70 women and 21 vehicles gathered in San Marcos June 21. Convoy organizers, in the course of a monthlong trip, plan to meet with and leave supplies for women’s groups in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and indirectly, El Salvador. By the time the convoy reaches the Mexican border it will include participants from more than 21 states. Meg Livesey, the convoy’s national coordinator from Boston, said that this is the first exclusively women’s convoy to travel to Central America. This is significant, Livesey said, because women provide the infrastructure for health and child care in these Central American countries. Many of the men have been killed by violence, war, and hunger, she said. The theme of the trip, according to Livesey, is: “Between women there are no boundaries.” Boundaries have proven to be a problem for previous humanitarian convoys, such as the 1988 Veterans Convoy to Central America. When that group arrived in Laredo, the State Department denied it ‘permission to depart because of organizers’ intention to leave vehicles in Nicaragua. State Department officials contended that the U.S. ban on military assistance to the government of Nicaragua also included a ban on the delivery of cars or trucks. It took several months for Laredo Federal Judge George P. Kazin to rule that the President can not regulate humanitarian aid. Because of this ruling, explained Gerry ‘Condon, who was a coordinator of the veterans convoy, the Women’s Convoy expects no problems at the border. Amy Sapowith, who works with an environmental group in Washington, D.C., said the convoy already had a few surprises before reaching San Marcos. Outside of Knoxville, she said, two women in a Mercedes Benz flagged down the convoy to donate $100. Members of the group were also surprised at how truck drivers responded to them. Initially, the truck drivers asked where the men were, but later, after convey members explained what they were doing, the truckers became supportive. Carla Odiago of Hartford, Connecticut, said the reality of U.S. policy in Central America and the suffering of the people there prompted the women to join together to do something to help. This effort began at the local level where women sought contributions, held fundraisers, and donated their time to prepare for the convoy. They gathered hundreds of thousands of pounds in supplies. In addition to farm tools and photocopy machines, the convoy’s payload includes medical supplies, sewing equipment, school supplies, birth control supplies, baby scales, typewriters, and baby resuscitators. The 21 vehicles the women are driving include four ambulances, a bus, numerous trucks, and a Volkswagen Rabbit. All will be left in Central America and members of the convoy will fly back from Managua. All supplies, JIM LACY Women’s Convoy members at San Marcos. the women emphasize, are items that the women’s groups in Central America requested. These supplies, said Odiago, are intended to “give people resources to do their own thing.” Sapowith said the trip is not intended, though, as an “us give them” event. She expects the group will receive as much as they give. “It’s hard to imagine,” Sapowith said, “what we will learn.” Sapowith was not alone in her enthusiasm. Many of the women in the convoy expressed the same sentiment as Betts Putnam, a longtime activist from Tucson who said “This is the most exciting project I’ve ever worked with.” -JIM LACY Jim Lacy is an Observer editorial intern. A NOTE TO OUR READERS We are holding our coverage of the May 23 Yarborough-Kennedy Texas Observer benefit until our next issue, which will be dated July 14. We will be presenting excerpts from the speeches at the event, including the major addresses by former Senator Ralph Yarborough and Senator Edward Kennedy. After the July issue we will take our summer break and there will be .three weeks before the next issue, which will have a cover date of August 4. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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