Wednesday, March 21, 2012

UPDATE: Visas secured!

Hi all!

This is a quick message to let you know that all four of our compañer@s from Venezuela have now gotten their visas! (There have been some delays getting profiles up for Jesus and Javier, but I will try to do so by this weekend). I am overjoyed to announce, officially, that the Olympia Food Coop and Evergreen State College will be welcoming Jesus, Sneida, Javier, and Ricardo from Cecosesola in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, to our community from May 7th-June 18th. There will be a conference celebrating 2012 as the Year of the Cooperative, and focusing on local cooperative development the first weekend in June. In addition, the compañer@s will be visiting community organizations, classes, historical and cultural sites, will be giving interviews at local media outlets, and will be volunteering at the East and Westside stores. Stay tuned for an event for Co-op members to meet and talk with the exchangees, as well! The intercambio continues!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

El Jardin de Yenny

 By: Alejandra Abreu

Below are pictures of the beautiful garden that our beloved friend Yenny has helped midwife into existence. The garden surrounds Cecosesola's  Escuela (Coop education hub /guest dormitory) in the  Feria Del Centro. The Escuela and Feria del Centro are located in  the midst of  the concrete covered Industrial 1 zone of Barquisimeto. Yenny's passion for plants along with the support of her fellow cooperativistas has helped to bring verdant, glorious, sweet smelling ---Vida (life) to the previously disregarded wasteland that was left by the abandoned sorghum processing plant that Cecocosesola has now reclaimed and re-purposed with and for the community.



Neem tree

I would like to dedicate this post to my dear friend and Coop Staff member Sarika - who, along with the nurturing support of coop Volunteers, has also helped to bring an extra and much appreciated dose of life and love to the garden outside the Eastside Coop. Thanks Friends!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meet l@s Compañer@s del Intercambio!


Sneida Hernandez lives in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in a neighborhood called Carucieña, with her two sons Jose y Junior, and her daughter Stefany; her mother lives in a house very nearby. She currently works in an area of Ceocsesola called "Mutual Support," where she attends meetings of Cecosesola's affiliated producers, coops, and community organizations, and helps to administer and do accounting for loans for the needs of those groups. Her favorite parts of this work are the relationships she develops with a wide variety of people and the travel she does to attend meetings in many different parts of the country. She is excited to share her experience with collective decision-making and capacity building here at Cecosesola with OFC, and she is especially interested in learning how the Olympia Food Co-op is integrated within our community, and how area students participate in the life of the Co-op. Sneida has worked at Cecosesola for seven years.

Ricardo Jose Gimenez also lives on the westside of Barquisimeto, in an neighborhood called Pueblo Nuevo, with his wife Michel, daughter Wlanchel, and within a week, a brand new baby daughter! At Cecosesola, he does a little bit of everything: whatever is needed at the time. In the current mix for Ricardo is organization-wide accounting, radiology at el C.I.S.C., and work with receiving and stocking viveres in the feria.He is looking forward to sharing the unique way the Cecosesola is organized with workers at the Olympia Food Co-op, and he is especially interested in fair trade and product selection at OFC, as well as decision-making structures. He would like to learn more about the variety of ways people organize in the U.S. He is very much looking forward to exchanging ideas with those within the cooperative movement in our area as well. Ricardo has worked at Cecosesola for 13 years.

Jesus Rafael Sanchez  lives most of the week with his wife and 3 children in Barquisimeto, while spending two nights a week at Cecosesola's granja, as part of the team that cares for the fish, cows, goats, sheep, and composting operation run at this farm 45 minutes outside of town. Jesus has been a member of Cecosesola for 19 years. He has traveled on Cecosesola's behalf before, both times with fellow exchangee Ricardo, once on an exchange with members of the cooperative movement in Chiapas, Mexico, and another time as part of a U.N. delegation to help build a new cooperative in Cairo, Egypt. For Jesus, talking about Cecosesola is the same as talking about his life: Cecosesola has been such an integral part of his development as a person and a member of the cooperative movement. He is looking forward to sharing ideas and working alongside his fellow cooperators in Olympia.

Javier Jose Rojas lives in Barquisimeto with his wife, Marisol, and five children. His current rotation for work at Cecosesola is at the Centro Integral de Salud during the week and at the Feria Ruiz Pineda on the weekends. Javier has worked for Cecosesola for 21 years. One thing he loves about Cecosesola is the rotational nature of the work, how it allows for daily learning, a sense of becoming family with his co-workers, and a democratic workplace. He is interested to learn more about how and why the Olympia Food Co-op started and what our relationship is like with our community, as well as our plans for the future. He is looking forward to the mutual exchange of information he and his compañer@s  will have with workers and members at OFC, to building trust and knowledge between our organizations, and together supporting the cooperative movement at a global level.

It's a Wrap!

This morning, Yenny asks me if my shoulders are sore. To tell the truth, I tell her, my entire body hurts. And yours? Hasta mi pelo, she says.

This is not the result of a 12 hour day  stocking products in the feria, though I was sore after my first fin de semana here at Cecosesola. Rather, it is the effect of 3 straight hours of sand volleyball at the granja. And if we are moving like a pair of rusty machines while scrubbing the floor of the escuela this morning, I for one, will say it was worth every ache.

This weekend was the start of carnival here in Venezuela, as in many other parts of Latin America and around the world. Schoolkids are out of class until Wednesday, and many businesses are closed. In honor of the holiday, Cecosesola threw a huge party for it's compañer@s, producers, and members of associated coops, as well as their families. In total, more than 700 people were invited, and activities planned included a planetarium, telescope to view Venus and Jupiter, swimming in two piscinas, softball, fishing, bola criolla, ping pong, pool, bingo, dancing to live music, and my favorite: volleyball.

Around 100 of us went down to the granja Sunday in the evening and camped overnight. Typical of the generosity we've experienced while here, although Ale and I weren't sure where we'd be sleeping, when we arrived there was a tent set up for us, complete with a dinner of cachapas and a blow-up mattress: more comfort than I've experienced camping at home!

Several times throughout the day on Monday folks asked me whether we have gatherings like this at our coop. I explained the difficulty of gathering all together--that our stores are always open, that it's hard on the members to close early, that it's not always easy to justify the expense. People at Cecosesola can certainly understand these difficulties--they, too, are trying to serve the needs of their community, are concerned with financial solvency, and would have a hard time doing what they do if the ferias were open every day of the week (my description of our store hours is most often met with na´guara!) And yet, there is also a strong sense that gatherings like this one are important--that knowing each other's friends and families, and building relationships outside of work are tools as crucial to the success of the organization as reporting sales and margin numbers, which has been done in every single large-group meeting I've attended here.

In today's reunion de gestion, we are discussing an overall financial loss experienced at the Central Integral de Salud (el C.I.S.C., pronounced "sees"). As I listen to percentages of total use and cost experienced by areas such as acupuncture, radiology, alternative therapies, etc., I shell and savor the taste of tamarind fruit, which Yenny (of the sore everthing) harvested for us this morning by repeatedly tossing a broom into a tree outside the escuela.I consider the faces around me, with whom yesterday I splashed in pools, and dove after kills on the volleyball court. We drank cerveza and jugo de jamaica. We danced, got sunburns, and talked with kids about the solar system. The people around me look tired, and it's hot enough that we move our chairs from the meeting room at Ruiz Pineda down to the patio outside the feria where there's a bit more breeze, but still the effects of a weekend spent together show in the midst of a difficult conversation. People laugh easily and cede the floor to each other so that each person can say what they need to. When the conversation is over there's an amiable lull while people chat amongst themselves until Ricardo says that I have something to say, and I nervously offer my gratitude for all I've experienced over the last four weeks, and say how excited I am to host representatives from Cecosesola in Olympia this May.

Here are some pictures: of the granja, of meetings, of Carnival, and a few of my favorite shots from the trip that haven't made it onto the blog yet. Also, check out "Work and Play," where Ale has added a bunch of photos from our trip to the beach and our work in the ferias.

I fly out tonight, but will also leave you with some profiles of the compañer@s who are preparing for their trip to Olympia. Thanks to everyone who's been following the blog these past five weeks and a million thanks to my coworkers at the Coop, for their support with this intercambio. I'll see you all soon!

Yenny, Conchi, Emily

Crepuscular sunset overlooking the Ceocsesola Granga Recreation Area

Ale's interpretation of OFC logo and Jacob & Michaels Flaming Eggplant represent on Cecosesola's community mural around the granja's meeting space

Ale,Conchi,Yenny,Emily, Jacob



Scrambling for candy thrown from high above the carnival floats

                                               (photo credits: Alejandra Abreu & Emily Van Kley)