Youth Media Regional Groups & Overnight Encuentros

So much has happened! It seems like the only time I have to write blog entries is after my supervisors are asleep. Today I did lots of supervisor feedback, brainstorming CBI solutions and thinking about how to get vols to really make the most of their last few weeks and drinking a lot, and only the waitress at the only restaurant in town really knows how many, but a lot of diet cokes. Over diet cokes and tostones (fried plaintains, yummy with salt and ketchup, kinda like fries, but round and from bananas) I heard all about vol partnerships, Spanish challenges, youth counterparts, host moms, fundraising parties, material purchases, and the like. But more importantly, so much more! What I feel like writing about, though, happened last week: the youth media regional groups and the overnight encuentros!

So the media encuentros looked like this. See, the idea is this: we’ve had some issues with sustainability of the media project. We are seeking a structure that allows youth who know how to use the media tools a space to come together to work on media. The issue is that there are only a few youth per community who really know, and its pretty hard for Plan to attend to so many communities on a year round basis who all need media support. So- we’ve formed regional groups, three of them, that have between 3 and 5 local communities together. Each group meets weekly to look at media, show their media, do some media projects and learning, and plan projects. What’s above is one of the meetings of the 5-community group, during storyboarding

This is Acedades, lollypops in hand, about ready hop on the bus!

And here’s La Cuesta and Las Limas/El Crucero:

Last week I also came together with the first group (Asiento, Mercedes, and Cerro) to watch their experimental videos- COOL! I’ll post them soon. They did some emotion short videos, where they had to think about expressing an emotion in video or photo and we guessed what it was- also fun. We talked then about their projects for the youth encuentro.

Yasira and I on a truck ride. This five year old contributes to the project by keeping staff stress levels oh so low!

Mercedes del Rancho hops in a truck after showing their experimental work for sodas in a bag and a truck ride home!

The sups had come up with this 30 people, 1 question activity. The vols and youth were supposed to come up with a question to ask a bunch of people, and then to record those answers in some kind of creative way. See the video for some examples of what they came up with!

Off to dinner with the country director, and more later!

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Youth Media 48 hour Encuentro Video

Check out this video, of the Media 48 Hour Encuentro! Now, I exported the wrong version, so sorry for the bad sound in some parts and the clips that should be edited down. I didn’t watch it till it uploaded, and after waiting so long for it to upload on our oh so slow internet connection, there is just no way I am going to export and re-upload! So, enjoy in its grittiness. Teustepe is pretty gritty, anyway. And if you’re wondering what I mean by gritty, I mean water only comes a few hours a day, or sometimes every few days; I can’t find powdered sugar for my carrot cake cream cheese frosting; sometimes dogs chase me on my bike; and its hot, all the time, all the time, all the time! It’s oh so gritty here!

Also, a few posts back I posted a link to Facebook photo albums. I am updating them, so check the public link! The arts 48 Hour Challenge Workshop video, and the Project Wide 48 Hour Challenge Showing of Arts and Video Projects will be posted… at some point!

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Carrot Cake, Poster Paper, and Frozen Apple Juice

These are a few of our favorite things. Carrot cake, because I almost did not burn it, for Jake’s birthday tomorrow, and because all of Teustepe is feeling skeptical, and talking about said vegetable cake. Poster paper, because I am rapidly using all of Maribel’s stash, to make storyboards and brainstorms, to-do lists and calenders. And frozen apple juice, because it is just so yummy. And it’s cold. And it tastes like popsicle in a box, and our freezer is filled up with them.

Today I had the second regional youth group meeting- Acedades, Potrerillos, La Cuesta, Las Limas, El Crucero. Biggest group yet! We did the same thing as the other group (see prior post) with experimental video, only this time we watched Cindy Sherman, Barbara Hammer, Maya Deren, Trinh Min Ha, and… me! Again, it was inspiring and awesome to be with a group of youth, watching videos, making storyboards, laughing over lunch. I managed to spill my coffee like four times all over most of our posters. We’re getting to the point now, where the vols and the YCs are really gelling, really starting to love each other. I love this midway point, when they start to have inside jokes and to giggle at nothing.

We have one more regional group meeting- Sunday in Las Palomas. Then this week we have the Midterm youth encuentro— 160 youth, one hotel, four organizations, video, art, 30 people 1 question presentations, and topics ranging from the environment to sex rights to communication. I’m excited! We’re going to do a gallery walk, too, where each community sets up their art/media in a room and everybody walks through. Ex-ci-ting!

And now, time to frost the carrot cake. I had to wait till all the supervisors were sleeping because they keep trying to eat all the frosting….

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Experimental Video and Butterflies

I am so completely and totally inspired right now. After a hairy morning, I arrived an hour and fifteen minutes late to Mercedes del Rancho. I met up there with two sups, a bunch of vols from 3 communities, and the youth they work with. There were probably twenty five youth, when vols and counterparts were accounted for, there.

First of all, the youth from Rancho practically jumped for joy when I contributed to their fundraising by buying 15 cosas del horno (bread things, directly translated= things of the over) for cuadruple the amount they were selling them for. I gave them 50 cordoba (about 2.50 USD) for 15 cosas del horno, and they were thrilled. They’ve already raised $240 from selling the cosas del horno, at 1-2-3 cordobas per cosa. So, 50 cordobas made a huge dent!

Then we all sat down and started talking about what they did for the 48 hour challenge. I think its really important for youth to be able to talk about why they make the media they make, so we practiced that. In small groups, they worked through some detailed questions about it, and presented! Generally, awesome.

Then they picked 5 minutes of their day yesterday. And we practiced storyboarding the details. I gave them strips of paper with yellow boxes on them, and they storyboarded just those five minutes, with lots of attention to detail- the results included cow udders, shoes tapping, bandaids falling off, clothing floating away in the river, rain pouring from the sky onto lamina roofs.

Then, my favorite part. We watched Maya Deren and Agnes Varda films! Just a few short clips, but it was AWESOME to share these films I love so much with these youth I love so much! And the reactions- just awesome! We talked about what an experiment is, and what experimental could mean, and why someone would even make an experimental video? I was like jumping out of my skin with excitement.

And then the fun part- they re-storyboarded the five minutes a la experimental. And then games. And now they are out making the experimental videos, in camera edits only, no editing allowed, and we’ll string them together! So generally awesome! So inspired! It really does not get much better than hanging out with 30 youth, by a river swarmed by green butterflies, watching Agnes Varda and Maya Deren projected on the side of a house, or storyboarding every day moments in experimental ways. It just doesn’t get better. I could die happy right now.

Then we piled youth into the back of a truck and left the vols and youth in Mercedes to work. We dropped of Asiento Viejo and Cerro, and I rocked out to Juanes all the way back on the bumpy, bumpy road to Teustepe.

I was starving, so I had lunch with Maribel and the baby, a little grant writing, returning hundreds of phone calls…. and guess what?

Friday, I get to do it all again with Potrerillos, Las Limas, La Cuesta, El Crucero, Acedades! Rock on! And Sunday with Cacao, La Laguna, and Las Palomas! And Monday again with Rancho, Asiento, and Cerro! It’s like living a dream of inspiration and energy!

Simply, love.

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48 Hour Video and Art Challenge

Wow, time flies. Every day is something different!

We’ve been having a ton of fun. I was so inspired by the 48 hour video and art challenge! It was just so cool to see everyone train for 2 days, get really excited about making art about social issues, and then return to communities. Driving through communities last Friday was crazy. Big community meetings, youth in the streets organizing, everyone talking about the prizes, everyone really excited. The short time period for people to really pull together I think has been really special and energizing. I get sometimes a little crazy when this happens, and I look like a loca, like in this picture, where I’m leading a vol/youth counterpart AMIGOS Boaco “community meeting.”

They did really great projects. The first two days, they learned to edit video and to make songs about social issues and to use lighting to their advantage. This part was done in staff house, which was a bit crazy, but I love having all these vols and youth at my fingertips, with buzzing energy and ideas and questions. I thrive on it! I also love when staff house becomes a DIY media making and learning place. I love when we borrow the projector from the mayor and project editing software on the yellow wall above the summer calender, with its brightly colored design. I love when there’s so many people in a room it gets really sweaty and youth pour water on each other and laugh in excitement at the silly movies they are practicing on. I love it when the youth storyboarding on the front porch can’t hear each other, because the neighbor is blasting music and I have to go ask them to turn it down. I love it when there are small groups in each room talking about social issues, and when youth bring up things that are really important to them, and when they take that chance to share what really matters to them. I love it when they get tired and I go out front and they are laying with eachother’s heads on each others’ bellies, youth counterparts and vols, in a big laughing chain. I love it when sups decide to go buy guajada because they need a snack, and I love it when the vols and sups express love for guajada, though I will never understand it. I love it, simply. I love it when I go buy drinks for sups, and pieces of chocolate, and I give it to them while they are facilitating. I love it when I buy out the energy drinks and tell everyone that’s why I’m so crazy when we sing A Boom Chicka Boom, even though the truth is I just love singing with them so much I can barely contain myself. I love it when sups smile because the youth get it. I love it when we all get frustrated with tech issues, and then boom!, we fix it. It makes me so excited to get them all together. So, that part looked like this:

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So, imagine my deligh when, 48 hours later, they ALL came together, in El Pastoral, and sat on the floor, and watched each others’ presentations. Some of the presentations I really liked were the video from Acedades, about a teenage girl who gets pregnant, the video from Las Palomas, for its cinematography, and Las Limas’ for the way they made the video about an issue they were solving, and ended it with the entire community coming together. And of course, Cerro’s because its an all-girl group! And Asiento’s, about the water project, and …. oh, just love. I loved the mural Junquio made of trash (truly, a stunner, gigantic, amazing, incredible), and the play from El Coyol about a family with a lesbian daughter and a disabled son, and their learning to accept them, and the song that Chilamate wrote, and so much, much more. There were prizes- $100 prizes to CBI projects, a internet USB, headphones, a printer, a giant basket (three tiers high) of art supplies…. My APD almost throttled me when she saw the receipts, but good prizes = motivation = good!

So, I have so much more to write, but this part looked like this, and I’ll write more later…

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So, more to come!

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Kickoff to the Youth Media 48 Hour Video Challenge!

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Nica Vols Head to Matagalpa

Tomorrow morning, I’ll take my last three Nicaraguan vols who have yet to begin their summer to the airport. No, they are not getting on a plane. But these three young people- Engel, Alba Nubia, and Gladis- will link up with the vols coming to Matagalpa, and with them, head into briefing. Tonight is the second night that my girls Selene and Darlyn, also vols from this project, are spending in their communities in Ecuador. I think about them, so far away, and I hope they know we’re here cheering for them, thinking about them, hoping they are getting along with their families and understanding Quechua and stepping outside their comfort zones.

When we dropped off Selene and Darlyn at the airport, I knew people would cry. I was unprepared, though, for what that feeling of being left behind with the families is like. I did not know what it felt like, to see these two brilliant girls you love so much swing their AMIGOS daypacks onto their backs, give their teary moms and dads one more hug, and go through security. We watched them until their bright green backpacks were no longer visible. And then they were gone, off on a journey we’ve been helping them prepare for, and we were still here in Boaco, left wondering who is taking care of them and wondering if they are happy and if someone is hugging them. Tomorrow, it will be the same, as I bid farewell to Engel and Gladis and Alba Nubia, my three little pollitos headed to MataG. I want them to go, I’m thrilled for them to go, and at the same time, I wish it was already the day I get to throw them a welcome home party! I cannot wait to hear their stories, its such an accomplishment for them to go, I am beyond proud of them for this one, but it tugs a little at the heart, to watch them board a yellow school bus with another project director, another set of sups, and head off to a place I do not know, a place where no host mom is going to give me updates and I’m not going to get the inside scoop. I know someone will be getting those updates, I know there will be a PD (who happens to be a dear friend of mine) who will have the inside scoop and who will of course look out for my lovely youth, but she is still not me.

And so, I wonder if this is what all those parents who send their kids to us in the summertime feel like. And if it is, then I hope they know how much we adore and delight in and love their kids. I hope they can imagine all these incredible host moms, who hug them so much, and call me to report how much dinner their vols ate, and these youth counterparts who send me notes on motorcycles about what kinds of activities the vols are planning with them. I hope they know how incredibly awe-inspired we are by their teenaged vols, every single second. It’s like all the time, every time the phone rings, there is a new wonder that has been discovered. Every time I go to a community, hear a story, solve an issue, there’s a vol there discovering something incredible awesome. And these vols are just so. freakin. cool. I adore them. They inspire me. Wow.

So, what else. We’ve been in lots of meetings with communities about the media project, and this week we have the 48 hour challenges. This means the youth come in, get training on the arts or in media, and on social issues and how to make stories about them, and then have 48 hours to return to communities, pick a topic, and make a play, video, mural, story, poster, etc., about the social issue. Then, we all come together and the present the work! I am pumped, thrilled to see what they come up with.

Last week the media youth all made audio pieces about some aspect of their community history. I think these are looking incredibly cool- I will post them here, soon!

25 out of 26 communities have completed and turned in their solicitudes, the Bevil grant is in and will be typed up tomorrow and submitted, and we got another grant from UBC! It’s an itty bitty grant, but hey, $1,500 goes a whole long way here- it feels huge! I mean, the possibilities….

Also working on forming three regional youth groups, with ADM and Plan, for the media youth. This will be more sustainable, allow them to foster skills together, and I think just be an awesome newish model for us to work through the media project with.

Well, its bedtime here. This is Boaco, saying goodnight. The sups are on route, the vols have been asleep for hours (no electricity, or little electricity, means everyone sleeps by 7, because it gets dark at 6:30), and staff house is empty except for me and Tanika, and the fans and the frogs. So from under this green bug net, with a fan on either side of the bed, this is Boaco, saying goodnight.

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AMIGOS Boaco 2011  and AMIGOS Boaco 2011 Part 2

It’s taking too long to upload photos to multiple places- we only have a USB internet stick- so instead, I’ve decided to link to my Facebook albums. Enjoy!

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hello, summertime. you’re here!

Just a snapshot of the last ten days:

Went up the mountain lots of times, mostly in the red and yellow truck, with Alfredo, the man who shakes my hand every time I see him and says, “cinco mas cinco, pa’ tener diez.”

Eaten a ton of chicken. Mostly fried. Finally figured out how to turn the oven on, and Tanika and I have been reveling in baked chicken.

Watching Cristian grow has been crazy. He’s so big now, and he’s only a month old!

The sups came, and we made a conversation stop/slow/go traffic light, to communicate about when they get it, when they need think time, and when its confusing.

Tanika and I may have been the ones to eat the whole jar of Nutella, ok? We couldn’t stop, even if we wanted to. It was impossible to stop.

Led a stop motion workshop that sort of worked, and remembered how hard it is to teach tech. Worked with youth, dreamt about youth, hit the ground hard when it became a reality.

Picked up a new host agency, ADM, and epxlained AMIGOS. Opened new communities with them. Love them.

Had long chats with Donahi in the truck up the mountain. Donahi is the regional director of Plan. We now both agree we need to visit communities more often, we both learned things about what our staff teams do in communities from these visits, and we Donahi has officially declared herself my mentor, which is how she justifies calling me “hija” and “mi nina” all the time.

Vols arrived, on all kinds of flights. Sups made copies, hundreds of them. I made copies. We all made copies. And then we had to fix the mistakes the people actually making the copies at the copy shop made, which were many.

Tanika and I laughed and wondered and solved problems. Decided who should reach out to which sup, how to handle that issue brought up by this vol, when to tell so and so what, and on and on.

The vols made us laugh- for instance, one, in discussing whether he would want a Latin America partner, had this to say, after being asked “So, how would you feel about being in a partnership with only a Nicaraguan or Dominican vol?” And he says, wise teen that he is… “Well, that would be another part of life.” Love.

And then boom, they were in communities. We’ve had a few things come up, mostly just host moms calling to check in, host brothers letting us know they are playing ferverent games of soccer. We’ve sent the sups on their first week of route, and we’re ready to see these vols and youth counterparts just shake the mountains of Boaco through and through with their excitement and energy and hope and love and wonderfulness!


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The Night Before Sup Survey

It is the night before supervisor survey, and all are asleep. The rocking chairs at staff house in the tiny town of Teustepe are empty, silenced by supervisor slumber, still in a circle formation from this afternoon’s training. The crickets chirp, and the frogs hiccup, and there is enough moonlight to leave most of the lights off. A broken coconut sits on a table in the middle of the rocking chairs, having been enjoyed earlier as an after dinner treat.

Tomorrow morning at 6 am, youth from twenty seven Boaqueno communities will pour into Teustepe. Like the supervisors, they will come full of anticipation and excitement. For some of these youth, this will be the first time they learn about Amigos, while others will take a lead role facilitating activities, having participated with Amigos in years past. Together, after a breakfast of coffee and bread, we will play name games and “Amigos Mission Twister,” where instead of tangling your limbs on red, blue, and yellow dots, youth will tangle each other between Youth Leadership, Community Development, and InterCultural Understanding. Then come the games. Alberto, our Promotor of Liderazgo Juvenil, and Rita, our staff intern, will lead an endless array of silly, high energy games. Once we’ve been silly enough, youth will settle in with supervisors to discuss community routes, supervisor survey, CBIs, and host families. After lunch, and a few more games, the supervisors will head off in buses with youth from their communities to set up summer work plans, sip coffee with host moms, talk project plans with local youth, and introduce themselves to community leaders. It is a big moment, supervisor survey, and one we meet with healthy anticipation and endless excitement- a week full of stories waiting to be told, discoveries about to happen, friendships waiting to blossom.

Tomorrow is also the final packing meeting for Nicaraguan youth who will participate as volunteers. As the time draws close for the thirteen youth who will be full fledged vols, we are gathering mosquito nets and making sure everyone has water bottles. Two weeks ago, I had the priveledge to train these brilliant young people as they took the first steps of their Amigos Vol adventure. I was floored with the thoughtful ways in which they engaged with ideas about community development, and inspired by the depth to which they understand and think about the AMIGOS mission. These young people have been inspired by former volunteers in their communities and have learned about our programming in their own communities. They bring a unique perspective, bounds of youthful energy, and a genuine commitment to partner with communities in their own country to make the world a better place. I’ve been especially proud of Darling, who was a volunteer last year in Boaco, and is heading to Ecuador this summer. Darling spoke eloquently about the challenges of being a volunteer in her own country during the training, guided her peers through conversations about feedback and partner relations, and did an incredible job of teaching some truly hilarious songs and ice breakers to this years’ Nicaraguan vols.

While supervisors are in communities, Senior Staff and I will spend the next few days getting permission slips signed for our Nicaraguan vols, and we will spend the evenings the way I like best- chatting about the day with our dear friend Maribel, sliding back and fourth in rocking chairs and eating freshly picked mangoes while we talk about life. What’s  about the time I have spent here- about being able to watch dreams take shape in the form of Nicaraguan volunteers, or Bevil grants, or community plays, or radio shows broadcast on local networks- is really, at the end of the day, the relationships. The friendships with people like Maribel, that began over youth encuentros and sweet coffee and the trials and tribulations of getting the correct CBI supplies delivered to the correct communities grow to wind themselves deeply into our lives, changing who we are, what we will become, where we will end up. I cannot imagine a more special moment to witness, than the beginning of one of those relationships that winds itself around your heart so deeply. That, precisley, is what will begin tomorrow for the supervisors in their communities, and the youth they will work with. It is what will begin in nine days, when volunteers step off of the bus or plane and walk into briefing, it is what begins when Darling goes to Ecuador and her peers fan out into communities all over the country to be volunteers. And now that it is all quiet at staff house, supervisors sleeping, training materials stacked neatly in the corner, crickets chirping, moon lighting the porch there is only a few hours left, only a matter of moments before the sun is up and the town is bustling with young leaders about to change the world.

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