ArtCorps Artist Patricia Escalon knew the volunteer radio broadcasters had every reason to distrust her and little time to invest in Art for Social Action. They are part of a larger network of indigenous radio stations that has been battling the Guatemalan government, private enterprise, the police and the army to exercise their right to have a medium of communication in their community.
They say you earn trust – it is not just given away. However, it looks like trust can be planted, just by trusting someone else.
My first meeting with the volunteer radio broadcasters at Doble Via Radio Station in San Mateo, Guatemala happened after an on-site training session, where we all gathered and introduced themselves. I had them write out their phone numbers and email addresses (only some of them use email) and tell me what they wanted to learn and hoped to get out of the year I would be spending with them. Their names tended to be a blur to me at first, only crystallizing as we spent more and more time together.
We set a meeting to discuss timetables, something that would repeat itself endlessly in this experience. What we take for granted in most wealthy countries when it comes to youth is time. They have so much of it in wealthier societies that boredom often leads to antisocial behavior. The opposite is true of the volunteers in San Mateo.
One example of a time-poor girl is Merlita. She wakes up at 4 a.m. every day to help her mother wash clothing for people in San Mateo. She cooks breakfast for the whole family with her mother. She has six siblings living at home and she also has to help take care of three of them who have mental disabilities. Merlita also helps her father out on the fields. They grow their own food. Merlita also brings in extra income to the family as makeshift hairdresser for brides in the surrounding town. For Merlita to come to participate in the project this year, she has to set time aside, which is not an easy task.
Merlita started out as part of a group of 14 youth who wanted to participate in video production. My task was to facilitate workshops that allowed them to learn all aspects of video production and practice what they had learned by producing five short videos for the community radio network. There were so many participants in the beginning, that I had to split them up into morning and afternoon groups on weekends, the only time they had free.
I started out by granting them my complete confidence and trust in their engagement with the project. After all, trust engenders trust. Their first two months were very exciting for them. They were learning eagerly, and they enjoyed the didactic games we did. My aim was for them to not only learn the technical skills that went with video production, but to develop their creativity and sense of responsibility so they could use Art for Social Action. By the time Christmas 2011 rolled around, I had won their trust just by spending time with them. My first hurdle was over. There were more to come….
This project is being carried out in collaboration with Cultural Survival.