San Pedro Sula Part of the adventure of ACORN International’s annual board and staff meetings is the experience of going to a new city with everyone and seeing the progress of the local leaders and members on the ground, but the other part of the adventure is always seeing if Skype will work well enough for all of the organizations around the world to successfully call in their reports. Miraculously, even though we had forgotten the projector in Toronto, the Skype gods showed some love for ACORN International as they looked down from cyberspace, and we successfully connected with every office. Yes, Bengaluru went down for several hours in the middle of their report, but that was due to a power failure in southern India. And, of course many times we could only hear and not see, except for the report from Nairobi where we could only see and not hear, but that’s the way of the world in international organizing, so we all commented on how well it worked this meeting.
The reports were varied and, proud to say, showed significant progress.
In Rome the longstanding tenant-landlord campaign continues, but now ACORN Italy has begun basic community organizing. There was great excitement over the new organizing in Edinburgh and the affiliation of Edinburgh Private Tenant Action Group (EPTAG) as the founding member of ACORN Scotland. Everyone was excited to hear the plans for organizing door-to-door in Pilton. Michal Ulvr accomplished the impossible by reading his report in both Czech and in Google translate English! There were even calls from the United States as our radio stars with KABF, Bryan Frazier, our new assistant station manager, and John Cain, our veteran program director, both got their first time on Skype. Michael Munk of the Esimorp Network headquartered in Baltimore was defeated by Skype but we managed to Skype to his phone so that he was able to introduce everyone to a potential new affiliate in the USA.
Judy Duncan, ACORN Canada’s head organizer, jumped into the breach and read Sammy Ndirangu’s report from ACORN Kenya when the sound went off, and somehow it worked out just fine. The organization has expanded to yet more “villages” within the Korogochu slum in Nairobi and dues is paying for the rent of a small office and other needs. Orfa Camacho from Lima was able to brief everyone not only on the work in San Juan Laragancho, but also on the progress in Chincha, several hours up the coast where we have now helped complete the early childhood center. Yadira Micolta updated everyone on the land title fights in La Matanza and the legal support she has now organized in Buenos Aires behind our squatters. The lawyers have also helped navigate our new persona juridica or legal registration which is also good news.
Vinod Shetty from Mumbai discussed progress in our ragpicker organizations and plans for a pickup were advanced. Our Dharavi Rocks “junk” band played before 7000 recently and a new book on Dharavi has a chapter interviewing Vinod on his ACORN work. Dharmendra Kumar in Delhi updated every one on the developments with FDI and the shifting fight to the states, where 75% have already stated that they will not allow superstores thus far. He also reported that our work running night shelters for migrant workers continues to progress. Suresh Kadashan reported that we now have formally registered several ACORN unions of construction workers and have 7 or 8 pending registrations for ACORN hawkers and street vendor unions, which was very exciting. Reports from Honduras, our hosts, and Mexico City were detailed and instructive in pulling the pieces together for everyone after a day in various parts of Choloma and San Pedro Sula, and of course every one eagerly awaits reports from Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto to lead the way for our future.
It is always a long year with many challenges and frustrations in trying to organize across our far flung world, but taking a couple of days with 15 of us together and another 10 coming in through Skype makes it all seem worthwhile once we can step aside, measure progress, and tabulate the peoples’ victories.