Over the past 4 days, we have watched our classroom evolve from an empty metal skeleton into a half-complete classroom. We wrapped the outside with mesh, mixed cement under the burning hot sun, and learnt from the pros as we constructed the classroom walls from scratch. It hasn’t been easy coping with the famous Chira Island heat while stepping out of our comfort zone to try something new. In fact, this is the first time in 4 years that Calgary Serves is building a classroom on the island. As our faces were drenched in sweat and our arms covered in cement, we worked harder and harder as the days went on, eager to complete the structure that symbolizes our contribution to Chira during our short stay. Once the classroom that the 25 of us built together is complete, it will be used as a computer lab to educate kids on the island for years to come, passing on our common hope for an even better Chira.
As volunteers who have stayed in la Amistad, it is obvious to see its current success as travelers around the world visit the women’s cooperative, with 100% of the profit going towards the island itself. However, before hearing the stories behind establishing the organization, we were unaware of the many hardships that the women faced as they pursued their visions for sustainability on the island. They fought against corporations using harmful chemicals on the island, organizations planning to build an airport meant for drug transportation, and ultimately established an extensive network of eco-tourism on the island. However, the benefits for the island as a whole were at the expense of these women’s willingness to give up on having more children for their husbands, take in constant criticism from neighbors and families, and accept the lack of support from the local government. They have given up so much because they want Chira to stay as the same natural habitat for their children and generations to come. The women’s story is inspirational, and I am convinced that their dream is now a reality.
We only have less than 5 days left on the island. There is so much more to do, to explore, and to learn, but so little time. I hope the next 5 days will continue to be a life changing adventure, and I am excited to see what else Chira has in store for us.