Since the last time I wrote, SO much has happened. For one, I am no longer traumatized by the simple questions one is asked in the checkout line at the grocery store. This is a great triumph! To again be able to exist as an intelligent adult, with opinions and the capacity to express one-self is tremendous. A huge thank you to everyone who supported me through the process & frustrations of learning Spanish.
A co-worker told me when you learn a language immersed in a new cultural setting, you become a child again. No wonder kids need naps! Their little brains are working in over-drive to learn and process everything around them. Thankfully, after almost a year I am fully functioning and able to participate in meetings and conversations. And yet, the amount of energy I still spend processing language is huge. I didn’t
realize how huge until I went to the DMV during a quick trip home in October. I didn’t have to think; I just did. I asked questions. I understood answers. Everything fit into the “that makes sense” box. It was LOVELY. Yes, I said it. Being at the DMV was lovely.
But, I didn’t come to Ecuador to have everything fit into the “that makes sense” box. I came to contribute to the greater good (not just my 401K). I came to be challenged, and to learn how to respect & navigate what doesn’t make sense. I came to discover a role in the quest for equity, justice & peace.
FEDICE is such an exciting place to be, because we are engaged on the front lines of this quest. We can see the change happening before our eyes as we work side-by-side with communities here in the Andes to gain access to economic opportunity and a brighter future. With opportunity, oppressive identity boxes begin to crumble. No longer is being an indigenous female from a poor, rural community a life sentence for poverty, injustice, and poor health. With the means to take advantage of opportunity, the picture transforms to encompass women who are entrepreneurs, community leaders and partners in building a world where everyone is allowed to prosper.
There is nothing more encouraging than stories like Cecilia’s— who, three years ago was unemployed and largely locked out of participating in Ecuador’s economy. You can’t help but smile when she tells you about her seven thriving onion fields; about how she has them on a rotation so she always has cash flow; about how these fields allowed her husband to quit relying on seasonal construction work; about how she employs three others because there is too much work for them alone; about how she has her eye on that field just over there for her next expansion. All of this from an initial loan of $200, and the support and training to be successful in the endeavor. Will she ever be rich by Western standards? Probably not. Is this level of success universal or easy to come by, let alone maintain? Nope. But, it is indicative of our innate desire to engage in pursuit. To be more than what society has dictated for us. To break the identity box we were given & relish in taking a path we choose.
Most social systems — including our own — aren’t built to support the liberty of pursuit for all. They’re built to maintain the status quo for those at the top. But the concept of Minga (the gift of individual efforts in order to strengthen the fabric of a community) tells us that when we enable the middle and bottom layers to level up, everyone rises. It’s in our best interest to work together to ensure our systems support access to pursuit. We, each of us, deserve the freedom and the tools to build a meaningful life on this planet. But, currently this is a privilege, not a right.
As we go about chasing our dreams, may we remember the value of the liberty to pursue. May we look for ways to help others gain access to this privilege, as we seek to secure it for ourselves — whether that be through mentorship, activism, and/or supporting organizations working to achieve this goal. At FEDICE, we believe everyone has a role to play in realizing a team success. My questions for you, as we close out one year and begin another are: what is your role and will you choose to pursue it?
Con mucho amor y cariño,
P.S. Stay in touch! Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bethany Waggoner serves with the Ecumenical Foundation for Integral Development Training and Education (FEDICE) in Ecuador. She works at strengthening capacity building of those organizations in areas of communication and finance. Her appointment is supported by Week of Compasssion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.