Alessia talking about mobilization and community members empowerment

Growing an idea into reality.

I want to make a playground”, that was all I knew. Then looking around me I realized I wanted to make 2 playgrounds: one for the oldest kids and another one for the preschool kids… yes, only.

I have to confess that at the beginning I had no idea at all about how to organize myself to start to build it: making a plan, designing it, thinking about safety regulations, making the budget, discussing the budget, changing the previous plan, finding the materials, finding someone to cut the hardwood only when it is full moon, of course… finding out which kind of institutions to ask to for help and donations, without forgetting the hardest task of gathering and mobilizing the villagers to help me with the construction and the hard work part.

All these things to do and no experience at all, I was pretty scared honestly. But then I organized myself, doing it part by part and asking our supervisor Regina Hun and our project leader Pantaleon Escobar for advices, learning from their previous experiences in this field!

But above everything to trust in myself and my skills, I had the power to do it but was I ready?

The kindness and simplicity of the institutions : the Ministry of Works

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When I first got to the Ministry of Works to ask for 4 loads of rocks on a Wednesday morning, I remember I thought it was crazy, that it wasn’t at all the right way to proceed (or at least not where I grew up, in Switzerland).

Miraculously, after looking for the director of the Ministry of Works, Mr Guerra, we finally had a quick meeting, where he assured me he would give his best to provide me with loads of rocks to level the grounds of the school !

I was surprised when less than one week after I got a message (sms because the network was really bad in this village) from the director in person, telling me to expect a load the same day.

So since I was not ready with the villagers to help me, I had to ask to Regina and Anna, my teammate, to help me for this 1st hard task. So we picked up shovels, picks, wheelbarrows and a lot of water, and a huge amount of motivation!

The “lil’ amounts of rocks” were higher than us! But we did it, it took us 4 hours of hard work and at the end 2 young villagers came to help us which was a huge and highly appreciated help. They probably understood that we were in a desperate need!

Gathering/mobilizing the help in the community

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When I really realized how huge was the amount of work to do, I understood that mobilizing people was not an option at all.

I really needed the members of the community to help me to finish the first “small” part : leveling the ground!

This part took us about 10 days of work every morning from early time until lunch time, and believe me working with the pick, the hoes and the shovels under the hot sun of Belize is something!

So I’ve been to the Mayor of the village, Mr.Mas, to ask him for help to mobilize workers and also I made an announcement at the school in the morning to ask the children to pass the message to their parents.

People responded actively to my request, more than what I was expecting, but still the mornings before going to the playgrounds areas I was scared that no one would show up.

I had a great help from villagers between 25 and 50 years old, less from the youth, who were not looking so interested in helping their own community, sad right ?

Nevertheless one of them, Edwin, was really active and helped me from the beginning of the leveling process until the end of building the playgrounds and painting the items.

Building the playground

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The building part was a big common action we did with almost 15 people, involving the Humana team and the villagers in 3 different days. Anyway we still had to spread some loads that were still coming every 2 or 3 days, when the truck was coming back from work in other communities.

I was highly surprised about how much we could do as a group of workers! A man from the village cut the wood for us, we just provided the fuel and oil for the chainsaw. He was really proud to participate in this project that his daughter and new baby would benefit from in the future.

And of course Humana provided us all the support we needed in terms of tools and materials to work with!

I want to thank mr. James Borlon (garage owner in Punta Gorda) for the donation of 32 tires and Humana for providing the big truck tires too! Without them this project of recycling tires playground wouldn’t have worked out.

Painting and Thinking about the rules !

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After we finally finished the construction and spreading the loads (2 weeks of work) we had to paint all the tires and the items, which took us 3 evenings.

This part was not so hard itself, the only issue was that the oil paint needs quite a long time to really dry and the kids were so excited that they were never staying far from the fresh painted items!

We tried to fence it with scotch tape, to tell them to do not touch it, to ask the teachers to monitor them; but nothing really worked. Nevertheless the painting steps ended and the result is beautiful!

There is one thing I never thought would be necessary, it was to write the rules!

Rules for a playground?! Really??

Kids were coming to me everyday complaining because some older ones were not sharing or taking turns. Others were hurting each other because they didn’t know how to play on the games.

So my last step of the project was paintings the rules of the playground on the wall of the school and it was done!

Playground is now finished and complete, kids and parents enjoy it and teachers tested it too!

The satisfaction of working for the community

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This project changed my perspective about I much it is possible to achieve, and about the capacity of working in groups.

It showed me that nothing is impossible, you just need to share your ideas, listen for advices and find other people motivated to get things done, like you!

The cooperation and faith are the key.

I am grateful for all the help and support I got during this project and want to thank everyone that participated!

As I am used to saying, I did all this, not for me but for the community.

I hope I could inspire the people to trust in themselves and start project in common!

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Alessia talking about mobilization and community members empowerment

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