Paula Garcia Tufro

Paula (ADVIMA, Guatemala): Paula was studying for a Master’s degree in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown, at the time of her fellowship on Guatemala. Her full name is being withheld at her request.

First Few Weeks

25 Jun

My first few weeks in Rabinal were a bit frustrating because of the lack of direction in terms of what my role and responsibilities should be during my time here. I found myself with nothing to do at ADIVIMA on a regular basis. I think partly it has been a result of a lack of planning and/or communication between RA and ADIVIMA, coupled with the fact that no one has any time to really think about my arrival until I actually got here. But the other part of it stems from the fact that ADIVIMA´s idea was to have me help in the coordination of the Coordinadora (Coordinator), which from my initial observations seemed to exist in theory but not in practice. It seemed to lack the structure necessary to move forward in any direction, never mind the fact that it lacked any personnel devoted solely to the coordination among the affected communities.

There certainly seems to be a need to define the role of the Coordinadora, establish a Board, set out clearly defined objectives and establish governing rules and operating procedures before anyone can assist the coordination process. There seems to be little in place in terms of concrete objective and/or rules, making most initiatives abstract and hard to follow through on.
Meanwhile there is still field work to be done in conjunction with Rolando who is working with RA on a follow up study which seeks to document the present conditions and the damages suffered by each of the affected communities situated along the river below the dam in conjunction with the construction of the Chixoy Dam 28 years ago, but as of the end of week 2, I have been unable to take part in any of that.

I really hope to get out to the communities soon. In fact, that is in large part why I chose to come here, so it would be a shame to have come all this way and not get that experience of getting to know and learning from the experiences of these communities and these people. Therein lies most of my frustration thus far.

As you can tell from my blogs, I still found ways to really get my feet wet during my first few week in terms of what is going on here and what these communities have lived through. Witnessing the exhumation step by step has been quite interesting so far. I am learning a great deal from talking to the forensic experts and the anthropologist working on the exhumation and from the relatives who regularly attend and often relate part of their experiences and/or witness accounts of the events. It has been an incredibly moving experience, especially given that I have had a chance hear the tales first hand from one of the family members.

I finally made it out on my first trip out to one of the affected communities, Plan Grande, on my third week here. As I described in my earlier blog this was an incredibly eye opening experience and was truly moving. The same week I finally managed to sit down to discuss my role and or responsibilities with Annie and the people here at ADIVIMA. I once again outlined my concerns regarding the Coordinadora. Much to my surprise they seemed quite receptive to the idea of having me start working on designing proposals for the establishment of norms and regulations as well as an organizational structure which would serve to strengthen the effectiveness of the Coordinadora. This has been a work in progress for the past 2 weeks. Realizing the importance of having the communities approve a structure for their organization and regulations guiding its work, I have taken my time and gone through various revisions in my attempts to create such guidelines. I have had the help of Rolando in this process, which has helped in terms of gaining greater insight into the inner workings of the Coordinadora to date. Our work styles and brainstorming have often clashed, but we are doing our best to put together a mixture of both. Part of the problem lies in the fact that many of the structured regulations that I see as essential are hard to materialize in the context of the incredible logistical and communications obstacles faced in trying to bring together members of the different communities for any kind of meeting.

Another part of my job the last 2 weeks has been to work with Rolando the study that he has been working on with the communities situated along the river below the Dam who no longer have any access to water and who were formerly excluded from last year´s study of the affected communities. Since the preliminary investigations have already been completed, my job is to try to help Rolando to synthesize his findings and in the drafting phase of the report. Another aspect of this task is to try to resolve some of the problems resulting from the lack of communication and collaboration that exists between Rolando and ADIVIMA, which became apparent to me immediately upon arrival. In theory, Rolando should be working in conjunction with ADIVIMA, and they should be kept up to speed as to the status of the work he is doing with the affected communities. In practice, each has worked independently of one another operating under a certain level of disinterest and mistrust. One of my goals is to facilitate a meeting between Rolando and the people here at ADIVIMA as a first step towards the establishment of a cooperative relationship.

Pictures are coming, I promise… I have lots of them but have been unable to shrink the file sizes enough to send them along. I am working on it though.

Posted By Paula Garcia Tufro

Posted Jun 25th, 2007

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