Speech by Aaron Bates

This has been translated from the Spanish version.

Over the past six years you have achieved so much. Women are selling products on the market. This year 87 people, including adults, children and youth, attended classes. You have planted 3600 ramon trees. You have participated in workshops on the development of community gardens.  And for the first time, you are the collective owners of your land. For all that, and so much more, we are proud and happy.

After six years of working with you, it is possible to measure the positive changes seen in the daily life of this community. However, I have no doubt that the benefits of the project are not limited to the 2,250 hectares that the Tanhoc Cooperative now knows. Through this relationship, you received land. For us, the gifts are much less tangible.

But we, the North American team members who participated in the project, feel that we have received a direct benefit as a result of our participation. Of course, we are not among the beneficiaries of the sale of baskets or hammocks. We live far from where you planted the ramon trees. The mortgages of our homes have not been affected by your paying off the loan for your land, now owned by the Cooperative.

But from you, we have learned so much. You have shown us how to care, and honour, members of the family. By the invitations that have been extended to us, to share joyful events as well as moments of sadness, we have learned something about the central role of community in supporting its most vulnerable members. Arriving Tanhoc six years ago, it seemed that the community had almost been defeated by the challenge to pay off the debt to the Land Fund. However over the years, people united to work together. You demonstrated the strength of community, faced with challenges that, at first, seemed insurmountable. Seeing how the community communally plants corn every year, we are reminded about the importance of working together in an age where we are so distracted by technology.

For all these things we have learned, and for the welcome you have given to us, we thank you. In all honesty, you have changed our own lives. And so for all of us who have come from so far to work in your community, it is our lives that have been enriched by the experience.

Above all, then, I thank you. It wouldn’t have been the same, without you.