Hi everyone! This is Umi here.
I am writing this from Pluma Hidalgo – where we have our project! I have been here for the last 11 days. My purpose of the stay here was very simple. I just wanted to see the place and meet people. I was lucky enough to join The Lucy Foundation team last April as an intern. Ever since, I really wanted to see the real Pluma Hidalgo.
A bit about me
I am born with a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta which makes my bones fragile. I have had fractures 15 times, but it has not stopped me from travelling. When I travel, I take my manual wheelchair, which means that I need support from other people to go places. But because of that I get to spend more time with people. My time here in Pluma has been absolutely amazing.
The people of Pluma Hidalgo
As I heard it from Robbie, people here are little more reserved than people from other countries such as Colombia (which I visited prior to coming here). However, once you get to know them, the warmth you feel from people is beautiful. When we walk down the street to the centre of the village, everyone greets each other. Some people I met said it was the first time for them to meet a Japanese person (I am originally from Japan). Especially a Japanese person in a wheelchair I bet! It has been an honour to be able to show that it is possible to travel in a wheelchair.
It is usually a quiet and peaceful village, yet since it is closer to Christmas we have been having a lot of fiestas, which start at 10pm and continue until midnight! There are lots of music, dancing and delicious food. Even children stay up until midnight to enjoy with everyone.
I was always very curious about situations for people with disabilities in other countries, especially in remote areas. In this village it seems like even though they are not given as many opportunities, their dignity and freedom is respected to a certain degree.
Working together as a team
I absolutely love that people with disabilities in this community have became part of our program because they want to work on the coffee project. Juan who is deaf and mute, is now learning how to sign a little more so he can communicate with us more. I went with the guys involved in our project and Ryan, who is the field director, to one of the houses in the village to fix their door. Ryan taught the guys how to fix parts of the door.. It was very simple things, but being able to do things by ourselves was wonderful.
I know that because I have had to spend a lot of time not being able to get up from my bed. Things are moving maybe slow and steady with the project, but the trust we are building in the community is very firm. And I like that a lot.
I also learned what hard work it is to grow coffee. Despite being an intern in The Lucy Foundation, I did not drink too much coffee. However, seeing how coffee trees grow in beautiful forests and how touching it can be to harvest them deepens my love for coffee. Also, a surprise for me was that coffee is a very sweet and yummy fruit by itself!
The people who lived in this area have lived here for the last 10,000 years, which is a time frame I cannot even imagine. I am very lucky to be here and absorb the energy and wisdom of people here directly.