La Vía Campesina (LVC) is made up of many organizations of different sizes, approaches and historical experiences. In the case of LVC Central America, most of the past experiences with interns have been with local interns from the same country as the LVC organization with which they participate. Given the scope of the IALA Mesoamérica projection, we are opening up the opportunity for a limited number of gifted international interns.
We are looking for people who combine a series of qualities, although there is no cookie cutter recipe for finding good interns. We need responsible interns with at least some knowledge of farming systems and agroecology, past experience in the field, and a demonstrated commitment to popular social movements through active involvement. Computer and technical skills, as well as writing skills, are useful.
Spanish language skills are also very important for interns. It is essential that we know your working level of Spanish before your arrival. We ask potential interns to either provide us with documentation showing their proficiency level, or take a test that we can administer online and a brief Skype interview. For those interns who would like to improve their Spanish, we can provide very high quality instruction at the cost of US $80 per week, which includes 10 hours of classroom instruction and 25 hours of field Spanish instruction. The language lessons provide interns with a combination of classroom input and hands-on experience in outdoor tasks to ensure that they acquire the necessary vocabulary to work in an agroecological environment.
Interns share the joy and responsibility of building the first Latin American Peasant University. This means that we ask interns to be willing to take on tasks as they emerge, including farm production activities, writing, videotaping, participation in group reflection and analysis, occasional travel to assist in off-campus activities, and other impromptu activities. We look for interns who are good communicators, good learners and mature international participant-observers, in the sense of knowing when to stop and listen in order to be most helpful. We try to find specific projects for each intern to take advantage of their specific skills and help them leave something tangible as a result of their time. For example, last year one intern focused on helping develop a seed bank for the school, while another focused on planning an improved water system. These projects are largely up to the discretion of the intern, although we will be clear about the priority areas in which we are hoping an intern will be inspired to help us find solutions.
There are several peak farm labor periods during the year, surrounded by less intensive year-round work. During the peak periods, it is generally an “all hands on deck” situation unless someone is doing another task deemed to be especially important.
Housing is provided and is a bedroom in an on-campus cabin of which we can send you photos. While housing conditions in all of Central America are not comparable to the conditions that many US or European people are accustomed to, the school’s cabins are in good shape and are comfortable. The cabins have simple kitchens and bathrooms, while dishwashing and cloth washing is an outdoor activity.
The internships are generally associated with a solidarity donation that is based on 10% of the monthly minimum wage in the country that the intern comes from. In the case of the US, we ask for a solidarity donation of 160 dollars per month. This donation helps us cover the costs of housing supplies, electricity, and water needs, and allows a little left over for additional infrastructure needs. Food costs are separate because we are trying to support the local small producer economy. There is a solidarity market where interns can buy food at good prices from local and national LVC producer families.
The interns are supervised by the same LVC team that is responsible for creating the Peasant University. Depending on the specific skills and interests of the intern, she or he may spend more time with administrative staff, production staff, or educators. In practice, this supervision depends greatly on the availability of the school and organizational staff involved; our interns are expected to be self-motivated. Weekly meetings offer a chance for interns and staff to share ideas and concerns for making a healthy agroecological environment at the school. At the same time, interns are given the contacts that they need to effectively communicate their needs to the organization and solve any problems that could arise.