Why partnership inspired me to roll up my sleeves and make cebiche!
I participated in the #cebichechallenge for several reasons, the first was to help raise awareness about Green Empowerment’s vital efforts to bring renewable energy and clean water to rural communities across the globe, communities like San Antonio, Nicaragua and Membrillar, Peru.
In the isolated high desert region of northern Nicaragua, the 70 family community of San Antonio is mobilizing to change their fate. Residents carry water to their homes from open sources like streams and springs that have shown dangerous levels of arsenic. Even the local primary school is without water, and students must spend part of their school day hauling this basic resource. So how does a small, innovative non-profit in Portland, Oregon connect and collaborate with motivated community members in far off lands without stepping into the giant pit of first world paternalism? One of Green Empowerment’s central answers to this question is partnership! Partnership and collaboration are an essential ingredient to Green Empowerment’s lasting impact with communities and partnership is core to the #cebichechallenge.
In the case of San Antonio, motivated community members reached out to FEDICAMP, a collective of farm worker organizations with over 30 years of experience working in the region. This natural ally was eager to help, but lacked technical expertise in water systems. FEDICAMP invited Green Empowerment to work with them. Together with the people of San Antonio we are constructing a system that will deliver clean drinking water directly to homes and the local school. Green Empowerment brings both technical and community organizing expertise to the partnership while FEDICAMP brings established relationships, a community based approach, and a deep understanding of the region, helping us ensure that solutions are community driven and culturally appropriate.
Beyond any individual project, Green Empowerment’s cooperative approach allows us to build coalitions and support systemic change. In Peru, the Ministry of Health has been developing computer applications to improve patient information capture and supply chain management for medications. However, since many rural clinics do not have access to electricity, they cannot take advantage of the online resources. When we started working in Membrillar, Nurse Jhenny, shared with us that if a child came in with a fever, she would have to run to a neighbor’s house to ask them for hot water to help bring the fever down. Any paperwork had to be done by hand and if she needed to copy or print something she had to walk the 6 hours into town to do so.
In partnership with Soluciones Prácticas Peru, we installed solar panels to supply light and electricity throughout the facility, a solar hot water heater, water filters, a laptop and a printer. Now nurse Jhenny and her co-workers can access and communicate with the national network from within their clinic and we are replicating this project in clinics throughout Peru, working in cooperation with the Ministry of Health to support their national initiative.
With over 20 years of experience, Green Empowerment has lead the field with best practices such as partnering with local organizations, investing in local capacity through extensive training, and pairing technology solutions with community organizing so that communities can drive projects from start to finish. As a board member I am incredibly proud of Green Empowerment’s willingness to share their approach with other leaders in the field, openly collaborating and creating networks to spread these best practices.
Food is an expression of culture and sharing a meal can build the essential foundation of trust needed for healthy partnerships. My commitment to partnership and love of food and culture inspired me to take on the #cebichechallenge. Green Empowerment and local Portland favorite Andina Restaurant have come together every spring for the last 15 years to host a fundraiser that celebrates the rich culture of Peru and helps raise funds for Green Empowerment’s projects in Peru and across the globe. This year a sit down dinner is not possible, but the partnership continues. To rally support, Doris Platt, owner of Andina Restaurant generously shared her secret cebiche recipe with the Green Empowerment family and the #cebichechallenge was born.
I hope you will also take time to reflect on and thank the partners that are essential to your success and the success of the organizations that you support and care about. Together we can build a more resilient global network based on partnership, equity and sustainability, that the world is going to need on the other side of this crisis.