Events & Newsletters

PML IN SAN CARLOS

“Accompaniment” captures the work Rosa Lira Ulloa, Project Minnesota/León’s project facilitator, does in the San Carlos community outside León. Rosa walks with the people as a partner in their efforts to solve local problems.

Through meetings with four small rural-sector groups and all-community “encounters,” the women of San Carlos have prioritized four issues they want to address in their rural area: health, housing, water, and youth. For each issue, a “commission” composed of a representative from each sector has been created to develop strategies and carry out advocacy. Actions are always followed by evaluation, to determine whether the plan worked.

Health

Many of the problems the women identified with the San Carlos Health Center, the focus of the health issue, have been solved. Rosa commented, “It looks like people are paying attention, so things will improve. Now that we are meeting regularly with the Department of Health representative and medical staff, things will continue to improve.”

 
San Carlos Health Clinic is open five days a week,
thanks to the efforts of an advocacy commission
women in the community formed. 

 

Water

Currently water issues are more critical. In recent years of little rain and as sugar cane farming has increased in the area, wells have run dry, and many wells that still have water are contaminated.

Rosa noted that initially, the women thought PML would take care of the problem for them. She encouraged the women to investigate alternatives, pointing them to water projects in the area and to other people’s wells.

Rosa’s overall strategy is to ask questions that lead the women to choose their own actions. That approach has produced results. Rosa says, “Now they’ve studied the wells and talked with people who have done different water projects in the area. So they have information and are ready to do some advocacy on the issue.”

 

Housing

The housing issue is now receiving a lot of attention. The women agreed on criteria for people who would receive government support for housing and did a census to determine each person’s housing situation. “Everyone will receive help,” Rosa explained, “but the needs have been prioritized.” 

Rosa invites a San Carlos resident to attend her sector’s small group meeting. This type of house is sometimes called a “plastic house,” because the roof and walls are plastic sheets fastened to a wood frame. 

 

 

 

 

Youth

Rosa’s work with youth in San Carlos grew out of her meetings with their mothers. Using much the same process as the women, the youth identified three problems: (1) cost of bus fare; (2) lack of a recreation area with a baseball field; (3) lack of Internet access in San Carlos.

They chose to work first on bus fare, because it affected them immediately and also touched their mothers, who pay the fares. They developed a strategy and negotiated with León transportation operators to lower the fare from eight to seven cordobas. (A cordoba is about 3.5 cents.)

That might not seem like much, but staff in the mayor’s office and even local political party leaders were amazed. They said, “We’ve never been able to negotiate successfully with the bus owners. What you’ve done, we’ve never ever been able to do!” These officials also promised to make sure the transportation companies honor the agreement, even if the bus fare is raised for the general population.

 
Photo, above: San Carlos youth and the president of the area transportation cooperative signed an accord to maintain reduced bus tariff for students.
Below: San Carlos youth wait for the public bus in scarce shade next to the highway.

 

With that victory in hand, Rosa has been helping the youth gather information and develop a vision for a recreation area. The youth agreed they want a place close to the highway, so it will be highly visible to youth from other areas who could come use it. The group continues to identify criteria for a recreation area and will soon create a plan and start advocating for their dream.

 

Noticeable Change

Rosa says change is noticeable in San Carlos. “At the beginning, people would say, ‘What are you going to do here, what are you going to bring, what are you giving out?’ Now I hear things like, ‘Nobody has ever invited me to a discussion before. I’ve been here three times, and I know that I will continue to come.’”

Even the political leader admitted, “I used to get four people together, maybe twelve. And Rosa gets sixty women to meet.” Clearly, Rosa’s work in San Carlos is having an effect.