Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Warm Welcome

About a month ago, I ventured out to the outskirts of Granada with my friend Silvia. Silvia is the hired help at the hostel San Angel, my first home upon arriving in Granada. We went to her neighborhood, Sabaneda. I intended to present our proposed program, Cena con las Madres, to interested mothers.

Upon arrival, Silvia invited me into her home and introduced me to her 4 children. There were no doors; curtains separated areas of her home and the floor was simply dirt. Despite this, everyone seemed happy. Then I heard a noise coming from the corner of the room. Sure enough, there was a television tuned to the World Series. In no time I was chatting with Silvia's teen-age son and his two cousins about how much I wanted to Yankees to lose! They found my passion very amusing. Like most Nicaraguans, they were quite indifferent on the outcome because Nicaraguans are Dodgers fans. The pitcher Vicente Padilla, who was Nicaraguan born and raised, is a Dodger. While we were chatting about the players we liked and disliked, Silvia went outside and gathered up the women who had displayed interest in the program.

Silvia's sister, Alba, lives next door. We all gathered outside Alba's home so I could personally meet each woman. My goal was to explain to them what I hoped could potentially come out of this program and receive receive their feedback. This meeting was particularly stressful for me because not only did the women interested in the program come out for the meeting, but also THE WHOLE COMMUNITY.

As dusk set upon us and the outdoor lights began to shine, I broke out into a nervous sweat. It seemed like the entire neighborhood was gathered in a semi-circle before me. I was personally introduced to each and every person. I also received a hug or a kiss from everyone in attendance. Then I spoke with the group at large while the younger children chased a pet chicken throughout the crowd.

By the end of the meeting my audience was excited about the program's potential. When I asked for feedback, people were shy at first. Then I explained to them that in order for this program to reach its potential we all needed to work together to eliminate any weaknesses in the structure. Soon enough, a gentleman spoke up with a suggestion. Conversation spread like wildfire.

I believe that the meeting was a success. I was able to connect with the community and gain their trust. I also presented our proposed structure of Cena con las Madres and received plentiful feedback from the community.

Everyone gave me another hug or kiss upon my departure. Silvia, her daughter and two friends walked me back towards Granada's center until I assured them that I felt completely safe to continue alone. Silvia also believed the night was a success, and gave me a wide smile and a big thank-you as I walked away.

Speaking of smiles, as I walked home thinking over the night, I too was grinning from ear to ear. The feeling of acceptance by the community was empowering. My evening in Sabaneda with Silvia, her family, and her friends was one of the best experiences I have been fortunate enough to have in Nicaragua.

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