One of the things that most pleasantly surprised me again and again throughout our time in the Bajo Lempo was the observation that the less people had, the more generous and creative they seemed to be. Each time that we visited the more ‘developed’ communities that had already received some form of previous investment or aid, their greatest concern was always how they never had enough funds to accomplish what their community needed, and the support they wanted from us was for their community piggy bank.
But when we visited the communities that really were the worst off and had the least financial resources available, the people did not ask us for anything. On the contrary, they were always the most generous, so happy and proud to be able to share with us the little they did have. They would so proudly give us a tour of their parcelas, showering us with coco and caña or whatever other fruits we passed along the way, allowing us to try everything they had to offer and feel welcome and at home.
These communities were also by far the most creative. In the communities where they were accustomed to receive handouts, they seemed not to do much when funds were not readily available, other than sit and wait patiently. But the communities that have never even seen funds before don’t lose time waiting for anyone or anything. They look at the little they have, and they find a way to transform it into something they can use.
My favorite example was the primary school that we visited in the community of Los Llanos. There they had one building with two classrooms: one for the children in kindergarten thru third grade, and the other for students in fourth thru sixth grade. Even though the community was by far one of the poorest we had seen, the two determined profesores had managed to create an inviting, colorful, and inspiring place for the children of their community to learn. I was impressed by the range of their collection of interactive materials: a Montessori-style counting tool made from bottle caps and plastic straws; decorative flowers constructed from one end of a plastic bottle and sea turtles from the other in a class art project; a technology station with an outdated computer and telephone, neither of which worked, but both were there just for the children to experience and become familiar with modern day technologies. In their classroom and in their community, the fewer materials they had, the more creative they were forced to be, and while they were low on certain resources, the possibilities they created through their own imagination and determination were limitless.