By Maria Laura Minoli, Timbiré, Ecuador
After our follow-up project in Palma Real, Kelli, Caitlin and I came back to San Lorenzo, and stayed the night at Fabiola’s house. We met Iván Grueso, an agronomic engineer, who carries out projects around the area, and who would take us to Timbiré the next day.
The following day we took the first bus to Timbiré and got off right in front of the Junta Parroquial (local government) building, where Lorena Valdez Caicedo, coordinator of the Asociación de Mujeres Afroecuatorianas Timbiré del Futuro (AMATIF), and vice-president of the Junta Parroquial, was waiting for us. She took us up to her office and while chatting with her, we met Magdalena Renteria Segura, president of AMATIF, who took us to the house where we were going to stay for the next five days.
Walking along the main road, just recently been paved, was completely opposite to the reality of the community, and definitely a complete change to what we had lived the previous five days in Palma Real. We left all our stuff in the house and went to eat lunch at one of the participants’ house, and in the afternoon we were ready to start the workshop.
The women began to arrive one by one. Eager to start we began introducing Recrear and ourselves. The women introduced themselves and AMATIF, translated as the Association of Afro-Ecuadorian Women of a Timbiré of the Future, a women’s organization in Timbiré from which all the women in the workshop were part of. Formed by 24 members ages 21-55, AMATIF was initially formed to promote female leadership and help to improve the quality of life of women in the community and around the Esmeraldas province.
RecrearParticipate began and we started with the first exercise: mapping out the community. The women invested time and effort and were happy to show us their community. We learned a lot about their community and life in Timbiré. They told us they learned a lot from this exercise too. They said they don’t usually think about the places that have positive or negative associations for them, which means they don’t usually think of how they can improve the places they consider negative.
This exercise led us to the next step, the idea wall. At this point we realized that most of the women didn’t know how to read or write which made it difficult for some of them to continue with the activities. But we also realized how strong the group was. Having lived in the same area, these women all know each other very well and were supporting each other throughout the process.
The workshops took place in the afternoon and we made sure to leave at sunset to walk around with the whole group. The women would show us the community and then we would chill until dinner time. Every day a different participant would invite us to her house to eat.
In the mornings, when we weren’t in the workshop, we would hang out with kids and teens from the community, we would go to the river or simply relax and plan for the afternoon.The kids and teens from the community at first weren’t so open and curious, but after some days a few girls braided our hair next to the river, while the boys caught fish with their bare hands.
A little girl danced and sang to us while wearing her princess dress. Three little kids showed us how to hula hoop.
It was not all fun and relaxing. The workshop’s participants were finally reaching the final step, how to create an action plan. They developed an idea for a project called “Construir una Cabaña” (Building a Hut). They want to create a traditional hut using the wood from the forest nearby and other resources they have in the area. They would use the hut to sell cacao, banana and handicrafts made in the community, and to organize events and receive tourists, especially during the Carnival festivities. They hope they can earn more by attracting more tourists.
We had a closing event on the last day of the workshop. The participants invited the rest of the community in order to share what they had done during the workshop. We also handed the women their certificates and had a photo-shoot with all these amazing women.
Our last day in the community. In the morning we got on a canoe with Magdalena and two men who paddled against the current in the river. We were going to meet the rest of the women’s group and their families at a rocky beach. The view was wonderful: we could see the rocks at the bottom of the river, while the men kept fighting against the current.
When we arrived, Magdalena took out a pre-cooked chicken and started preparing lunch. We went swimming in the river, together with other girls, and crossed to the other side where there was an even larger beach. We picked up tons of rocks in all shapes and colors and took them back as a souvenir. Magdalena also gave a rock to each of us three to remember our amazing time in Timbiré.