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Building a Team That is Proud to “Be Semilla Nueva”

What can we say about Trini Recinos? A pastor’s heart, an academic’s mind, and a best friend’s compassion. Those who’ve met him know his easy-going personality, his jokes, his smooth crooning voice, and his dedication to his work. Trini has been with Semilla Nueva from the beginning. In fact, since before the beginning.

Trini met Semilla Nueva’s founders (Joe, Brook and Curt) on their first trip through Central America in 2009. Even then, working on a coffee farm, Trini spoke with passion about the needs of Guatemala’s farmers and the power of campesino a campesino, farmer to farmer development. When Semilla Nueva was founded in 2010, Trini was key to conversations about exactly what it would take to make a real change in agriculture and sustainability in the southern coast of Guatemala. Working as a Semilla Nueva tecnico, or agricultural technician since 2011, Trini was recently promoted to Programs Director. He’s incredibly proud of his new position and was eager to share his thought about his role and the work of Semilla Nueva.

Trini thumbs up

What do you miss most about being a tecnico?

I miss most the direct contact with the people, the campesinos.  The way I got to share so much time with them; to talk, to laugh, to learn, to share ideas, to make jokes.  Especially the exchange of ideas, the opportunities I had to learn from all of the campesinos, their ideas, their innovations. Truly, that is something I miss very much.

What about your new position, what are you most excited about?

That I can help the other tecnicos. After being a tecnico for so long, I know what I wanted in terms of support, help, training, development. And now I have the chance to give what I wanted to get as a tecnico. The other thing is that I have the responsibility to coordinate the agricultural activities that I truly believe are going to have an incredible impact in all of the country. That makes me super excited.  I get excited too to help plan events on behalf of Semilla Nueva. I feel so proud to be part of a movement so big, that’s receiving support and assistance from so many partners like CIMMYT, MAGA, ICRISAT, the campesinos themselves. It’s a movement that is big, and it’s really happening, and I am so proud to be a part of it.

Why do you work for Semilla Nueva?

Actually, I feel like I don’t work for SN, I feel like I’m just having fun, enjoying my time doing something I love, and it happens to be work.  I am Semilla Nueva. We are Semilla Nueva. Its not something I do, it is who I am. It’s work that is real and true; we are actually doing something. I think too that the method we use, the Campesino a Campesino, gives a lot of support to making our work actually work.  At the same time the point of sustainability is respecting and protecting Mother Nature. Its so important to balance those two aspects with also actually making it economically beneficial to campesinos.  There are people on one side or the other, but we are trying to find techniques that can do it all, and I’m proud of that.

I wanted to add something else. To be Semila Nueva…I always say “I don’t work for Semilla Nueva, I am Semilla Nueva.” Sometimes when I hear someone say “I support Semilla Nueva” or “I participate with Semilla Nueva” I don’t like it. I think the campesinos will someday say “I am Semilla Nueva”, the tecnicos will say “I am Semilla Nueva”, and the donors will say “I am Semilla Nueva”. I think its a philosophy of being.

Semilla Nueva has recently filled another new role as well. Lee Stroman joined the team in mid-January as the Communications and Outreach Coordinator. Working in Guatemala, Lee will be the voice of the campesinos, sharing their stories with Semilla Nueva supporters through outreach materials, the newsletter and social media.

Growing up in Essex, MA, north of Boston, Lee attended University of Massachusetts Amherst receiving a Public Health and Resource Economics dual degree. After graduation, she worked as a Community Ambassador for United Way. Though she’s traveled through much of Latin America, Lee is new to Guatemala and is excited to explore the rugged beauty of Xela and the communities where Semilla Nueva works.


Why did you want to work for Semilla Nueva?

Two words: potential and empowerment. What excited me about Semilla Nueva is the opportunity to work with a small group of passionate people on a cause that has the potential to explode and become something much larger. Semilla Nueva is not just any development organization; the majority of the staff are native farmers living and harvesting in the communities we work with.  It is the farmers who are responsible for holding monthly meetings to discuss what techniques are, or are not, working. The women’s groups  hold cooking classes to discuss new ways to create nutritious meals to undermine malnutrition.  That is what is so important. Semilla Nueva is igniting empowerment, not imposing ideas, but spreading awareness and knowledge of agricultural techniques that otherwise would never reach these small rural communities.

This is your first time to Guatemala, what are your first impressions?

The people I have met in my first week here in Xela have been extremely welcoming, kind and friendly. They are always willing to listen to my broken Spanish and even better correct me when I’m wrong with beaming smiles. I am amazed at how mountainous the country is and how naturally beautiful it is. From any rooftop in Xela you can have a 360 view of mountains and volcanoes. It is a very interesting climate; you will get sunburnt during the day and be freezing at night. That must be why there are pine trees next to palm trees. I am amazed at how vibrant the women’s traditional Mayan clothing is and how each stitching means something significant pertaining to their ancestry. One of my favorite aspects of Xela is how unassuming it is. The cobblestone streets are lined by pastel concrete buildings with large doors that are usually closed off and locked. However, 9 times out of 10, when you enter there is a secret garden or an open air terrace with beautiful greens plants and flowers of all different tropical colors. I don’t think it will ever cease to excite and amaze me what could be behind these old walls.

What aspect of SN’s work interests you the most?

I am most interested in the food security and nutritional aspect of the work that we are doing. Coming from a background in Public Health I am interested in seeing how different agricultural techniques, and introducing pigeonpea, will not only improve incomes but also malnutrition rates.

What are you most looking forward to in the first 6 months of your new position?

I am most looking forward to getting to know the farmer and families that we work with. It is only then that I will be able to portray the real message Semilla Nueva is trying to get across.

You’ve only been in Guatemala for just over a week; what has been the coolest experience yet?

The coolest experience I’ve had so far here in Guate is walking around the bustling market, La Democracia. It was so incredible to see so many different types of fresh vegetables and fruits being sold straight from harvest. That is something that unfortunately you do not see much in the United States, and many other countries in Central America such as Panama and Costa Rica are losing. I couldn’t help but to buy some fresh mandarins!

Semilla Nueva is overjoyed to welcome Lee, and to congratulate Trini on his promotion!

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