For those of you who have not heard of ‘active loitering’ (as I had not until several months ago) it is a proactive approach to ‘hanging out’, ‘networking’ or ‘making contacts’. No barriers. In my first few days in Antigua I found out how both Heather (Alicia) and Greg are really effective in doing this.
I joined Heather and Greg for a number of sessions of active loitering around Antigua, and what I found so impactful were the interactions that they have with some of the poorest of the poor. While most of the other tourists and gringos in the city square were being harassed to buy cheap trinkets by very poor women or their young children (it is a major industry here in Antigua), when they saw Heather and Greg they would come over with big smiles and hugs. It was so moving and allowed us to get ‘in touch’ with those who are representative of the children who will eventually live in our Children’s Village.
One little girl (who I later found out was called Juana) approached me. She had no hands. Later I noticed she had no feet. What she did have was a huge smile and a positive attitude. What I did not know was she had previously befriended Heather and Greg and they knew that her love in life was mathematics! Heather told me that her parents used her physical disabilities to generate income for the family. Juana is one of many of the poorest inhabitants of the city who know Heather and Greg at a personal level. There was also Domingo, the 7 year old shoeshine boy who Greg bought a lunch of some chicken for him and his father. And the three children who were treated to orange juice at the table next to ours when we went out for dinner. Many of the children I saw that related so closely with them were the subjects of the photos that are on our website or project materials, all of whom Greg and Heather knew personally and treated with dignity and respect.
Active loitering however does not just focus on the poor. During my time in Antigua I was also introduced to a number of individuals who are interested in supporting our project or who have contacts who are now considering some level of financial support.
Over the last few days, I have come to the conclusion that the only way our project can move forward successfully is to involve people of all backgrounds: inviting them to join with us to bring about a village that allows children to reach their full potential. We must reach out to people from all walks of life, recognizing the unique contribution that each individual can make. We must include everyone from the children of Parque Central to the ex-patriots living in Guatemala, to the individuals from nearby villages – securing their input so that whatever we do ‘fits’ into their world.
So try active loitering in your life and see what the results might be.