Global Business Brigades is bringing a brigade of students from the University of Texas Austin. They will be dividing into three groups. One will becoming to El Valle to do a business accounting workshop for the women involved in plant sales.
The first day they will give a presentation about what GGB is and how they can help with the sale of plants. It will also give them a chance to meet and greet the community. Later that week GBB will give a basic accounting workshop. What follows are my notes on how to hold those two meetings.
Be prepared to give both presentations with out electricity. El Valle does not have electricity and although EarthTrain's facilities do, some times they go out.
Dinamicas / Icebreakers
A good way to kick off your meetings, to loosen people up and create a more comfortable vibe is a dinamica. Jeff and I can help you pick one. Hombre, Tigre, Refle or Terimoto. Any little participatory game makes for a fun way to start.
Many of the women have trouble reading. Either they can't read or they don't have glasses. They are embarrassed to admit they can't read. This is an indirect culture, so they will never tell you they can't read and write. Please use written word as little as possible. Instead try using symbols, images and photos to show your points. Also if using text, use a big font for those who's eyes are bad.
Most women can add and subtract. Many of them know how to use a calculator. The older women never attended school. The middle age only completed 6th grade. You will be dealing with smart women, who have never had the chance to learn formally. Consider using props or learning games to illustrate your points. Hands on experience will also get your point across.
Panama is an indirect culture, so rarely will someone say "I don't understand". They often won't say anything at all. I have found asking "Me explico bien? (Did I explain well?)" is a good way to ask. That way it is my fault I didn't explain something well. Not their fault they didn't understand. Also these women deal daily on a family level. When giving an example it is handy to relate it to their experiences. Buying food for the family, knowing how much their family eats to decided how much dinner to make could all be good ways to relate business accounting to their lives.
When having a meeting refreshments are expected. Cookies and Koolaid are fine, it might be fun to do something like popcorn because they have never had it. It could be a good opportunity to share culture, specifically Texan or just USA-ian. Or if you want some Panamanian culture we could arrange to have a Panamanian snack. Make sure you include that in your budget.
Invitations and Posters
Jeff and I will put up posters up for the "Introduction to GBB" meeting. Should we invited the whole town (as many as 30 people) or just the 9 women? I will also give out invitations to the "Basic Accounting" workshop to the woman who are participating. You should have 9 women for that seminar.
Also be aware the women may bring their young children and babies to the meeting. This is perfectly acceptable in the culture. A little distracting maybe, but that's just the way it is. The time of day for meetings in the afternoon. The best times are between 2-5 pm. The women will still need to make dinner and lunch for their families, so be aware of that. School will be out for the year, so you can base out of the school and do your presentations there if you like. Our house is too small for a meeting, but you are welcome to come and use our house, bathroom, get a drink of water, or what ever when you are in El Valle.