A New Reality
Written by Francesca Moschini, Volunteer at Aguayuda in La Guajira, Colombia.
I have been here in Riohacha for more than a month now. However, I will never forget my first day in the field with the Aguayuda team, monitoring the “lovable loo” pilot project, a dry toilet that Aguayada and a family in the community of Frijol implemented together. When I stepped out of the car, the heat, the vegetation and the scent directly reminded me of Sardinia. I was moved by the simplicity of the houses, the slowness of the gestures and of course people’s smile.
The work in the field has been intense during this period. Aguayuda is part of the “Lazos de Agua” project launched by Millennium Water Alliance (MWA), FEMSA Foundation and Coca-Cola Latin America. The goal is to create access to potable water for 110,000 people (8,000 in La Guajira) in 5 countries. The first part of the project consists of knowing the situation of La Guajira and for this reason we have been carrying out household and water point surveys in the communities that are part of this project. A survey consists of an interview with some members of the community, usually the head of the family or whoever takes care of the house. The questions focus on the family’s water availability and uses and tackle hygiene and medical conditions related to water. This survey helped me understand a bit better the situation in La Guajira.
It might be because it is my first time outside of Europe, but this new reality and different lifestyle still surprises me even after a month. I have always been wondering how long it would take to get used to a new environment, or even if it would be possible to really get used to something that is so different from what you have experienced growing up and living in another continent. I personally believe that there will always be something that will surprise you, in a good or in a bad way, or something that you will never deeply understand. However, these cultural “clashes” we face help us re-think our reality; those things that are obvious for us but unknown to others, or those that are correct or right here but not there. It is a bit like losing your compass for a while and trying to find your way again in a different world with no references.
Beside all the positive things that happened to me since I arrived, there is one thing that shocked me at the beginning: the presence of trash in the desert of La Guajira and especially in the communities. The kids play with trash and grow up with trash all around them. One could easily think “Hey these people are dirty”, however, it is important to analyse how education and a collecting system play a central role in the “trash cycle”. When I was a child there was always somebody telling me that I had to put the trash in a bin and more importantly there was a system that took care of the trash disposal. This is something that doesn’t exist here in the rural communities of La Guajira
What runs through my mind is “Which person would I be if I were born in La Guajira?” “How much of my personality and thoughts are due to the environment I grew up in?” I like to think that we would be totally different people if chance had dropped us somewhere else.