A Partner Comes to Hunterdon County

by Patricia Hamill
Summer 2012 InGear

The night of April 20th, 2012, was an especially inspiring evening for P4P. Gathering in the intimate space of the Hunterdon Medical Center auditorium, we sponsored two wonderful presentations. The night was dedicated to a talk by Señora Maria Margarita Caté de Catú, founder of FIDESMA (Foundation for the Environment and Sustainable Development), whose organization runs economic-development programs in the rural highlands of her native country, Guatemala. Many of the programs that FIDESMA sponsors, including agricultural and technological development, are funded by the sales of bicycles and sewing machines that they receive from us.

Dave Schweidenback and Margarita Caté in front of the FIDESMA building

Dave and Margarita in front of the FIDESMA building

Opening for Señora Margarita, so to speak, was documentary film-maker Greg Sucharew who shared the trailer for his upcoming film, The Bicycle City. This is “the story of the struggle, determination, idealism, and hope that has brought about the transformation of an entire society.” Greg’s lens records the tangible changes occurring in Rivas, Nicaragua, thanks to organizations like Pedals for Progress who have energized the economy by making bicycles an accessible commodity for the local population. We all eagerly await the release of this important testament to the measurable success of how American citizens’ involvement in nonprofit goals affects economically limited regions and countries across the world.

On stage, Señora Margarita described the location and mission of FIDESMA before proceeding to highlight the ongoing programs, aided by a wonderful slide show of participants in the foundation’s programs. The audience witnessed students in groups or individually working at computers or attending lectures related to computer proficiency, nutrition, agriculture, and other such personally and professionally useful topics. Photos showed people of all ages and both genders using bikes to get to work or working on these bikes for a living. Multiple family members were shown proudly displaying their bikes and we were treated to the image of a mob of serious competitive cyclists at the starting line of a race. Ladies looked up from their sewing machines and large pots of agave leaves boiled on stoves in a large indoor workroom provided by FIDESMA.

A table sat nearby the stage laden with expertly woven and beautifully colored wraps, purses, scarves, and pouches made by women who have been affiliated with FIDESMA for quite some time. A number of us purchased multiple pieces and, with the aid of our trusty translators, CEO of P4P David Schweidenback and our hard-working web master Reykha Bonilla, Señora Margarita patiently explained the meaning and relevance of the colors and designs of each backstrap-woven textile. She made a point of likening a traditional motif—the partial physical connection of two passing snakes—to the relationship of FIDESMA and P4P. No, not tangled or poisonous, but interconnected and flowing and meeting together even though moving independently. It really was a pleasure to be able to spend such intimate time getting to understand both the work that was being purchased and knowing where the dollars spent were definitely going. There were lots of smiles and many laughs even with the slight delay of the language barrier.

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