At the end of last month, Nuevas Esperanzas warmly welcomed Swiss visitors Alain and Sylvie Schwaar, from the organisation Dire et Agir. The Schwaars have an extensive background in working with community members to overcome conflicts throughout the world, particularly in Haiti and Angola. We invited them to visit the communities of Agua Fría and El Ojochal de Listón to facilitate workshops that dealt with cooperation and domestic violence. They were well received by community members, and it is our hope that those living on the Telica volcano will continue to grapple with and educate others on the concepts they learned.

Community members in Agua Fría involved in Nuevas Esperanzas’ tourism project have been largely divided, with two separate groups currently operating in the area. The first, COTUR, is the tourism cooperative Nuevas Esperanzas helped establish. The second is an informal group of local tour guides contracted by the cooperative. Nuevas Esperanzas hopes that the cooperative will eventually integrate the tour guides, making for a more unified, community effort to improve local economic conditions.

The three-day workshop facilitated by Alain and Sylvie marked the first time both tour guides and cooperative members met to discuss work matters and address logistical concerns. It proved to be an eye-opening event for both groups as they discussed openly and honestly the obstacles they foresee in cooperating together to run a profitable tourism business. After participating in small group exercises and larger discussions, they identified the principal problem they face is a lack of communication. In light of this, the cooperative members and the guides have since agreed to meet to develop a business model that serves the interests of both groups.

The following week, Alain and Sylvie travelled to El Ojochal de Listón to conduct another three-day workshop on the theme of domestic violence. Community members were curious to attend the workshop, never having openly discussed the subject with their neighbours before. They were keen to share their experiences with other attendees during small group exercises aimed at developing active listening skills, as well as in general discussions. Alain and Sylvie taught community members about the four types of violence: abuse, abandonment, blame, and humiliation. Nearly everyone in the room—including members of the Nuevas Esperanzas team—immediately began to think of moments in which they have suffered violence, as the theme is one that resonates deeply. Others were surprised to learn that violence is not limited to the infliction of physical harm to another person. One community member in particular was so enthused by the topic of humiliation, that he gave an impassioned speech about instances of humiliation in his spousal relationship. At the end of the three-day series, attendees asked to be provided with literature on domestic violence for further reading, and even toyed with the idea of creating their own community magazine on the topic. They also urged Nuevas Esperanzas to conduct follow-up workshops in the future.

We are grateful to Alain and Sylvie for their visit and hard work and look forward to working with the communities to follow up on the workshops in the future.