Year-long intern Hannah Gillean writes about her experience at the inauguration of a staircase project in community 15 A-1.
Yesterday marked my third staircase inauguration, and it was the most meaningful one for me yet. Inaugurations are such a joyful experience as they give the community, as well as the zona (the surrounding communities), a chance to unite and celebrate the completion of a staircase that improves the environment in which they all share. Although a staircase only directly affects those who live adjacent to the structure, the construction of a staircase indirectly improves the lives of all of those who live within proximity of the infrastructure; it allows neighbors to descend and ascend with ease as well as beautifies the environment for all to see. A staircase is so much more than a set of stairs and its supporting structure.
This inauguration was unlike the previous two that I have witnessed for two reasons. For one, I saw, for the most part, the entirety of the process that led up to the final construction of the staircase. Typically, MEDLIFE works for around 8 months with the community — holding educational workshops and community meetings before the execution of a staircase project. Although I was not able to witness the community meetings in the months leading up to the staircase construction, I saw the entire labor process that led the staircase that we inaugurated Sunday.It began with the delivery of tons of sand and cement at the bottom of the hill that we hauled up bucket by bucket via a chain composed of us interns and community members. Then, similar to the chain created to lug the materials up the hill, we formed another human chain to pass wooden planks one by one up the intense incline to make a skeleton of the staircase. We followed a similar routine to fill the wooden skeleton with rocks and then to fill the steps with cement. As interns, we were only able to work for a few hours each visit, but the community relentlessly worked 10-hour days fueled by the sheer desire to improve the environment of their zona. I was literally able to see the land transform before my eyes from precarious and unruly rubble to a solid and safe structure.
The second defining event that made this inauguration so special was the open forum that took place after the bottle breaking ceremony, a Peruvian inauguration tradition. After community members and year-long interns briefly spoke about their experiences, Carlos promptly announced that we were to have an open forum among the four present communities that reside within this newly beautified zona. The purpose of this forum was to figure out who would be providing the last community with the wooden planks used for the skeleton so that their staircase can begin as soon as possible. Carlos requested that the dirigentes, or elected community leaders, of each block express their opinion publicly. As the debate ensued about whether the planks should be rented, loaned or bought, Carlos began to smile as it was clear that a solution was desired by all involved parties. Watching the four communities debate and reach a solution independent of intervention was not only euphoric but also incredibly gratifying as it reiterated their dedication to development.
The festivities followed with dancing and food. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know these community members and construct a staircase with them. I look forward to many more inaugurations in this community!