OANSA: Community Clean-Up, After.

November 15, 2012

Two weeks prior to our planned community service event, Y spoke with the neighborhood blacksmith about assisting us with labor and materials. He assured her he could provide the necessary supplies and services for our project.

I went with Y to confirm a week later, and jovial as ever, the blacksmith volunteered all kinds of donations and several hours of manual labor. We were surprised by his unusually generous offer, but grateful nonetheless. He promised to be at the plazita by late morning that Saturday ready to work, and Y and I left feeling optimistic about the playground improvement efforts to take place.

The big day rolled around. We wrapped up our morning program, and sent the little kids back home. we rounded up a handful of older kids and the materials we had all scrounged up, and trekked out to the plazita. We were ready to work, 110 degree heat and all.

The blacksmith was nowhere in sight. Disappointed but not entirely surprised, we handed out bags for trash pick-up while we waited for him to arrive. 30 minutes later, there was still no blacksmith, so we pulled out the weed whacker and brooms, and commenced mowing the lawn and sweeping up. Machetes came out next for further weed removal, followed by more sweeping.

A phone call was eventually made to the MIA blacksmith, and he apologized saying that he had had to make a run to a nearby junkyard to collect materials and would be present at the plazita in no less than 30 minutes.

By this time, I had made numerous cauldrons full of gooey chalk paint with my bare hand, and the kids were well past fighting over who got to help paint the perimeter wall. And they were almost done covering everything in a brilliant white.

It was hot, really hot. We were sweating profusely. We were parched. And we were completely exhausted. Desperately, we took a break to buy ice cold cokes and find food.

(Side story: one kid’s mom had just killed a pig in her front yard, where the table was still dripping with pig juices and the feet had yet to be stashed away. There were buckets of bloody organs and bloody machetes lying out, and then the mom came out with an antiquated pan of something swarming with flies that resembled more children’s mud pies than lunch. A smattering of dark vegetables and pig heart were wrapped in undercooked, jiggly pork belly with the black gristle still intact, all lashed together with equally dubious-looking twine. It had been recently boiled and was fresh for the snacking. I’m just glad she didn’t make me take a bite while she was looking…)

In the end, the blacksmith never showed. But we did have a slightly nicer after product to show for our efforts, and while the following week, intended to be community service part two, did not pan out either (surprise, no blacksmith), there were still fruits to take away from the project.

For one, the kids who worked alongside us leaders took so much pride in their labor and were ecstatic about the playground improvements, however minor. Secondly, we had several parents express their gratitude for our positive presence and influence in the neighborhood, commenting about enthusiastic spiritual learning or even improved behavior in their children. More than sparkly playgrounds, I’d say that life-changing differences are the victory here.

Machete chops goodbye to gnarled weeds.

Sweeping up the scraps.

Possibly posing.

Painty painty.

Pablito hard at work.

Lunch time (and my favorite Paraguayan delicacy…).

Yum… :/

The hard-fought after pic!

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