In January I made my first visit to the World Horse Welfare project in Zaragoza in the South West of Guatemala. During 2014 I will be working with the Zaragoza In Country team and the International Team based in Snetterton Norfolk to develop the Community Training element of the Zaragoza Project.
Zaragoza is a small agricultural town consisting of low rise, rendered breeze block buildings with either corrugated tin of tile roofing. Towards the centre of town the tight dusty streets open up to a small square with grander municipal buildings in the spanish colonial style with arched windows and columned verandas.
This high plains town is framed by the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. Their steep sides are heavily forested and the small isolated communities that cling to the sides break the expanse of forest in a patchwork of houses and terraced fields. The people within those communities follow lives as isolated as their location. They are subsistence farmers, growing mostly corn and black beans. They supplement their living by selling their surplus, providing fire wood from their land for the local towns and by providing agricultural labour for the larger more prosperous farms. There is no evidence of replanting and the resulting topsoil erosion mark the valley sides with ochre streaks that look to me like open wounds.
“It is testament to the vision of the Zaragoza team that… they are looking to directly improve the lives of individuals with in these communities by providing opportunities through direct involvement within the project.”
It is testament to the vision of the Zaragoza team that not only are they looking to improve the welfare of the working horses and by extension their owners through the project. But they are looking to directly improve the lives of individuals with in these communities by providing opportunities through direct involvement within the project. Receiving training from ourselves and acting as our representatives with in their communities. With in my group I had two young woman whose family lives limit their opportunities. Alv Luz sand Sheni are both single mums and their roles as female sole parents make its difficult for them to find full time work in a local jobs market that is predominately male dominated and focussed on manual labour. However as a CBEA for World Horse Welfare they are able to find employment that is flexible to their lives as sole parents and fits their natural skills as communicators. Their role also opens the door for the project to the woman within these project communities who traditionally would find it difficult to be engaged directly in conversation with a man outside their family group.
The training has also opened up opportunities to two young men, Marco and Esvin. Both young men come from the isolated community of Las Lomas. For Marco and Esvin their involvement in the weeks course offered their first opportunity to travel outside the boundaries of their village. Neither of them had met or had spoken to anyone outside Las Lomas before. At first they were shy and nervous in front of the group. Marco can not read or right and neither of them have a pratical knowledge of mathematics. However what they do have is the experience of growing up with a culture that values practical skills. It is for this reason that the training we provide focuses upon learning in a visual practical way. Using acting, audience participation, teaching aids, props, drawings and association to experiences and ideas both learned and familiar to their culture.
"I was immensely proud of my group for the way they took to the training. The way that they pulled together and began to support each other."
By the end of the week Marc and Esvin could both stand in front of the group and give a practical explanation of how to look after a horse during a World Horse Welfare Community Visit. Including the correct methods for handling horses, how to correctly prepare for the welfare of the visiting horses and owners, providing a place that is free of hazards, that is shaded and has access to food and water for the horses. And finally the services that will provided for the visiting horses, including attention by vets, farriers, saddlers and themselves as CBEA’s. Along with the related Community Leaflet this presentation will form their initial presentation that they will give in their communities and will form the basis for a program of training investment made by World Horse Welfare Guatemala in these communities delivered by the CBEA’s we are training.
The training and services that World Horse Welfare provides are part of their commitment to improving the welfare of the working horse populations and by extension their owners in these project communities as part of a community based sustainable project. Community based because it is centred in communities we are looking to help and sustainable because it is sustained by the very people living and working in those communities. People like Sheni, Alva luz, Marco and Esvin.
I am looking forward to seeing them all again soon and seeing how they have developed under guidance of the Zaragoza Team.