9 Colorado-living women from the U.S. of A flew south for the summer to train 35 entrepreneurs in a San Jose suburb overwhelmed with single motherhood, drug abuse, and joblessness. Each member of this team brought unique skills and talents to this training, but what they all had in common was a desire to know their new friends, teach meaningful skills, and understand development and care for community. Each member of the team has past international experience, development/mission based or adventure based, and brought preconceived notions of how trips like ours should be done. And, although each woman left with more ideas, opinions, and confusion (at least I did) toward development and global justice issues, I believe each also left transformed as the importance of the friendships they made with these entrepreneurs grew throughout each training session, coffee break, and 'AHA' moment. One of the greatest delights as a trip leader is to watch our teams realize the roles they can play in the lives of people around the world. It's a joy to see relationships form and empowerment happen organically. I witnessed this over and over as Exposure Trip team members taught entrepreneurs how to use a calculator, how to dream beyond survival, and how to save for their futures. Here in the U.S. we often don't realize that even something as taken for granted as our ability to use a calculator is a huge gift. Each of our trip members felt empowered to engage with the women by teaching this simple, but life-changing task:
After 4 days of watching Maricela struggle, "she was creating her own budget and using her calculator. I could clearly see the new-found confidence in her face."- Laurie Eastup
Share one impactful moment from the trip: "Teaching a woman entrepreneur from my group how a calculator worked and then teaching her how to use it"- Alexis Newton
Yobel's entrepreneurial training offers tools to people groups who have little access to education, formal or otherwise. This we know from listening to the needs of our friends around the globe. What we often don't take time to realize is the impact our training and Exposure Trips have on the volunteers who travel with us. In Costa Rica, I watched as women from Colorado Springs and Denver were affected by the development work they facilitated:
"It was just so encouraging to see the passion in these women! And it felt so great to feel like I made a tangible impact." While creating a business budget "my women totally got it! And they were excitedly sharing with me. It was like, 'yep, this is it. This is why I came.'"- Amanda Vinton
I valued "seeing the women learn and develop over the week. I love seeing peoples' light bulbs come on, sharing their learning, and the excitement of putting the new learning into practice"- Laurie Eastup
Beyond the training room, Yobel Exposure Trips seek to mold and shape Westerner's perspectives regarding other parts of the world. This trip to Costa Rica was short and sweet, not leaving room for the cultural experiences typically built into our adventures. Yet, through conversations with entrepreneurs, our partners, and people on buses, in stores, and at our guesthouse we managed to be exposed to Costa Rica.
"[This trip has given me] some distinct images and personalities to hold onto whenenvisioning what others' lives are like"- Barbara Bennett
"I want to take with me and put more into practice being intentionally relationship-oriented in my life, and, where I can simplify, to do so. The Latin way of living life and appreciating others always inspires me. I think I'll also look more into human trafficking issues and maybe get involved in some way"- Elizabeth Grossmann
One evening, we stumbled across the largest brothel in San Jose, surrounded by Caucasian security guards, Tico pimps, and mini-skirted Tican chicas. Our unintentional run-in with this empire painted another picture of the country for us-- it helped us avoid believing a single story about this place and rounded out our understanding. Although it disturbed our week and shocked our systems, it informed us in a way that could not have been pre-designed. It allowed us to leave with conflicting understandings of this place.
"It made me think: 'how many women are inside of that brothel who have lost all hope of escape and want a different, better life?'"- Elizabeth Grossmann
"I've read a lot and heard a lot, but I had never been aware of standing right outside of a brothel, and a huge one at that. I learned a lot about what to look for and what is being done about it here"- Laurie Eastup