Meet Jessie Padfield and Phoebe Fleming
BLINC’s newest volunteers!
Jessie and Phoebe arrived in Guatemala in late February to start a Spanish languge immersion course before commencing the rest of their journey through Central America. Read on to get to know more about Jessie and Phoebe, and what they’ll be doing in Nicaragua.
When we decided we wanted to go travelling the main things we knew were that we wanted to do some sort of worthwhile volunteering, that could possibly involve our interests in ‘the arts’. Central America was high on our list of potential places to go after hearing about BLINC and Bristol’s connection with Nicaragua, through some teachers from our school. Our first destination was Guatemala where we spent 6 weeks brushing up our Spanish and exploring the country. Early April, we will be heading to Puerto Morazan in Nicaragua, as part of BLINC, to commence a mural project at a recently built pre-school in the village. We are very excited about being given the opportunity to work with the kids and do a project that we are passionate about. Depending on how the project unravels, we will have until June in Nicaragua, some time spent doing this project and the rest of the time we will spend travelling around, possibly spending some time in Costa Rica, before flying to Cuba for our final month of travelling!
Before departing for her trip, Phoebe shared some of her thoughts on travelling:
“I was interested in Nicaragua specifically when planning our travels as it appeared one of the safer countries to explore in Central America, along with the fact that it’s relatively under travelled. This is not only exciting, but provides a good incentive to improve my Spanish. Speaking to the people we know which have visited the country, we learned the people there are friendly and welcoming, which seemed almost more important that then physical aspects of the country.
I feel that BLINC can give us an insight into the ways of the country which being an ordinary tourist doesn’t give you. I don’t want our travels to be a selfish experience, therefore the opportunity to help out in whatever way possible… would be much appreciated. I’d love to bring some art resources to the school and get tick in combining both local and English practices and ideas. Having an A Level in Drama, I’m intrigued as how I may be able to bring the games and exercises I’ve learnt over the years into play to teach and to communicate.”
Jessie expressed what she wanted to get out of her volunteer post with BLINC:
“So many voluntary projects seem to be money making scams. I want to feel I have been directly involved in making an organisation or community flourish. A connection with the project that is more personal, that is not a one off, and hopefully something that I can return to in the future [is what I want to achieve from my placement with BLINC]. I’m particularly interested in art, so doing an art project while we are away would be something I would love to do, whether individually or working with local people. I also intend to study languages at university next year, so I am genuinely interested in learning and teaching it, therefore sharing my knowledge of English would be an invaluable opportunity.”
Follow Jessie and Phoebe’s travels on their blog, Diario de los viajes: http://jessieypheebs.blogspot.com/
BLINC asked Jitzy to complete an evaluation of her visit to Bristol during Fairtrade Fortnight. Here are a few of the questions we asked, and Jitzy’s responses (translated into English) about the programme that was arranged.
Did you acquire new skills during your time in Bristol? If so, what skills did you acquire?
I learned so much. Part of what I learned was to be able to give feedback from activities which I’ve completed, and to share the work that the cooperative does in relation to the Fairtrade system. I learned and improved my ability to handle different groups (in respect to other cultures and ideologies), and control myself as well by effectively overcoming the fear of speaking publicly. I improved my ability to communicate and relate to those that surrounded me. I improved the structure of my responses to questions by striving to respond logically and not instinctively. I learned to quickly adapt to my surroundings. I also learned to enjoy the work that I was doing, taking advantage of both time and opportunities. I improved my ability to be autonomous by making my own decisions and not depending on others to fight for my goals (for example, having the will to participate in the event, overcoming the fear of travelling such a long way by myself, and being ready to work cooperatively in order to reach the next level of development in our lives).
How will you share your experience in Bristol with other women in the cooperative?
My promise is to build on my experiences and what I’ve learned and share it with the women through an assembly in my cooperative and a meeting with la FEM and other directives from the other cooperatives to discuss all the work that has been carried out in Bristol, and to evaluate our participation in the event. I think that besides sharing my own personal experience, it would be really useful for us to pause for a moment, because it would be very beneficial for us to emphasize and reflect on the benefits and opportunities that we have achieved by being part of the Fairtrade system. Now, the six small cooperatives are working united for better representation of the associated cooperatives negotiating for and arranging, in a more centralized way, resources for their own development, which is at the core of our continued efforts to sell a greater quantity of our products in a Fairtrade market.
Do you have any other comments you’d like to make?
I am very satisfied with my trip to Bristol. With respect to the activities, it was a very rich experience to have the opportunity to talk with the children, the teachers, and people in general about life in Nicaragua, specifically the work that we do in the cooperatives to be able to make changes in the lives of women, and in our community as well. Also, I think the fact of having participated in these activities is relevant because we are more informed on how Fairtrade products are distributed throughout Europe, specifically in Bristol. This motivates us to improve and persevere every day to sell our products into this market, and involve ourselves more actively in order to improve this system, which still is not fair enough for us. I think it is very important that BLINC continues to include the participation of women in Fairtrade Fortnight. It showcases the work that we do to be active subjects of change, as demonstrated in our work as cooperative members, and liberates us from total invisibility.
I thank you all enormously for this opportunity, and wish you luck in your every day work, and in the rest of the events that you have planned.
BLINC’s celebration of International Women’s Day was a great success. The IWD event was held at La Ruca on Tuesday, 8th March 2011, and was chaired by Jo Howard. Guests began to arrive at 6pm for a typical Nicaraguan meal that included gallo pinto, and enjoyed a sampling of music recorded by various Latina artists, including Mercedes Sosa (Argentina), Toto la Momposina (Colombia), and Susana Baca (Peru). Our first speaker, Nathalie Vivas, the head of the energy section at the Venezuelan embassy gave an interesting talk about the progression of gender equality in Venezuela’s various sectors, including examples about women’s involvement in governmental positions, the labour market, and the women’s role in the home. Guests participated in a question and answer session with Nathalie after her presentation.
The Bristol Cuba Solidarity Campaign (http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk) contributed to BLINC’s IWD event with the recently produced Cuban documentary, Con la memoria en el futuro. Yvonne Wilkin spoke a bit about the Bristol Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s activities, and provided guests with a brief background on the history of women’s rights in Cuba, including the advancements gained by the Federation of Cuban Women. A 25 minute-long segment of Con la memoria en el futuro was screened and included interviews addressing men, women and adolescents’ thoughts about various topics including divorce, women leaders in the workplace, and whether it is acceptable for a woman to work while a man stays at home to assume the role of a traditional housewife.
The second speaker was Jitzy Centeno, a Fairtrade coffee producer from Nicaragua who is also part of the Tierra Nuestra women’s cooperative. Jitzy was in Bristol for Fairtrade Fortnight, speaking at 13 different schools about her work in Nicaragua and the benefits of being part of the Fairtrade system. For the IWD event, Jitzy spoke about the formation of the Tierra Nuestra cooperative and its alliance with the longer established Fundación Entre Mujeres (La FEM). She also spoke about the role of her mother as a community leader, and the work that Tierra Nuestra is doing in order to educate women in areas including reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention, gendered violence prevention, literacy, vocational training, and sustainable harvesting. Her talk was followed by the screening of La FEM’s documentary which highlights the progress that la FEM has achieved, and how women’s lives have changed because of it. Guests were given the chance to ask questions after Jitzy’s talk.
The night ended with Jitzy showcasing some of the products that La FEM sells, including hibiscus tea and jam, organic Nicaraguan coffee, and La FEM t-shirts. Guests were given the opportunity to purchase Jitzy’s products. By the time everyone left, Jitzy had sold out of everything except t-shirts. Guests were interested to know whether they could purchase Jitzy’s products in the UK, and asked if they could have more information about her cooperative and about BLINC’s work.