It looks like I have a lot to catch ya'll up on. Ive been spending a lot of time in Soacha the past few weeks--everyday for the past about nine days. The transportation sometimes gets frustrating, but its all worth it when I am walking around the barrios and interacting with the people. One day recently changed how I look at NGOs and the way they work in communities. I went to a meeting with a few women who were working to initiate urban farming into the community of Altos de la Florida. They talked for a while about what they wanted the project to be, but the conversation soon turned to current issues with organizations infiltrating the communities. Since internal displacement has become such an important issue in the United Nations, literally hundreds of organizations are currently working in Soacha. Many of these NGOs go into the barrios and tell the community what they want to accomplish. Of course, these organizations have studied these issues and have reason to be there, but, as I learned, there is a serious flaw with the way some organizations go about meeting their goals. I found that many NGOs come into the barrios, take pictures of everything they are doing, but also take pictures of dirty, sad children in order to bring attention to the situation. Of course, the NGOs need to let the public (the source of donations) know about the situation and to make sure they let them know where their money is going, but it is also unfair to the communities to take pictures, basically in order to make money off the needs of these people. It made me realize that in order to really make a change and to do something for the community, you have to do something with the community--ask them what they want to do, work together. These people have been living this life longer than organizations have been studying it. Of course I do not want to say that NGOs dont help, they are needed and I have great respect for them, but I feel that from what I have experienced, it is important to ask the community what they want to do. The problem with this is that some communities are not listened to when they talk, but some are also not talking anymore. This is the problem that I have found in Soacha.
All the attention from NGOs and their presence has made the people lazy. They know that they can get a small amount of money or food without doing anything for it. Im not saying its much and they cant live off it, but many people can find what they need without knowing that they have a right to more. This is the reason why I have come to respect SJR so much. As important as it is to be someone's advocate, I think it is more important and can get communities further if you teach someone how to be their own advocate. The old saying, give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime, comes to mind...i think thats how it goes at least.
Other than that, life is pretty normal here in Bogota. Jesuits from the US have arrived and it has been difficult to resist the temptation to talk in English with them. Theyre great guys and a lot of fun though. Im hoping we can get something together for July 4th.
I begin my interviews next week and hopefully I will be able to get more of a handle on the Colombian health care system,
I hope all is going well with everyone wherever you are. I apologize for the rant, but I feel that I have ignored you for a while and would like to keep you updated on what im thinking, however jumbled it is.
p.s. I decided to take a picture of the life of a Brueggeman Fellow..this is my night stand.
Theres more to come soon.