BLOG. The event (Let's Do It America Congress)

By Mario Orlando Guevara

Tuesday, November 13th, I took the last bus from Chalchuapa to San Salvador.

I had a lot of things going on in my mind. One of them was still about Hurricane Sandy that, long story short, changed my plans but not my life. To this day, I’m still thinking about it, thinking about new plans and what I should do next, and almost not thinking about the reason I took the bus. When the bus was already in San Salvador, I realized I arrived at my destination so I stopped the bus, went out and took a cab to Gilbert's house. I realized that I was going to meet a group of foreigners that were totally unknown to me, so I opened my mind. Every minute in the taxi I was feeling more and more happy about it.

I love to meet new people and take the risk to know them better, even if they just give you a bad time in the end. This definitely wasn't the case.

Four amazing Estonians - Kerttu, Kristiina, Anne and Marko - were in the living room with their laptops, working really hard with the event organizing team from El Salvador. It was a warm welcome. We just started to talk and share ideas, culture and new languages. This was just suurepärane! ('Excellent' in Estonian)

It was also a really tough night for me since I had to catch up with everything so I could help the organizing team in anything. It was really interesting how I just met these people and we were working on the same table, talking to each other as if we had been co-workers for a year.

Later that Tuesday night, we received Denis (Russia). He was really tired but took the time to say hi and share time with us. On Tuesday, it was the same with Neil (Nova Scotia, Canada), Erland (St. Lucia) and Dann (Philippines), altough I think I scared Dann with my zombie face when he woke me up. On Wednesday, Reggie (Barbados) and Jhon (Argentina) arrived. Finally on Thursday, the rest of the delegates arrived: Rianna (Trinidad & Tobago) bringing with her a beautiful smile, and Estefany (Peru) with an amazing positive attitude, even though her luggage was in some airport between Peru and El Salvador. Every time we received someone, we used the faces from the Let's Do It logo so they could have either a warm or scary welcome to San Salvador. Everything was coming together: the details for the conference, logistics, the excitement was in the air and everybody working, waiting for Friday morning to be awake at 3:30 AM to get ready to go to the Conference in Sonsonate.

Finally we woke up at 3:30 am in the morning and took a cab to the gas station ready for everything. In the bus, I saw familiar faces, friends and people who I had only an idea of who they were, and people who I had totally no idea of who they were. But I was sure of something: I was in a bus full of amazing people!

It was really early in the morning and the conference participants, instead of sleeping a little bit more, were talking really anxious, really excited about what was going to start in a few hours.

On our way to the hotel we enjoyed the sunrise over the 3 volcanoes and the sugar cane fields. I started to talk to Denis about politics, immigration, climate in Russia, when suddenly we arrived at the hotel. We checked in and went to breakfast. While I was eating breakfast with Laura and Ale Membreño, I noticed that the "groups of known people" were not ready to make new friends yet....YET.

We all went to the conference room, I sat next to Amarilis, having a good time when Gilbet's speech started.

The opening speech was not expected by anybody at all, making me laugh at the beginning but also make me feel nervous, weird, uncomfortable but in the end made me feel open minded and positive. I had the agenda in my hands but still didn’t know what was going to happen in those 3 days.

With an open and positive mind, the conference started. I was ready to learn from every experience that the participants had. The agenda started to take form. Patricia Toribio from Spain and Adam, Kevin and Shelby from the United States joined the conference. It was amazing seeing how every participant was involved with every workshop or presentation, how everybody tried to learn and to absorb what they were listening and seeing. The most amazing part was how everybody tried to learn from everyone. The groups from the beginning no longer existed; we stop being just a person from that country or that NGO, we were part of a big weird worldwide family that had and have one goal: work to get a better world.

I really loved to see how we were all involved and committed to listening, participating and learning from everyone. The best part that motivates you more and more is knowing that you are not alone trying to make a change. That there are more good and crazy people out there trying to change the bad habits of the society too! By the end of the first day of the conference, we were all talking about the presentations and workshops, making new friends and learning new cultures. It was really funny and interesting to see everyone trying to absorb every single thing they could, use into their own life.

The night arrived and some went to sleep, others went to have dinner and others to relax at the bars next to the beach. I remember that after dinner some of us went to a table next to the beach and it was funny how the conversation went from aliens, comic books and movies to personal hygiene habits, garbage treatment and the moon. It was really simple and it was not only me having an amazing time but everyone was having a blast!

The second day started and the excitement to learn was even bigger than the first day and you could tell from everyone's faces. Thanks to Proyecto 10-4, Hug It Forward and the Peace Corps, I learned that we can build houses, schools, parks for kids, toys and many other amazing things from the garbage that we sometimes think can't be used. I learned about circular economy, how every economical system can use it, and how I can apply it in my own life.

Neil showed us different meanings for the 3 R's: reduce means rethink what you will consume before you actually consume it, reuse also means repair since you can reuse but at some point whatever you use will need to be fixed, and of course recycle means we all become designers since we change the purpose of an object and give it a new one! I also learned how to change my habits and how my consumerism affects my environment.

From Denis' presentation I learned so much. Being persistent is how you can gain change, not giving up! That we all have a personal life and it’s obvious that it will affect our causes, but having personal issues doesn't mean that we will resign. We are fighters and we may fall but we stand up and we continue with humbleness and courage. Finally, that we have to keep the positive thinking so we can spread it to others.

With so many good things, my stacks of positivism were fully charged.

Enriqueta from VivAzul showed us how a little piece of trash affects our oceans and all the type of life that lives in it. Also how interesting the fact that when we throw a little piece of plastic into the ocean and later eat fish, we might actually be eating that plastic we threw without thinking because that's how the cycle works.

The conference got to the end and we all shared all the good learnings and experiences that we had by being part of this event. The best way to describe every participant are in the following words: empowered, encouraged, positive, happy, humble and renewed. Everybody was radiant. On our way home, some of us were all exhausted, others excited and talkative but I bet everyone was wishing for the bus to never stop. The best part about the way back home was knowing that I was part of a group of amazing people taking the risk to change the rules of society. Let's Do It changed me, but this experience was definitely one of the best ones in my entire life and thanks to every one of you, my life changed.

Thank you for taking the risk of making change. I know we can do it, so let's continue, LET'S DO IT!

"We need to be the change we wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Ghandi