Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 09/03/2010

Citizen Participation

2 septiembre 2010-

During our training, it is being emphasized over and over again that we need to build “confianza” (trust) with the people in our assigned communities. Without that, attendance at meetings and participation in projects is unlikely… There is suspicion of outsiders and what might be their motives. For instance, the name Cuerpo de Paz, even sounds a bit like a religious group, so it’s important for us to clarify to Guatemalans our role as Peace Corps volunteers. Current volunteers have shared with us that it was counterproductive when they rushed into projects too quickly. So we are being urged to have patience… sometimes the trust-building takes six months or more.

I like the following quote by Lilla Watson, an aboriginal activist, that was included in our training folders: “If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Since this work is focused on capacity-building… we are learning techniques for helping Guatemalans to identify problems and brainstorm possible solutions. The dinamicas ( icebreaker or participatory activities) are one way to do this. Last week one of our teachers demonstrated a role play to increase community awareness about water contamination. One person pretended to be a river, and had a bucket of water…as he meandered towards the ocean, different people sought to use his resources. The farmer needed to wash off pesticides from his tools, the mother washing clothes, and more…each adding contaminants. After several uses the river water had a murky appearance. The facilitator then asked the audience if they would like to drink this water, and helped the group to discuss if they knew of similar situations and brainstorm some possible solutions.

Cuerpo de Paz compound- Peace Corps trainee!

 In just two weeks I will be giving a presentation to Guatemalan high school students about citizen participation (in Spanish!) Although these students were born near the time of the Peace Accord in 1996, the new ideas of citizen responsibility and participation need to be nurtured. Those 36 years of bloodshed, especially against the indigenous population, fed into fear and suspicion about leaders and government. Therefore, it is important to build “confianza” step by step, through respect for this multicultural society. I look forward to the challenges and rewards of building this trust and goodwill, while sharing laughter along the way. Apparently role plays are quite successful, so stay tuned for episodes from the show, “Dinamicas of Janet”.


  1. Janet,

    It’s so wonderful to read your blog of your adventures! I apologize for not getting back to you before you left, but appreciated your message so very much. I hope you continue to write and to take pictures of your daily experiences, and will keep sharing them with your network of family and friends. I’m back in school (what am I thinking?!), and have been thinking about the UW crew. I hope you’re well, safe, and in good spirits and company. Hope to read from you again soon! 🙂


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