Thursday, February 12, 2015

ANADESA: A community organization promoting education and development in Santiago Atitlan

Floradale Church group from Ontario with Juan Ramirez, legal representative of ANADESA

Last month, the Guatemala Connecting peoples program started off the year on the right foot after being visited by 10 participants from the Floradale Mennonite Church, Ontario, Canada. The purpose of the group´s trip was to visit the community development organization ANADESA (which stands for New Dawn Association of Santiago Atitlan in Spanish) and connect with their context, struggle and dreams, as well as accompanying them in the hard work of building an educational center and the creation of an ecological park.

ANADESA is located in the community of Panabaj, on the shores of Lake Atitlan. In this place, the T'zutuhil Mayan group prevails and its population is approximately 3,000 people.
The recent history of this community includes the bloody episode of 1990 in which 13 civilians were killed by the military during a peaceful demonstration. Previously, other massacres and disappearances had occurred in the community, in the context of the armed conflict that ravaged Guatemala for 36 years. Thanks to an exhausting advocacy work and international media attention, the community managed to successfully oust the military from their community. The Peace Park located right beside ANADESA serves as a tribute to remember the victims of this slaughter.

Sharing traditions during cultural night.
Another recent incident that is part of the history of the community is the disaster caused by Hurricane Stan in 2005. A landslide buried an entire neighborhood, leaving a death toll of over 300 people. ANADESA overcame this tragedy, organizing communities and responding to the disaster.

 For some years, ANADESA operated in the house of the coordinator of the Association, Juan Ramirez, to conduct the after school and literacy programs for adults, as well as the women's cooperative, among other projects. Two years ago ANADESA began the construction of a new building that is still in process. The goal is to build a space where the ANADESA programs can grow and expand to better serve the community.

The group of visitors from Canada spent most of their time and effort in collaborating with the construction of the kitchen area of this building that will serve as another source of income for ANADESA and the women's cooperative. Participants also helped in planting trees for the ecological community park, and participated in a beading workshop provided by the women from the cooperative. All these experiences enriched the group with a better understanding of the local culture, and the correlation between profit-effort.

During the debriefing session, the participants concluded that this trip had provided them with a better understanding of ¨the hope that local people have despite the challenges, their hard work, the connection between violence and oppression and the dramatic difference between social classes.¨
Recent picture of ANADESA´s kitchen construction process

Beading workshop provided by the women from ANADESA´s cooperative to share their knowledge and raise awareness to the participants on the complicated relation between effort-profit


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