
So every week we will meet for a training from an organization in town, Plan Nicaragua, which supports food security throughout Nica. We’ll be getting a crash course in vegetable gardening from them, Monday by Monday.
We’d like to build a community among these women around the gardens. So every Friday we will meet in one of the women’s homes for lunch, cooking and preparing cheap yummy food with the vegetables that they will ultimately harvest from their gardens. So that’s, yucca, plantains, a type of bean, two types of squash, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumber. We hope that having a community will boost attendance and commitment to the gardens. And these women are ridiculously fun
A couple of foreseeable issues: attendance & punctuality. So 20 women signed up and are planning to participate in the trainings, but only 14 showed up. “Nicaragua time” was further complicated by the fact that the Nicaraguan government picked Monday as a day to give away mattresses to the people of Chinandega, believe it or not. No reason, really. Just a mattress giveaway on a Monday afternoon. Megan says this is commonplace here, unsustainable handouts from the government with no specific goals. I don’t know much about the issue, but it certainly kept 6 of our ladies away.