Estella

(excerpt)

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(…)

“My name is Estella Gutierez, I’m fifty-two-years-old. A friend of the community, Balvina, the director of the Civil Engineering and Environmental Faculty was in contact with Rodrigo Paris, who inquired whether there were any women ready to participate in a solar panel workshop. My friend contacted me and said, ‘Estella, you always want to participate in everything, you should offer your participation.’ So I asked my husband’s opinion. I was surprised to see he wasn’t against the idea.

“Two months went by from the time my friend spoke to me about the project to the moment Rodrigo wished to speak to me, so we welcomed him. I had many doubts; I have no diploma; I don’t know how to read. Rodrigo explained that everything is color-coded. Still, I can tell you that, once there, even if everything is color-coded, it is tough to learn because no one speaks Spanish, only a lot of English.”

(…)

“Were you fearful of the trip?”

“Not at all. Not of the trip or the distance.”

“You’ve already traveled?”

“Only to Quito. This was the first time I was so far away from my husband and children for such a long time.”

(…)

“How many women did you meet in Tilonia during your training?”

“There were around fifty or so from eleven countries: Burundi, Philippines, Cameroon, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, South Sudan, and… I don’t remember. We were two women per room. I was with Patricia. It was incredible to meet so many women from different countries, and we understood each other even though we didn’t speak the same language.”

“Concerning the training, tell me how your view of the world has changed since this voyage?”

“For me, this journey was like lighting a candle and protecting its flame to the very end. I thought a lot about my family, my children. They were with me throughout, but all the women too. Six months of exchanges, it’s as if we were all sisters, like a family, and we were all very, very good friends. In the beginning, we were lonely and found comfort in our phone calls to the family. We always ended up crying on our phone calls. Then, the more time passed, the more we grew closer to each other. It was the opposite when we left; we were very, very sad to leave our friends. You shed a tear. I keep in contact with some of them by telephone. For me, all their stories inspire and impress me. The restaurant idea, for example, came from one of the Bolivian women, who opened one at home to earn her living after the death of her husband.”

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(…)

“Is the community aware of the heavy workload and Estella’s and the community’s responsibility in electrifying two hundred houses?”

“Yes, our community is very active in the development. Everyone is excited about the installation. Here, we help one another a lot; we’re almost all related. We’ve waited for this project for so long…”