Heidi at my site, grant workshop and the Farm!

Trip Start Mar 21, 2006
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Trip End Oct 05, 2008


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Flag of Philippines  ,
Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Greeting's to all!

The time with my sister keeps getting better and better, the only downfall is she is leaving one week from today. However, we have had and will continue to have a wonderful last week together!

After our long trip up to Baguio City following the unreal island paradise tour in the Visayas, we made it to my site. I live about 30 min. north of Baguio City in the Municipality of Tublay. I have been very excited for Heidi to meet my host family so I was surprised at the nervous feelings I felt as we headed up on a Jeepney to my house. I am not entirely sure why I was nervous perhaps it was just the simple fact that I am comfortable with the dynamic here, Heidi is not, and I was worried about those clashes. Of course everything went wonderfully and once we got settled and unpacked in my hose we headed up to the main house where many of my host aunts and uncles we clearly waiting for our arrival. Heidi was greeted with the warm smiles of my host family and little cousins and we enjoyed a nice simple dinner with my family that night.

We spent the majority of the next day at my office preparing for Heidi's grant writing workshop that was held the following day (will get to that in a bit). It was a busy day spent in front of computers finalizing PowerPoint's and preparing the information packets for the participants. Once the clock struck 5pm, we were ready for a break from our preparations and headed into Baguio City to meet some of my host family for what turned out to be a very engaging dinner at an upscale Chinese restaurant. Auntie Evelyn (65 and the oldest of the 11 Cosalan children) who I live with, was nice enough to treat us all to dinner. Many of my Aunts and Uncles are very well respected professors at nearby Universities and very involved with the establishment and development of the recently created National Commission of Indigenous Peoples. This led to very engaging and political dinner conversation. Uncle Peter had recently returned from a world wide conference on Indigenous Peoples needless to say Heidi and I enjoyed hearing about his important work of helping people re-gain their rights and traditions as indigenous peoples. I am looking forward to helping Uncle Peter facilitate some training's in the coming months surrounding these issues. We had a wonderful dinner and not only was the conversation fun it was also fun for me to watch Heidi share with so much pride about her home in Oregon and pass around the photo album she made for me. It was indeed a wonderful evening of two cultures joining and learning from each other.

The next day was the big day and one of the major highlights of the trip, Heidi's grant writing workshop. I had suggested to Heidi months and months ago that if she was interested it would be great for her to facilitate a workshop for my community. She was so excited about the opportunity and jumped right on board to make it happen. We had budgeted for 25 participants and nearly 40 came!! The participants consisted of the caves guides and barangay officials whom I directly work with, various women's organizations from Tublay, many of my Host Aunts, representatives from other Municipalities in the Province and a few other PCV's. It was so fun to facilitate with Heidi and I quickly learned that she is a natural. She has a wonderful presence in front of an audience, speaks clearly and most importantly is extremely knowledgeable about the grant writing process and was able to help the participants gain these skills and feel confident as well. It was so much fun to facilitate with my sister and something we both hope to continue to do together in the future. Being that Heidi did the majority of the talking I would like to include some of what she wrote about this experience.

In Heidi's words:

" The day was an amazing experience. I learned so much from the participants and they too learned quite a bit from me. This was my first facilitation and I never felt nervous--As I prepared the presentation and all day during the workshop, I heard my colleague Bob's words in my mind: "Remember Heidi, you are an expert!" I was just so excited about the learning opportunity and felt very proud and happy to be able to empower the participants with a tool that they can use to better their lives and their communities. This is one of my personal goals within my profession--I want to be able to share and teach the grant writing process to as many diverse people as I can--so that they can feel capable and able to generate positive change and in return be empowered themselves to be agents of change. So many people feel helpless, without options, and teaching these skills can help reverse those feelings.

It was awesome to work with Sherry! We are a great team and I felt really supported by her. With just one look, she understood my pleas for help at least twice during the day when I lost my train of thought or started to wilt from the heat and from fatigue. Also, her love of "icebreakers" was a trip to experience! When I scoffed at their silliness, she said, "park your cool at the door!" Spoken like a true facilitator! She opened the day, after the pomp and circumstance, with a song: "I am alive, awake, alert, and enthusiastic," which was warmly received by the Filipinos who have videoke (karaoke) as one of the most beloved national pastimes--There is no irony in the activity either--they take their singing very seriously and yesterday was no exception.

We covered a lot of ground from 9-5. For the first activity in the morning I split the participants into pairs and had them interview each other using a series of questions that most funders require--what type of community do you live in? What is your problem? What is your solution? How long will it take? What and who do you need to accomplish your goals? What will happen to your community once the change occurs? What if it doesn't happen? Is anyone currently working on the project? Etc..... The very shy and understated Ibaloi people did not take easily to this activity. So I walked around and coaxed people to talk. By the end of the activity people were sharing with each other and at least 4 people volunteered to report thier interviews to the group. The idea behind the activity was to get people to talk about their projects to new faces who are utterly unfamiliar with their reality--this is the essence of a proposal.

The participants represented numerous women's cooperatives and organizations from farmers to artisans. Many came from tourist offices in surrounding municipalities, there were representatives from numerous barangays (a civic designation that is a neighborhood--communities are organized on the ground level around barangays), cave guides from the mountains who want to open their caves to tourists, and health organizations, and gov't employees including the director of planning for the Municipality of Atok. Everyone had projects that consisted mainly of public works projects such as securing a clean drinking water supply to reverse children's sickness from waterborne illnesses, providing shelter for workers in strawberry fields, planting crops and transititioning crops to organic, finding markets for crafts and produce, a women's group wanting to raise pigs for income, creating a municipal garbage collection program and a community landfill, etc....It was very humbling."

I was so pleased to give Heidi the opportunity to have this experience and most importantly for my community to gain the skills necessary to write grants in the future. It is very unusual for a PCV's visiting family to get to have such and intimate and hands on experience with their family member's community and I am so glad that this event was a huge success and learning experience for everyone.

We took the next day to relax, sleep-in and recover from the long day prior. Being that Heidi is such a foody, I knew she would love the madness of the Baguio City Market. After our relaxing morning, we headed into town and enjoyed a long wander through the dirty, sound, smell and people overloaded public market. I have always felt that the public market is the heart of any community; it is where people gather to purchase and sell the life source... food! All of the competing smells, sounds, and faces in the crowd make any visit to the market a sensory heaven.

The following morning we woke and spent the morning baking cookies with my 8-year-old host cousin Mikee. She sadly lost her father to cancer four years ago and her mother is working in London. She is such a sweat little girl and it was easy to see that she so enjoyed hanging with her two Manang's (older sisters)! She even joined us on our 3 km hike down to ENCA Farm, my host families amazing 45-hectare property.

I have been so excited for Heidi to see ENCA because I knew she would instantly fall in love with it, and she did indeed. We spent three wonderful days there chatting with Auntie Olive the caretaker and heart of the on- the- ground and constant labor needed to maintain the farm. She is such a dear and Heidi instantly recognized in her bright smile and warm welcome that she is a soul sister and deep environmentalist. We slept out in a tent without a rain cover so each night we could see the moon that shined so bright and watch the stars as we fell asleep. Heidi also helped get down and dirty in the garden; we spent our last morning picking weeds, which there are an abundance of and the afternoon reading in the peacefulness of an open-air nipa hut. We both felt that three days was not nearly long enough at the farm but in all reality two years is not either. It is such a special space and I feel so fortunate to be apart of its restoration and development as a community lead and run environmental education space.

Our adventures just keep getting better and better, on Sunday afternoon we headed to Sagada in Mountain Province about 7 hours north of my site. Next update about our time in Sagada and Banue in Ifugao Province coming soon!

Sending love, peace, and hugs to all!

Sherry
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