Indiferencia (Indifference) short film

This is the short film (cortometraje) made by local students from Veracruz, Mexico, who took part in the project: Filming My Future. This project was possible thanks to the support of the Institute of Global Citizenship from Macalester College through its program the Live it! Fund, the Universidad Veracruzana and the local TV and Radio station Radio Parroquia. Youth from Veracruz portray in this short film their vision of the problems that affect their communities such as violence, crime, pollution and bullying, and want to create awareness among the civil society to start making changes in pro of a better future for them and the new generations.

Goodbyes and Continued Work

Yesterday was my last day at Northland High School, but not by my choice. I have come down with the flu and have spent the past day and a half in bed sleeping and coughing.

I’ll miss working at Northland. Although the workshops were not as well attended as I and the guidance counselor had hoped, it still feels successful. The guidance counselor hoped I or another college student would do a similar program again next winter. We had ended up not doing a career/college access fair because it was simpler to just send students to the ones an hour away near walker and grand rapids. The students did receive a lot more info on the college access resources the school did offer though during workshops and classroom visits, so that was one good result of the program. The timing had been the hardest to figure out because it kept conflicting with highly-attended classes: so hopefully next winter the scheduling won’t be so bad or the workshops could be made mandatory so that students don’t have to choose between class and the program. I also sent out a survey to the students to find out what the strengths and problems of the program were, so that it can be improved next time.

I met with Brody and Ben yesterday, and finally I have a picture of these camera-shy high schoolers:



In the workshop, we went over how to build resumes to discover skills and personality traits that they might not realize that they have. They were really engaged and we had a quite a bit of fun creating resumes for hypothetical situations and pretend people. We talked about how everyone has different skills and different circumstances, and we discussed the extremes that some people would go to for school. After I explained that resumes could actually be used to apply to scholarships and not just jobs, they started to see how this would help them in college. Then, they were convinced that they didn’t have any skills or achievements to put on their resume, but, after some reflection exercises, they found their strengths: Marine-life enthusiast, Varsity Football Player (every year during high school), etc. They were still asking questions when the bell-rung.

Before I left, they wanted some help with test-prep because they run out of time or get discouraged when they don’t know how to do a problem. I gave them some materials and advice on those sorts of problems, and we’ll be emailing to find out how that goes. I need to email a senior I saw the other day about gap years and community service programs since he hasn’t applied to college and doesn’t know what to do. It’s nice that, even though the program is over, the students still are asking me questions. I’m going to miss doing workshops with them, but I know we’ll keep in touch. It’s almost like I’m not saying goodbye. More like, “hello, how are you doing?”


Photos of random things around the high school:



in the school office in order to encourage studentsImage

one of the college and employment fairs the school will take the students toImage


Bilingual Sign for the girls’ bathroomImagePreparing for one of the workshops and letting students browse some college access books


Students! Time Management and Gap Years

(Sorry about the late post. I’ve been pretty busy for the past few days.)

I went up to Northland on Thursday, and three or four students came to ask me questions throughout the day. Two of them asked their teacher to let them out of class, so that they could talk to me for an hour. These two were not terribly sure if they wanted to go to college. One of them was pretty set on a technical college because he enjoyed working on physical projects and there are several opportunities in this area for technical work. The other student was a senior and had not applied to college. He told me that he did not know if college would be worth the effort since he did not know what he wanted to do. He knew he could get some jobs in the area without going to college, but he did not know if that was what he wanted. I told him about gap years and how there were community service programs and scholarship/grant opportunities for other students like him. I told both of them that they did not have to go to college straight out of high school and that it was okay to not know exactly what they wanted to do.

They shared a lot with me. I learned a lot about where the animosity towards the Native American students came from for them. They felt like the Native American students were getting more opportunities than them because there was an office of “Indian Education” in the school and they felt like the school valued the Native American students more than them. It was hard to hear them talk about this or respond to their feelings without coming across as judging them, but I think the students are starting to trust me. We switched the conversation to what sort of opportunities they have, and I hope they’re beginning to see how everyone has different options and how we often only see the good things other people have and not everything they’ve been through. I’m not sure they really got it, but I gave them some ideas about reasons to go to college and how to start thinking about their goals and priorities. They said they would come back to talk more.


The time management workshop went well too. The student from the other day came in and I got to see how he spent his day via pie charts and hourly schedules. He was really surprised about how little time is spent in class each day at college. We talked about testing too since he had just taken an MCA (I think that’s what he said) and how important the ACT can be for getting scholarships and grants from colleges. I gave him a list of colleges with pretty good environmental studies and biology programs, and also talked to him about coming in and getting some test-prep time since the school doesn’t offer much as far as study skills for juniors and seniors. He was rather excited but also pretty stressed about the tests. I’m going to send them all emails later today with more info about gap years, colleges they might like, and test prep. I’m pretty excited.

The end is coming up


Hi!! from the now temperate lands of Veracruz, Mexico. Today, the crew composed of the 8 participants and 2 other children (our little and best actors!) had its last day of filming in the streets of the city. The day was still a little bit windy, but not as cloudy as yesterday. It is as if we had been blessed by the weather, also the clear sky favored our team because the illumination was better. Fortunately, we finished before it got dark, it just took us three hours. I think that such efficiency was due to the talent of the participants and also their desire to do their best. Nevertheless, there were still many repetitions that at times desperated the most little ones. We started around 3 pm and finished by 6 pm, at the moment we ended it was evident the sort of sad atmosphere that started to invade the place. I think that although the group just met for a week, we all got to know each other pretty well because of the open space that I helped to create from the very first moment we met on last Monday. Tomorrow, we will officially end the project, we will meet during the morning to edit the video, put some background music or sound and do the ending credits. We will then get pretty (ahahah) and meet in the afternoon for the showcase of our film and a final gathering. Image

A Hectic & Successful Start

Yesterday, after about 12 hours spent travelling and purchasing clothes (by the 100 lbs!) from a warehouse in the city of Matagalpa, the Women’s Association of Matiguas officially opened its used clothing collective. The power of informal networks in this community never ceases to amaze me; people began arriving to rummage through the massive piles of clothing even before we had them all counted and price. While the high demand for clothes resulted in some confusion, it definitely bodes well for the future of the collective. After over 4 exhausting hours of sales, we were left with about half of the clothing, which the women will continue to sell in different neighborhoods for the next few weeks.

What I’m enjoying most about this project is how much it’s not my project. What I mean is that, while I (and Mac) have certainly provided the economic support necessary to begin the project and I play a part in its implementation, the women I’m working with cultivated the idea of the used clothing collective and worked tirelessly to ensure that it goes smoothly, all with the greater goal of constructing a safe space for women in mind–this work is really theirs. And now, without further ado, pictures:

P1000670 Purchasing the clothes in Matagalpa.

P1000675 Opening the packages (one of the most exciting moments).

P1000695 Sorting…

P1000708 And finally open for business!

island hopping

 Imageseries of recent highlights 

its currently 16:36 and we are beating the brutal heat of midday inside an internet cafe in kalpitiya town.  over the past week, from the time of the new moon, the weather has been quite favorable and this has allowed for much expedition of the area, including both island and marine environments.  

anthony, our boatman, has taken us to 8 of the 15 islands, all of which are up for development. their terrain varies from mangrove and marsh to sand and grassland, and 9 of them are home to small villages of migratory fisherman. on a few, developers have already erected signage laying claim to their respective sights. with that being said, anthony has informed us that currently there are quite a few court cases occurring between developers, land owners, and fisherman. *more on this later

two days ago, en route to a nearby reef – Bar Reef – we finally spotted an object in the water that fitted the profile of the dugong. turns out, it was a large shoal of fish surrounding a log. but our hopes are still high and the ardent pursuit continues. at Bar Reef, we donned the scuba gear and explored as much as we could despite the turbid water conditions. 

due to logistical reasons, this weekend and into next week, we have scheduled to conduct interviews with various local officials and fisherman. we will further provide updates soon, for now we must quickly go and film the sunset from the tip of the kalpitiya peninsula, an area called uchchamunai.

*on the photo: vin and myself with anthony’s 4 children – Vinodini (3), Vinoth (13), Madushka (6), Uresha (16)

Campus Visits Workshop: Low Attendance, but Encouragement


This is the entrance to the high school. I forgot my good camera, so I took this on my phone.


I had a long day up at the high school. Not many students peaked into speak with me about college, but I did a workshop about Campus Visits and how important it is to choose the right college. Due to bad-timing during the school day and it also being finals week: there was only one student there. However, he was really interested and told me about his reaction to BSU (Bemidji State University) and how he felt his only option left was UMD (University of Minnesota at Duluth). He described himself to me as a hardworking farm boy wanting to be a marine biologist because of his love of nature. I told him about some smaller colleges in Minnesota that had environmental studies programs and good student support services. Since those seemed to be his main concerns with UMD. He hadn’t heard of any of those colleges before, so he seemed pretty happy that he had more options than he had thought. I guess that’s all I can do: show students how many opportunities there are.


(Tomorrow I’m leading a workshop on time management in the afternoon. It’ll be at a later time which doesn’t conflict with as many classes, so I hope more students will attend.)