The last of our crew arrived at 3:30 this morning. It’s 6:45 a.m. and the bus is late. We are scheduled to open the clinic at 9, but it will be 10:00 before we arrive in the community – depending on the traffic as we cross Santo Domingo to get to paradise – Paraiso, in Villa Mella.
After three years of careful field research, done a week at a time in the winter and over six to 10 weeks in the summers, we held our first community meeting yesterday. About 40 percent of the households in the sub-barrio were represented as we gathered at a wide spot in the road in Esfuerzo, one of five neighborhoods in the general area we identify as the community.
Standing or sitting in multi-colored plastic chairs, people of all ages and their children gathered to hear what the Americans had to say. Our goal was to hear their ideas, to learn how they reason together, and to find a potential beginning point for collective action. What could be done about problems with the water? Who could organize some effort to begin? What has been tried before – and by whom?
We achieved much over the hour and a half meeting – or, better, we avoided most of the problems that had worried us. We communicated ideas rather than directions. We listened more than we talked. We stayed out of the center and, instead, encouraged give-and-take among residents.
The clinic will open soon, and the research team will return to Esfuerzo to probe the ideas forwarded at the meeting. Is a community well possible? A good idea? Who would help to organize it? What role would the local neighborhood association (junta de viceno) play?
Surely the bus will come soon.