Living and Giving

Separate Rooms in Cartagena, Colombia

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It was my honor to present at the Inter-American Development Bank\’s Corporate Social Responsibility Conference 2008, at Cartagena, Colombia, in December.   I was privileged to spend the days prior volunteering with a crisis mediation center, an after school program, and a local skills center, which helped women learn how to cook, create and sell crafts, buy their first home, and which also operated as a tutoring center for kids and a retirement home for the elderly. 
One of my favorite parts was visiting the community where some of the women had participated in building and buying their first homes. The pride, the ownership, was so palpable. Nothing was taken for granted. Whereas in the past, a home consisted of one, wide, openspace room, now there was the privilege of having separated rooms as a sign of status and increased wealth.
An interesting concept: Separation as status.  It does seem right in many ways: There was a room for the children to sleep; there was a private bedroom for the parents. Often animals were kept inside the home, and now they had a place outside.  Of utmost pride were gardens outside, where natural food was being grown, harvested, for use in the day to day. 
But it also gets me thinking about the sense of community. Certainly privacy, protection of the husband-wife relationship, and having defined space is a respectful element we all appreciate.  On the other hand, communities are often compacted — dozens of people can and do live together in a shared space. 
What happens here is truly the utmost in \’client service.\’  People must learn to share and be respectful —  albeit forced at times due to the circumstances — on an entirely different level. I can\’t even imagine the patience, perseverance, kindness and utmost of common consideration that entails. These values must be demonstrated consistently, simply in order to live harmoniously.   It makes me think about how much respect I can give — and all the more I can give — to those with whom I live, especially since I do have my separate room.  I think these communities are made up of remarkable people.
Back to the conference: Here we met with dozens of NGOs, in the areas of economic opportunity and job training, reconciliation and peacemaking, arts and dance, gender rights, poverty.   Potential investors and UniversalGiving met with them in 1-1 sessions to hear each unique story, and to see if there were funding opportunities that could be matched.  Here is the podcast of our talk with Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the InterAmerican Development Bank.