Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 3, 2011 – Surviving the First Week of Bean Delivery

This has been a full week of activity.  You saw the prior report of the purchase of beans – now I’d like to share a bit of our deliveries so far. 

On Saturday the 27th of August, I picked up our two delegates from the Compañeros group.  We didn’t let them rest for very long.   After a relatively lengthy meeting on Sunday morning, we had a bite to eat and started right in on deliveries.  

Each day we visited at least two communities.  One day we actually managed to deliver to four.  We planned the routes logically: according to their proximity to each other.  Most of the communities were asked to seek out their own transportation – our little pick up can’t handle TOO much weight.   Also, asking communities to find their own transportation is a way in which the Directiva (Elected City Council) can participate in the process.   And most communities have someone who has a vehicle.  If there were not many recipients – we just used the house pick up and did not charge transportation fees. 

Here was our schedule this week:
Sunday morning: meeting. 
Sunday afternoon: Media Agua (38 families/25# each) and San Lorenzo (13 families/25# each)
Monday morning: meeting. 
Monday afternoon: Corozal – Canton farthest from Berlín (32 families/40#, 27 families/15# each)
Wednesday morning: El Tablón Centro (84 families/40# each, 2 families/15# each), El Tablón Cerna (40 families/40# each), and Santa Cruz (41 families/25# each). 
Wednesday afternoon: El Recreo (78 families/20.5# each) followed by a meeting.
Thursday morning: Community Wide bi-monthly meeting at the Pastoral House
Thursday afternoon: Casa de Zinc (13 families/40# each, 3 families/15# each), Casa de Zacate (16 families/40# each, 7 families/15# each), San Isidro (22 families/40# each, 26 families/15# each)
Friday morning: La Llanes (11 families/40# each, 5 families/15# each), San Felipe (18 families/25# each)
Friday afternoon: Alejandria (30 families/25# each) and we got back to the house early to rest (but I’m typing this report!) 508 families received beans.  14,924# of beans.  (Forgive my math if I added wrong!!) 

In the communities where there is a partner church and when we received sufficient funds, the families who did not receive the governmental agricultural assistance received 40# (a “medio” which is a standard measure here). The families who did receive the governmental assistance were supplemented with 15# to bring them on an equal level with the others.   A medio will cover about half a ‘manzana’ which equates to about ¾ of an acre.  We asked one of the farmers how much could potentially be harvested with 40# of seed.  He said about 2 sacks – which is about 400# of edible bean.  

In the communities where there is no partner church, we had to work with funds that came in from a variety of sources: individuals, churches who are not partnered, foundations, Rotary Clubs, etc.  Some of those un-partnered communities received the 40/15# combination.  Some communities received 25# each.  The quantity of families in need was a factor (it is easier to accommodate a community of 20 or less with 40#).  Another factor for a community who only received 25# would be the average size of the plot of land the people work.  For example, in Alejandria, the majority of the farmers only have a half manzana.  So 25# would cover that space sufficiently.

The process of delivery is basically the same as any church gift: we are provided a hand written list from the Directiva of a community.  I type it into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with space for signatures.  The Pastoral Team verifies the names on the list; comparing it to a community census to make sure there is no duplication (for example: a list with a parent and 2 or 3 sons living in the same house).  The idea is one per family.  They did catch a couple of cases with that kind of duplication.  The problem with duplications is a matter of ‘fairness’ – if we allow this for one family, why aren’t the other 8 families with 3 sons getting the same?  We just can’t afford to do that.  But this is not a ‘new’ concept.  Any help that comes is ‘one per family.’   

Now we have our verified lists.  The Team calls a member of the Directiva to set a delivery date and time.  The Directiva informs the beneficiaries and instructs them to show up at the determined time.  The Directiva is charged with finding transportation to get the beans from the Pastoral House to the community.  Often there is a truck within their own community that they can contract.  The Directiva finds community helpers to come to the house to help load.  In a couple of cases, community members even came to the house to help weigh and measure beforehand.  (Remember that we bought the beans in 100# sacks so they needed to be divvied up into 40, 25 and 15 pounds sacks).

The Pastoral Team and I drive out separately so the community truck does not need to bring us back to Berlín.  

Once in the community a Directiva member (usually the president, but not always) speaks to the crowd to explain the gift and express their gratitude.  They also take this time to explain that they are collecting a little to cover the cost of transportation.  It is usually minimal: 25 or 50 cents per family depending on the type of truck needed which depends upon the quantity of beans being transported.  Larger communities need a larger truck.

A member of the Pastoral Team speaks to explain how we are able to provide this help due to the efforts of MANY people in the States who have concern for their well-being. 

We then give the list to a member of the Directiva to call names and obtain either a signature or the fingerprint of each recipient.  This ensures we don’t miss anyone.  Community folks help hand out the bean sacks. 

While this is happening, the Pastoral Team typically chats with people off to the side and I take photos and interact with the children. 

The Pastoral Team tries to engage the community leadership – this is part of their function in general, but it also is a visible sign to the community that their leadership is working on their behalf.  This is always a part of the orientation in a community.  When invited to a ‘general assembly’ meeting where all are present, the Pastoral Team tries to remind the families of their responsibility to support the Directiva: the people they voted in as their leadership.  And when necessary, if a Directiva asks, the Team repeats this when there is a donation and everyone is gathered.

 A beautiful story:  In Media Agua, they discovered 3 names were inadvertently left off the list.  So Blanca came up with a possible solution – each beneficiary could share so that everyone would have beans to plant.  Everyone in the crowd nodded in agreement to this idea.  (See the photo of the man with the scale).  Immediately, the secretary of the Directiva did the math and figured that 2 pounds from each would cover those missing names!  So out came the scales and as sacks were given to each family, they paused to give their share so the families accidently left off the list would benefit as well.  And yes … we could have gone back to the Pastoral House and grabbed 3 more bags.  However – this was an opportunity for a community to resolve a problem on their own – with everyone participating in the solution.  The woman in red above was a cheerful giver.   It really was quite beautiful.
At the bean distributer's warehouse checking out the quality

Oscar pulling apart a bean to find where it is 'born'

Cecilia paying ... Mauricio counting every bill

"Will that be credit card ma'am?"

Loaded by 2 men at the distribution warehouse

Enjoying the ride from San Miguel back to Berlin

At the Pastoral House getting ready to unload

Oscar from Santa Cruz helping out

Cecilia is thin but MIGHTY

The stack of beans getting tall!

Ismael from La Llanes helping out!

Even Alisha schlepped bags from the truck in the garage to the Chapel

Vidal from El Tablon helping out

Idalia ... a woman of great strength

Papa Antonio and his sons Raul, Vidal and Cruz - our faithful driving crew

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