By this time next week, my plan is to have given two 5-day trainings; trained over 40 teacher-trainers, community animators, and agronomists from three organisations and five sites; and coached three teams on their projects using permaculture design. It's been a full few weeks.
I've worked almost every day and most evenings, though I have managed to go to the beach twice and go swimming at a pool once. I think my body is getting used to the water, food, weather and noise. I'm waking up regularly and comfortably around 5:30am. While in Source Chaude in the Northwest, I walked to the top of a small mountain at the end of each day. It was so nourishing for my body, mind and spirit, to be alone and in nature, to see eroded hillsides replanted and covered in swales (ditches on contour to help catch rainwater and prevent erosion from flashflooding), and to have a 360 view of mountains and ocean in the distance.
I've had moments of feeling lost and surprised during my trainings and coaching, as well as feeling joyful, inspired and hopeful. I've spent so much more time than I ever would have expected in preparing and revising training materials, and after each day of training, preparing and revising the materials yet again. This work has been far from simple and my hope is that with every revision, both the content and the process become more culturally appropriate and more self-sustaining in the long run. What an example of observing, interacting, and accepting feedback. It's a reminder for me that every system is unique, with its own needs and challenges. To work with any group, organisation, garden or piece of land intentionally and intelligently, I believe we are asked to observe, listen and take note of what is working and where there are opportunities for improvement.
I'm learning to smile about things here and to improvise accordingly. This morning, we learned that yesterday, it was declared that today be a national holiday. (I've never heard of a national holiday being declared the day prior to the holiday; things are definitely different here from what I'm used to!) Around 7am we were phoning people to tell them that our training was still on. Even then, our group of 43 was down to less than half this morning. And it was raining, which meant that people who were walking, riding motorbikes and taking public transit were coming late. The benefit was that I got to have in-depth conversations with the handful of people who arrived on time.
So far in my trainings, two comments have stood out for me. We've been working with three design principles (a bite-sized version of permaculture design). In the principle we call “multiple functions”, we've been finding multiple uses for anything from a plastic bottle to a chicken to a garden. We also made a list of all of the resources available at the school, in the garden and in the school kitchen. After this exercice, one of the participants said that although people often think that Haiti is a poor country, she could now see how rich it is.
In the communication part of our training (adapted from Nonviolent Communication), we've been focussing on needs and finding new strategies to meet both parties' needs in a conflict. Another participant, who trains other teachers, said he thought these tools would be valuable for all teachers in Haiti. He gave us an example of how a teacher would call a child stupid or an imbecile and would grab him by the ear. He said that even though this training is “just a drop”, he's going to carry this with him in his work and beyond.
The work I've done here seems to me like a drop of water in an ocean. At the same time, I think we're sowing seeds and weaving new possibilities. Through our design and communication tools, I believe that people are finding a new way of looking at things. Some of the participants have said that they now realise that what they thought was garbage can actually be a resource to them. And now with a conflict, they can be creative and seek new strategies.
Part of me can see months of work here; I feel a little regretful to leave in a week and a half. And a part of me is looking forward to going home, getting my hands dirty in our garden and reconnecting with our community projects there. I'm looking forward to sleeping in and not being woken up by dogs, diesel engines, loud music and people shouting (hearing the sound of the rain in the trees is such a luxury for me in PauP). I'm also looking forward to coming back, following up with these projects, giving the next level of trainings, and continuing to deepen my relationships here. I'm so grateful to have community in Perth, Ontario and to engage with community here in Haiti. My life seems so rich with connections, opportunities and learning. I wonder what possibilities tomorrow will bring?