Yet again, I'm shocked at how quickly time is going by. Nearly the end of October--but from the weather reports I'm hearing, it's still feeling like July in Colorado as well as Grenada! 86 degrees earlier this week in Denver, yikes. This week I attended a conference on disabilities at St. George's University. The University has a med school here (the one that the Americans came to rescue the med students from in '83). I had never been to the campus--it is quite beautiful and quite different than most other places in Grenada. The conference was the result of a joint effort between SGU, the Grenada National Council for the Disabled and a large organization from New York that runs group homes and provides services for adults with developmental disabilities. Somehow about two years ago these groups hooked up (I'm not sure the whole story, but I believe that one of the parent advocates from New York met a man from Grenada and it rolled from there...) and the result has been the formation of a Coalition for the Rights of the Disabled in Grenada as well as this conference. The people who spoke at the conference were well-educated and had a lot of great information. For much of the time, in fact, I felt like I was sitting at a conference back in the states...which is precisely the problem. I applaud these people's efforts and think that their intentions are honestly motivated, but it seemed that they knew very little about how life actually works in Grenada. To me there seemed to be an assumption of knowledge and resources available here. The other thing that was really bothersome to me was how the people from the organization kept saying "In New York, 25 years ago, we were where you are now, and look at all the progress we've made." Again, I appreciate the enthusiasm and encouragement, but the reality is that New York, 25 years ago, despite it's dismal services for people with disabilities was not even close to Grenada today. The resources, legal system, education and sheer size created an entirely different atmosphere for change. I don't mean to sound negative because I do believe that Grenada is on the brink of some great changes and strides in their services to people with disabilities, but the reality is that Grenada is an island nation of 100,000 people trying to do it with little resources, funds or support. I guess more than anything, the conference made me really appreciate the Peace Corps's approach to development and training which assumes that you must get to know the community, their needs and their resources before starting. An emphasis on CO-training or CO-facilitating really rang true for me during those two days at SGU. I kept thinking about how differently the information might have been presented, paced or received had there been a Grenadian up there with them. Just gives me more information for my own reflections and an opportunity to improve what I'm doing.
I've come down with a little cold so I'm kind of hanging low this weekend. I'm not sure if it's the result of moving from freezing cold AC to heat for two days at the conference or if it's from working with kids who've got their hands in their mouths and then grab my pencil to write. Perhaps a combitaion of the two... Regardless, it's not a whole lot of fun, but I think I'm over the worst of it. Yesterday was Grenadian Thanksgiving. It is nothing like in the states. Friday was a public holiday, so people were off of work and school. Thanksgiving was established to commemerate the American invasion after the revolution in 1983. I think the mixed reactions to that color their view of Thanksgiving here. I did go with Liz though to a "Harvest" festival up in her hometown of Paraclete. They were selling candy, food, drinks and had some games for the kids. It was primarily a fundraiser for the building of a new church for the community. They also had an afternoon tea (there's huge British influence down here still), but in full-Grenadian style, you couldn't hear the conversation because it was drown out by the music coming from the multiple 5 foot speakers in the courtyard. Ah, Grenada!
This week also marked the 20th anniversary of the revolution that brought about the death of their prime minister, Maurice Bishop, as well as the introduction of US troops into Grenada. We had Dr. Marryshow, a prominent Grenadian who was very involved in politics at the time of the revolution, come and talk to the group of new volunteers to give us a historical perspective of Grenada and the conflicts that have arisen over the years. It is a fascinating history and is only helping me realize what this country has gone through. If you're interested in hearing more, let me know...