Rachel Ackland

Why did you want to serve on this board?

I was invited—and this is something I’ve wanted to do since I was in junior high: to be involved in something outside my neighborhood, outside the state, that crossed cultures and maybe crossed countries. I was fascinated by cross-cultural work. I grew up on a farm and went to a country school, and some of the children in the school were from Mexico—the children of migrant workers. Many of them went to Texas or Mexico for the winter. I’d get to know them, and then they’d disappear, and maybe they’d come back. But the father of one family that lived a few miles from us became the supervisor at a local nursery that grew trees and shrubs. He served on the school board, too, so their social status was not so different from my own. We went to birthday parties at each others’ houses. They intrigued me.

Maybe I got interested in cross-cultural ideas from reading, too. Dag Hammarskjold was attracting a lot of attention, and my folks admired him a lot. I liked cultural geography. Anyway, when I got the invitation, I thought, “Wow! It’s come around again.”

How do you see PML changing the people we reach in Minnesota?

I think I see the experience changing delegates more than communities. I know from listening to reports from people who have gone to Nicaragua, even for just a week or ten days, that many of them go into some sort of international work or human services work, economics, government. A very high percentage of them seem to have been influenced by the experience. I wish we had a way to follow up with delegates and document it, though.

What are your hopes for the future of PML?

Following the cumbre (the board summit meeting in the fall of 2015), I had a much stronger sense of the interconnectedness of North and South in this organization. I would expect that some people who were pretty well set on a path have been moved to think about how they see the world. Maybe some of their views have changed. We can’t make that happen without León and the experience in Nicaragua.

I’m most hopeful about Rosa being on the staff now. I think with a much more skilled approach to community development that we have a better chance of seeing work that will really last. Maybe now we have the infrastructure to sustain our work.

My dream is that we might do more to raise awareness here in Minnesota about the role the United States has played in Nicaragua—the history of Central America in general, as well the US position regarding current events in Nicaragua, such as the canal.

What do you think you personally bring to the board?

I find places to plug gaps. I do the legwork or support work for mailings, the fiesta, those sorts of thing. I’m also our contact with the Minnesota Historical Society, where all our materials are archived. I would be happy to contribute more, but I feel hampered by the fact that I don’t speak Spanish. So frustrating!