Why I can’t fix it problem’s…
Fishing, tourism and the cartels are the main sources of income for people in Barra de Potosí. You can teach new industries, languages and skills, but for the people who call this home there are limited choices. With under 400 people here, everyone is related to someone and everyone knows each other. From what I hear and what I see, they know who they are going to be with and who they’ll marry from their teenage years. With quick mounting pressures of family life and the need to sustain a reliable source of income, this is where gangs and cartels have their effect.
They aren’t pscyo killer cartel people, they’re neighbours, relatives and friends. I’ve played football on the beach with some of these people, it’s just that they see their only choice as working for the cartels. I’m not claiming I know what goes on, but seeing army vehicles with manned machine guns patrolling the coast, police with massive rifles and being told by locals to avoid this and that mountain where they grow poppy flowers, gives a sense that the work for cartels is extremely dangerous.
It’s the reality of all the children here too. You can’t teach or launch a campaign to say cartels are bad. It’s apart of their family and life here in Barra. They need to see other options and opportunities. That’s the vision for the library of Barra de Potosí. To be able to give them an environment to learn and read. To show them the tools for something different away from danger. It’s not easy and it’s not something I can solve in 2 months here.
I can build their garden, I can help design and paint their library, I can open it up every day and supervise activities and reading. I can teach a little English and have a sing-sing. I’ll also be taking them to a summer camp in a turtle sanctuary for learning more about ecological conservation.
It’s a tough reality to face. The library needs funding of some sort, which the community or the government would never supply. It needs a full-time teacher and manager, which is impossible without money. It’s not all doom and gloom for people here, a new president signals change for many, and so many people are content and happy.
The beauty I see each day..
Firstly in the people, they greet me each morning with a lovely ‘Buenos Dias’. They all seem happy to have me here. Although my Spanish isn’t amazing, I can talk through body language, and their favourite language here is Football. I arrived when Mexico were still in the World Cup, and you could feel the excitement as there was always a game to join in with at the beach. The kids and adults just chasing after a ball really helped me bond so well early on.
I would later be asked to the beach regularly and the kids all wanted me to go to the circus with them, which was briefly in town and incredibly fun.
I see mothers as the centre of the family, they love and nurture, but are also the commanding authority of the household. They have respect for one another regardless of profession. The people in Barra de Potosí all face the scourge of mosquitoes, they complain and talk about them as much as Irish people would complain about the weather. They take care of their plants and gardens, and help one another when in need (like if one were without water, a neighbour would help provide).
They all live next to a beautiful lagoon and beach. The sun sets just over the beach each evening and at night, the beach glows with some bioluminescent plankton. Stars are bright and beautiful and mountains surround Barra everywhere. I can hear the waves from my room and often get crabs crawling in too. There are hundreds of species of birds, they have dolphins in the distance and so many creepy crawlies that bite, eat and fly around it’s hard to keep count. I’ve come to love all the dirt, rocks sand and life here.
I’ve been lucky enough to have people offer me tours of the lagoon and town, taking a small kayak to explore and wander. This place has given me its beauty and it’s amazing people, now what can I give…
Whats have I done so far.
I give them the place and opportunity to learn. The call me Maestro Liam. For authority and respect I have them use Maestro, and because I learned my first name is so hard to pronounce I’m now known as Liam to everyone.
My first day I was welcomed by Laura, an American woman who has lived here and put here heart and soul into the library for nearly 30 years. She’s older now, and too sick and weak to manage it. Apart from some volunteers in the past the library has gone into decay and is a shadow of what it once was. I straight away got to work on the library to her vision. Although culture is different than when she did the library, she’s looking to solve the long-term problems the library has. I cannot achieve this in 2 months, but I can make a positive impact, make it look better and give the kids a library each day.
Each morning I wake up to do work in the garden, I’ve turned it from a barren waste of weeds and overgrowth to a new place to plant fruit, veg and trees for kids to learn and take care of. I’ve made space for outdoor reading and nailed together some palm tree bark to made little benches in the front of the library. The heat is immense here, and impacted my work load and ethic. So I’d rise earlier to avoid the sun. Here’s a video on how the gardens been coming along…
The kids aren’t angels by any means. They make fun, they curse and bully. But they just want to play and have something to do during their summer vacation. But new technology, phones, music and culture has made the library a less favourable place to go. So encouraging fun, while encouraging learning is definitely a difficult task.
My main goal is to supervise reading in the library and encourage them to learn.
They’ve seemed to take a liking to hurling too, which I brought plenty of sticks for. Although only along the ground, the boys love to compete and play matches against one another.
Doing games between languages and getting them to read is my priority. I have a system of where they get stars for books read, and those with a certain amount of stars get a special prize (things like balls, spinning tops and little board games). They all love to do art so I’ve tried to get them to draw and write about their favourite animals in Barra de Potosí. Other activities like Bingo (lotteria here), go fish, matching games and guessing games all go well with them.
I open the library for nearly 4 hours minimum each day. I can sometimes have up to 19 kids at one time all wanting to do something different.
I hope to get them working in the garden with me soon, and I’ll also be taking care of them in the turtle sanctuary while they do a summer camp. They have a lot of energy, and the sun is incredibly and even dangerously intense around 2 to 4 so we can’t always work outside.
I’m adapting better and building a rapport more and more. Language is still a small barrier, but they make it much easier for me. Reading children’s books also helps. I’ve learned to let the girls be creative and the boys competitive and am designing workshops and activities for the weeks ahead, which is no easy task. I’ve never been a teacher before, but I’m considering the options to teach at home in future.
Barra is amazing, the kids are tough but are all sweet and amazing. The community and the library can have a profound effect of these kids lives, I hope I can touch them with some good and some happiness from Ireland and from within themselves.
Till my next update..
Peace and Love from a hammock in Barra de Potosí, Mexico…
About the Author:
Name: Cathal McGivern
Age: Over 18
Applied for: ACCESS Award