Last Friday we picked up 16,600 pounds of beans from San Miguel to begin delivering to many communities this week. It is time to plant beans for this year’s crops and many families have no beans to plant. There was a government bean give-away but few people in the Berlín area received beans. So churches, groups, and individuals in Iowa began sending down funds to buy beans for their sister communities as well as unpartnered communities. For more info about the bean crisis see my blog on Friday, 8-26-11 titled “Beans, beans, the magical fruit.”
Picking up beans
Bean delivery process
Bean deliveries began on Sunday with the communities of San Lorenzo and Media Agua and continued Monday with Corozal. I wasn’t able to go with the Pastoral Team during those deliveries so today was my first day to join the group. The distribution of beans is similar to when the Pastoral Team distributes anything else to communities such as fertilizer, water tanks, corn, etc:
The “donation” (fertilizer, corn, beans, tanks, etc) is loaded up onto a truck that the community or Pastoral Team has arranged for in advance. If a community has someone in mind for transportation they can make the arrangements or if they don’t have anyone they can ask the Pastoral Team to make the arrangements. Either way, the community pays for the transportation of the dontation to their community. This usually costs anywhere from 25¢ to $1 per family. And no one is required to accept the donation if they don’t want it.
A few people from the community that will be receiving the donation come to the Pastoral House or wherever the pickup place is for the donation to help load the truck. After the truck is loaded we all make the drive out to the community and meet in a centralized location or an area big enough for everyone. Someone from each family is present to receive the donation. Once everyone had gathered someone from the Directiva of the community usually talks for a little while about the donation, payment of transportation costs, and can make any other announcements.
After that Blanca or Cecilia talks to the community for a while. I’d describe the “talk” they have with the communities as a mother hen pep talk. During this time they talk about people supporting their Directiva and supporting the rest of their community. They tell the communities why they are receiving the donation. They also talk about who provided the funds for the donation and that they should be responsible with the donation they are receiving. For this donation of beans the Pastoral Team told the communities that they hope this is a good harvest and that they will be able to share some of their harvested beans with others who are less fortunate.
Next it is time for people to sign for and receive their donations. The team has been giving more and more responsibility to the Directivas when people sign for their donation. The Pastoral Team has a list of names of the heads of each family that’s receiving something. They give the list to the Directiva and then someone from the Directiva calls off the names one by one. As each name is called the person comes up to sign for their donation. If a person can’t sign because they don’t know how to read or write then they leave a fingerprint. They put their pinky onto a stamp pad and leave their fingerprint in the correct area. Money to pay for transportation is often collected at this time.
Once the person has signed/left a fingerprint they go over to the truck to get their donation. People from the community often climb aboard the truck to help hand out the donation. After that people are free to go home unless the Directiva has asked them to stay for any other reason. When people receive fertilizer there are a variety of ways to take it home. But since all the individual bean donations to each family were less than 40 pounds most people could easily carry the beans home.
Today we were delivering beans to the communities of El Tablón Centro, El Tablón Cerna, and Santa Cruz in the morning and El Recreo in the afternoon. A bunch of guys showed up this morning to load the beans onto the truck. They had been hired to deliver beans to the morning delivery communities which are all relatively close to each other. It takes about 50 minutes to get to El Tablón from the Pastoral House.
Beautiful, Salvadoran beans
El Tablón Centro & El Tablón Cerna
The beans for El Tablón Centro and El Tablón Cerna were all going to be delivered to Centro with the families from Cerna going to Centro to receive their bean donations. This would help the process go faster. When we arrived in Centro almost everyone was there waiting for us. Blanca and Cecilia went into a building close to where the new church is being built to verify once again the list of people receiving beans in Centro with the president of the Directiva. There we saw that several women were working away on school uniforms for the children in the Centro school.
Shortly after that it was time for everything to get started. A couple tables were taken outside where people would be signing for their beans. The president of the Centro Directiva spoke for a while followed by Blanca. The president had even brought a microphone with a speaker attached so everyone could hear him. After they both spoke the signing and receiving process began. The people from Centro went to one area and the people from Cerna went to another area.
Meanwhile, we had been invited inside another little building to have some hot atol that someone in the community made for us. We kind of hung around outside the building to watch the process but were told to come inside and sit down. The woman who made the atol poured us each a huge glass. The atol was delicious and it went down really well. We chatted for a while as we drank our atol.
When we’d finished our atol we came back outside and learned that the people from Cerna weren’t all going to be carrying their beans home. Their beans would stay on the truck and the truck would drive them and their beans to Cerna. The beans for Santa Cruz were put on another truck that would be driving to their community. I love that the people in these communities and the drivers were all organized enough to figure all of this out ahead of time. It’s wasn’t long before everything was done and it was time to head over to Santa Cruz.
After loading up the trucks
Uniforms being put together in El Tablon Centro
Each piece of material had the child's name on it
Verifying the bean lists
Waiting for things to get started
Everyone is there
Tomas talking to the communities
All the ladies seemed to be in one area
And all the guys in another area
Starting to unload
Pouring out the atol
Waiting for beans
Getting their beans
She was in charge of the El Tablon Centro table
The El Tablon Cerna table
Sign here please
Those are some nice looking beans!
A brand new seed bank in El Tablon Centro
When we arrived in Santa Cruz almost all of the community was there and waiting for us so we were able to begin right away. The president of the Directiva, who is newly elected, spoke for a while about how lucky his community felt to be receiving the beans and that they would be sharing beans from their crop with people who had less than them. This is always a wonderful thing to hear. It’s especially amazing since Santa Cruz is one of the poorest cantons in the Berlín area and doesn’t have a partner church. People who have the least are often willing to give the most.
After the president talked Cecilia spoke to the community for a while and then the delivery process began. The secretary of the Directiva was in charge of calling off people’s names and other guys from the community helped to unload the beans. I took pictures of the process, some adorable little kids, and couple animals. Soon we were called to have lunch at Oscar’s house. Oscar is the Delegate of the Word for Santa Cruz and loves to feed us when we visit. Some of us were still taking pictures when we were herded to the house and told we needed to eat. Lunch was delicious. They served soup with loads of vegetables, chicken, and tortillas. We were also given fresh passion fruit juice to drink. What luck!
Right after we finished eating it was time to head back to the house because we had one more delivery and a meeting to attend. We got back to the house an hour later (traveling is slow on canton roads). We had just enough time to make a quick pit stop and then we were in the car again and headed for El Recreo which is about 30 minutes away.
Driving to Santa Cruz
The president talking to everyone
Cecilia's turn to talk
It's a small community
Waiting to unload beans
Mmmm, passion fruit juice
Most everyone was gathered at the church when we arrived in El Recreo around 2pm. The beans were already there and unloaded as well. Matias, the vice president, spoke for a while followed by Leticia, the president. Then the process of handing out the beans began. Leticia was reading the list of names but was having a hard time reading them so Cecilia helped her out. Everything went smoothly and no one got too hot since we were able to be inside the church.
I took some pictures of people getting the beans and then went outside to check out the new fence that has been built around the church. It was in the process of being put together when I was last in El Recreo. Antonio, a Delegate of the Word in the community, explained to me that they also wanted to put some kind of cement blocks underneath the fence. After that I went over to the pickup to talk with some little kids in the community. They are all adorable and wanted to have their pictures taken. A couple even wanted to take pictures themselves so I helped them do that.
Soon everyone had received their beans and was headed home. We stayed to have a look inside the community museum that has a lot of archaeological artifacts and then had a meeting with the Directiva. Once the meeting was over we headed back home to Berlín. We arrived at the house a little before 6pm. It had been a long but successful day.
The church in El Recreo
Matias talking to the community
Gathered in the church
Leticia talking to everyone
Calling people forward to sign
Putting the beans in a different bag to carry home
Taking his beans home
That's a load of beans!
Signing for beans
The new fence
Close up of the old church
The old church
Getting ready to take beans home
He was "hiding" from the camera
He wanted to take my picture
She's a sweetie
Two peas in a pod
He was shy
He wanted to take a picture too