Building bridges – blindfolded

To be honest when this project was launched with a mind for working with youth aged 18 -25, I never really conceptualized a clear idea of what these people would be like. Here is what I knew: they are costeña (i.e they love their salsa, seafood, football and being loud and expressive in general). There is a certain ebullient energy to them but outside of the contexts I listed above you may not necessarily have the opportunity to see it. The young AfroEcuadorian working to contribute to their community, where are they?

All eyes on me now, I would love to tell you that they have all been working with us for the last three weeks. Having only visited two communities, prematurely I would venture to observe that youth networks are not well organized. Go a step further and I would stay that youth are ironically invisible. The youth are without a doubt present (they constitute the larger part of the demographic breakdown) but what may be a greater problem than youth apathy for community organizing is an unappealing social institution to step in to. There is certainly some level of giving youth exposure when they have done good work ( i.e have gone out of their way and outside of the system to realize a social good for themselves). However after the novelty of being shown off wears off, what people want more than spotlight is to be taken seriously. It is the ultimate action of having faith in the work of someone and giving young people the reassurance that their ideas are worth pursuing. The problem with all of this of course is that we are trying to work with the very youth who have long been removed from the community development discourse. Trying to work with young people when they are not accustomed to being summoned for their opinion is what I would equate to building a bridge blindfolded.

Community activism may not be in abundance among all youth here but there seems to be widespread consciousness. Consciousness that youth are heading in the direction of indifference, if not already there, as our group here in Atacames portrayed through photography freeze frames. Their attitude is not always so optimistic and still there are incredible initiatives and individuals in particular whom have taken upon themselves the task to strengthen their own voice when no one else was listening. These young people and budding organizations are wonderful to see but I always wonder how fleeting their presence is. More than that, trying to do a good thing is not exactly easy when today’s temptations to submit to what is ‘easy’ or ‘available’ are even greater than yesterday’s.

So I am proud of the young people I have met but still adjusting to work around an unaccommodating system with some patience and a good dose of optimism. I am everyday impressed by the insight behind these characters and evermore pressed with the need to make possible the bridge between them and the outside world.

– Kirsten


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