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August 19, 2020

“Interwoven Journey” -Valeria Ramirez Ensastiga MA NCSS ‘21

by valeria rze

This is the final week of my internship with THP – Mexico. I have had learnings in all senses: from working completely online for the first time to knowing how to talk about the preservation of traditional knowledge without idealizing its fossilization. I am definitely grateful to the RISD Maharam Fellowship, which has allowed me to live this extraordinary experience even in the midst of the pandemic.

Although the recommendation when writing nonfiction for children is to avoid mixing with fiction, we decided that it was important to respond to the indigenuos ‘oraliteratura’ (which is the fact that orality and the use of storytelling is the natural mode of transmission of knowledge among indigenous and rural communities). Thus, the final product is a tale that explains different aspects of sustainable development, coupled with some activities specifically designed to invite the children and their families to reflect about how to achieve a more ecological life.

The story narrates the encounter between Zazil, a girl who lives in a rural community in the jungle, and a jaguar with her cub with the aim of  showing the interconnection between humans, other species and their natural environment. In each of its 12 sections, one different topic is reviewed, explaining the current situation and the necessity to achieve a local sustainable development. Some of the topics are: water, waste reduction, indigenous languages ​​and non-discrimination, traditional food and health, among others.

After several reviews by both, the THP team in Mexico City and some of the youth community leaders (catalysts), the result was two booklets. The children’s booklet contains Zazil’s story, and the catalyst booklet includes the tale plus 4 other sections. The first of these sections contains suggested activities to help children reflect more on the topic covered in each chapter. The second section is a table with data on the topic at the individual, community and global levels. The third section suggests an exercise of deep reflection for the child (and her/his family) to diagnose her (their) own current situation and thus, create a beginning in visualizing changes at the individual and family level that can be carried out to contribute to a sustainable development.  Finally, the fourth section is a list of tips that people can easily follow and share with others in their community. The THP-Mexico team also plans to use the illustrations in this last section to spread the tips through WhatsApp with the other adults that the organization works with.

The illustrations are simple shapes and the selected colors allow the image to be easily understood even though they are printed in black and white, because I figured that some of the young leaders would do the physical distribution within their communities and, for now at least, they will pay the cost of printing, making black and white printing a better option for them. The THP team is looking into funding other alliances to translate the material to some indigenous languages and to do a good quality printing of the material when the pandemic is over. 

This last week I’ve been dedicated to finishing the illustrations and polishing some editorial details that the THP team has observed. Maybe after testing it in the field THP, will need to make some adaptations according to the feedback they get. For now, I am very happy with the results that were obtained because I believe that these will help the catalysts to appropriate the content; transmit it to the children and; also, to spread it within the families of these little ones.

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