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Cucuyo 2012: A Lesson in Stealing Time

This post was written by Bianca Bidiuc, Cucuyo's Program Coordinator and Media Manager.

When the lovely Laura asked me to accompany her on this year's trip, I dove at the chance. Headfirst. Arms flailing. (I've never been a good swimmer). Our original intent was to spend the trip visiting with the community of Bonao for planning purposes - to develop and form ideas for Cucuyo's future with the community's input. I would also get the chance to visit her husband Byron's coffee farm in the South of the country. Yes, please! 

The view from Los Frios by Bianca Bidiuc

As I mulled over the future of Cucuyo, my multitasking brain started to churn with the idea of offering the youth a workshop on community activism. As a community organizer with Sustainable Food Center, I have seen firsthand the benefits of building leadership and organizing the community around pertinent issues. During last year's program, I observed how the youth who attended our workshops were involved in many different groups in their communities - from student organizations to theatre groups. There was a fire for grassroots community development. It struck me as only logical to offer my (beginner's) knowledge of community organizing in the form of a mini-workshop on leadership and community activism, with the hope that they could apply these tools to any group they belong to or would like to form.

When I shared the idea with Laura, she delightfully and generously agreed (Thanks, Laura!). We believe that tapping into the leadership potential of the youth is a vital part of Cucuyo's goal. Cucuyo aims to be transformative, whether through art or intercultural exchange, so the idea of sharing tools that can transform a community was a natural fit.

Workshop in Bonao
The workshop lasted 3 days and covered topics such as: forming a group, characteristics and levels of leadership, finding leaders, transforming private pain into public action, individual and group meetings, maintaining the group, community planning, and more [These concepts were adapted from the Industrial Areas Foundation with help from my community organizing gurus Rebecca McIlwain and Carmen Llanes of Marathon Kids].

On each day of the workshop, the youth tenderly, painfully, and joyfully shared their personal stories and goals for their groups and communities. That was my favorite part. Some of them soared with leadership experience while others were just beginning to discover their roles. They shared stories of hope for better youth programs, medical care, neighborhood safety, environmental stewardship, education, support for students, neighborhood unity, y más. They completed daily worksheets and participated in group discussions. They also role-played "individual meetings"  and interviewed each other to learn about their own leadership potential.

Workshop participants in Zona Sur by Bianca Bidiuc
Stealing Time
The days were full. Between the workshop, visiting with community members, and planning, I made time to sit on my host Tia Nini's front porch and sip her thoughtfully brewed coffee (sin azúcar, just how I like it), talk to neighborhood children, learn to make La Rubia's famously tasty asopao, and treat myself to a creamy, cold batida de lechoza (papaya smoothie). Tia Nini's rapid-fire Spanish ("Come más!/Eat more!") and mischievous laugh balanced out local Cucuyo coordinator Orlando's soft-spokenness. In fact, it was Orlando that gently scolded me and Laura to steal some time for ourselves and rest. And we did, in our own special, silly way: by walking to a nearby roadside cafe, buying dried cashew fruit and batidas, and using the fancy bathroom more than once (it smelled like cinnamon! there were rocks in the sink!). Oh, and we laughed. A lot.
Tia Nini and her beloved bird, Candy Jr. by Bianca Bidiuc
La Red Guaconejo
A ripening cocoa fruit in El Factor by Bianca Bidiuc

I was also able to steal a whole day and visit La Red Guaconejo, a small cocoa cooperative in El Factor, a village located in the north of the country, near Nagua. This place strikes a chord in my heart because of my interest and background in food, agriculture, and sustainable community development. We first visited the cooperative and nearby eco-tourism center last year, and I couldn't believe I would have the opportunity to return there to the community and experience it's beauty again. I've included photos of El Factor in this year's photo album.

Our creative exploration and rest led to a current of reassurance and energy for Cucuyo's future, which we will unfold in due Dominican time, as Laura said. Needless to say, this trip glued me to Cucuyo's vision, and I am happily and clumsily swimming in the possibilities of el próximo paso.

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