Many times when "settlers" enter a new area the indigenous people see them as something else - "conquerors". This was not the case when Wolf and the other Quakers settled Monteverde, which speaks volumes of their vision of community. In chapter 4, a local Tico talks about the arrival of the Quakers, saying that,
"For us, it was a great thing when the Quakers came because they brought new ideas. But it was more than that..."The Quaker settlers were not only interested in creating a home for themselves - they saw themselves as becoming part of a community that included all those that lived there. Initially they created businesses that were centered on their needs and leadership, but they quickly incorporated the needs and voices of the larger community. This can specifically be shown in how they created a credit union to help the locals get loans, and then developed the Monteverde Cheese Factory as a co-op that eventually included far more Ticos than Quakers.
"It was like a new dawning and it was wonderful. Those of us who stayed became great friends with the Quakers. With them, peace came to our mountain."
I find this all very inspiring and believe that a key part of its success is the Quaker belief in consensus. This is the practice of making decisions through unanimous agreement on the path forward, rather than being handed down from authority or even majority rule. It's an incredibly difficult and time consuming method, but has tremendous rewards. As I have been developing this Costa Rica Class, I have tended towards discussion and consensus-seeking when we have new problems and decisions to make. This has included grading criteria, structuring the class time, and fundraising. I have dictated very little, and the students have really stepped up to voice their opinions - and then own their decisions. I hope that you'll check out their blogs (links are on the right), and support their efforts.