Nellie and her experience at the Soluciones Comunitarias National Conference

9 06 2011

Considering most of us had only learned about Social Entrepreneurship and Micro-Consignment for a week, and for some with the past five days being the sole Spanish instruction they had ever received, the idea of attending a national conference for all of Sol-Com seemed a wee bit daunting. However our nerves were soothed as soon as we entered the majestic courtyard of El Merced by the smiling faces of the asesoras and the warm welcome from Miguel.

I was blown away by how open and genuinely friendly the asesoras were. They were kind and patient with us and our broken Spanish, willingly solving the puzzles of our strewn together sentences and when what we were saying grew to gibberish proportions they responded with a kind smile and encouraging nod. Those of us who persisted through those first few awkward minutes of language transition were deeply rewarded, as the asesoras were vibrant and compassionate, and after only a few minutes of speaking with them, they treated you like family.

The conference served as a great opportunity for asesoras to share what has worked for them on their campaigns and what hasn’t. During the small group breakout session Eliseo and Irma shared how they purchased a small megaphone to use for advertising their campaigns which impressed and inspired the rest of the group. It was fascinating to hear about the different obstacles asesoras faced in different regions and how they overcame them.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to a young asesora named Maria for both days of the conference. She was 16 and wore beautiful color-coordinated Huipil & Cortes. I was excited to practice my Spanish and get to know her, but despite my best efforts I mostly received one-word answers and her sweet smile in return. In one of my better attempts of small talk on the first day I told her that I thought the bracelet she was wearing was beautiful, it consisted of eight rows of sandy-brown wooden beads, she responded with a coy smile and a quiet “Gracias.” On the second day as Miguel was giving his closing remarks Maria looked me in the eyes, flashed her sweet smile, held up her wooden bracelet and said, “Para usted” (For you). I was flabbergasted by this gesture of pure kindness. I lacked the Spanish vocabulary to express how touched and appreciative I felt, so I gave her a big hug and said “Muchisimas Gracias.” After the closing remarks were given I asked if I could take a picture with her, she happily obliged and later sought me out for a photo with her on her camera. It’s new friendships like this that make the work we do so meaningful, I can’t wait to meet up with her in the field and assist her with her campaign any way I can!

A megaphone, a smile, and a bracelet, these are some of the things I will take away from this conference; it enabled all members of our organization to reunite, and remember why we are doing the work we are doing.

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