Archive for November, 2014

Wishing for a peaceful and just holiday

This week we want to give thanks for all the people we work with at the Quixote Center – here at our offices in Maryland, our partners in Haiti and Nicaragua, and you our supporters across the country who give your time, money and prayers to make this important work happen. We are certainly grateful for all these people and the incredible impact they are having on their communities.

Events this week, however, have been a sobering reminder of all the work that remains to be done in the fight for social justice for all our brothers and sisters. It is a sad reminder that structural violence is so embedded in our culture and systems that it allows some lives to matter more than others. The continued outpouring of grief and rage in Ferguson and other cities is testament to the concrete and daily effects of marginalization of these communities. The frayed trust between police forces and the communities they serve; the unjust sentencing and incarceration of people of color; and growing inequality between the 1% and the rest of the country are all symptoms of an unsustainable system.

So we enter into this holiday of gratitude with a heavy load, and eyes on the road ahead as we continue to fight for social justice. We take comfort in knowing you are on this road with us, with hope that our collective wisdom will guide us to a peaceful and just future. Thank you for your ongoing support of the Quixote Center and your enduring commitment and solidarity. May your holiday be a time to reflect with loved ones on the many blessings we share and an opportunity to ponder and prepare for the journey ahead.

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Practical Applications in El Regadio

In September I led a delegation to Nicaragua. I knew from the beginning of planning that El Regadio was a ‘must visit’ for our participants. The leaders and activists of El Regadio are some of the most committed and effective in Northern Nicaragua. They are led by Don Augusto, a founding member and the current President of the Federation of Campesinos (FEDICAMP).

Our visit coincided with a day of community training, led by FEDICAMP Promoter Ecka. The morning started with a screening of a documentary on the impact of plastic. Those in attendance were intimately familiar with the problem, because there is an informal dumping place for plastic trash on the edge of town. They discussed alternatives to plastic containers and the global context of consumption, waste, and environmental degradation.

Climate Change soon became the center piece of the conversation. Subsistence farmers in Nicaragua’s northern mountains are experiencing the effects and grappling with the implications in their day to day lives. At one point, an old man in the back of the room raised his hand and addressed the crowd.

“In the United States, they don’t even believe in climate change. The politicians say it isn’t happening. How can our little country make a change when this is the state of mind in the United States?”

The response from Augusto was profound.

“Think about a child in the United States. He wakes up each morning in the air conditioning. He eats food cooked inside a kitchen with climate control. He rides to school in a car with air conditioning and learns in a classroom with air conditioning. When he goes home to his house that keeps the world outside, the temperature is controlled. His entire life is shielded from the climate. Climate Change is not real for him because he does not live it.”

Nicaragua cannot solve climate change, but FEDICAMP is working with those most vulnerable to its effects to find community-based adaptation and mitigation systems. Their efforts make vulnerable communities more resilient in the face of the coming changes.

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Cultivation in the Mountains of Haiti

During the past fifteen years, Marcel Garcon has emerged as a champion for the sustainability ethic in Gros-Morne, Haiti. Year after year he demonstrates his commitment to restoring ecological balance to the region which has been his life-long home. Whenever I travel with him he is greeted by a near-continuous stream of friends among the rural peasant population. All of them know him as a collaborator, as one who has inspired them to continue working this depleted land with the dream of restoring its productivity.

Marcel is an example of why the Quixote Center has been remarkably successful in organizing programs of collaborative development. Our projects in Nicaragua and Haiti are not designed in our Maryland office. They are the result of a deep partnership process, a series of exchanges and critiques that flow both north and south. To achieve that kind of relationship, the Quixote Center commits to long-term partnerships and consciously de-centralizes decision making. The results speak for themselves.

Marcel Garcon now heads a peasant movement that is 12,000 members strong. Those members are some of the most active and effective reforestation advocates, and plant most of the 60,000 trees produced at our Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center each year. During the past three years, the Movement has embarked on a series of new endeavors to restore the ecological balance in and around Gros-Morne. Community nurseries dispersed throughout the countryside now produce an additional 20,000 trees annually. The Movement is experimenting with collective farming of plots to produce high quality food for nearby families while providing a training ground for practical agricultural techniques.

In a country too often maligned or forgotten, Marcel Garcon and the Peasant Movement of Gros-Morne represent an effective alternative. We will continue to walk with them, and to present their success as a source of hope.

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)