During the second week of the program, we are working in El Limon, a small town located within the municipality of Villa Gonzalez. El Limon is a rural community; the main road leads through the town, bordered on either side by houses and shops. The houses themselves are very colorful - in stark contrast to houses in the US - painted bright pink, turquoise, yellow, blue. Some are white with a bright stripe of paint along the wall, some have an annex which houses a convenience store, a hair or nail salon, a pizza shop. The business signs and prices are artfully painted on the building door or wall, often with a small mural depicting the foods or services provided there. Other houses have a patio with chairs, perhaps a small table; most of these have metal bars covering what would otherwise be an open threshold.
The community center where the Litro de Luz workshops take place is a large open space with yellow walls, many windows, as well as benches, tables, and chairs. It stands across from the local health clinic and if you look out the door, you can see an ambulance parked outside and people sitting in the clinic waiting room. On our first day in el Limon, Jenny and Brahian – the Litro de Luz leaders we’ve been working with for the past week – greet us with a high five, a bright smile, and introduce us to Samuel, another member of their team. Soon, the group of young people we’ll be collaborating with – ranging from ages 11 to 25 – starts trickling in.
Once everybody has arrived, we sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. You can feel the apprehension and curiosity in the room emanating from both the CIEE and el Limon participants. Luckily, we’ve prepared for this, having as a group written out in Spanish all the steps and materials we need to make our plastic bottle lamps, and having practiced, practiced, practiced. We divide into teams, and now the real work begins.
Despite the initial hesitation, the teaching process goes very smoothly; the el Limon participants are fast learners, and it’s helpful to teach by example and demonstrate the different steps (we’ve divided the lamp-making process into three steps). On our first day, we complete almost two full lamp-making rounds, way faster than we expected!
In the subsequent days, each participant from el Limon brings a friend who wants to learn how to make the Litro de Luz. While there to guide and support, the CIEE students take a step back so that participants in the initial el Limon group can teach their peers. Each day so far, more new people have come, and each day so far, we have more an more teachers to share their knowledge and teach the process.