Angie Johnston

Thirteen Years of Transformation

"Bella Vista Esquina Mutualismo" which translated means "Beautiful View Corner Mutuality", I just learned is the street name of the corner which stands Centro Te Veo; a large two-story, bold, blue building with the images of two faces of women looking at each other, and the words "See and Be Seen" painted clearly for anyone walking by to know what this place is all about. It is beautiful, and when you climb up onto the roof, you can get a clear, 360-degree view of La Canita and La Victoria. Centro Te Veo sits on a corner that welcomes people in from both directions, creating space for positive, interactive relationships between people and an inherent sense of give-and-take to be shared amongst all.

Reciprocal Dignity

Now, thirteen years into the story of Project I See You, Centro Te Veo exists as a symbol of the power of "reciprocal dignity".  It stands beautiful, blue, and bold to remind us that the work of seeing and being seen builds us all up and ripples out love and change to our communities. This building rests on the labor of women caring for each other and so points us to look and see the unseen - how no "one" is anyone's savior in the whole operation of relationship, growth, transformation, and love. We all come to the table together, with no hierarchy of worth, only people who carry our needs and beauty to give and receive from each other.

“Looking back one can see the seeds planted in faith burst through the ground, grow and change into a tree bearing fruit”

Looking back one can see the seed of "reciprocal dignity" planted in faith, not knowing how it would burst through the ground, grow, and change into a whole tree, which now bears fruit in its season. It was during this last trip (April 2022), the women of ISY La Canita and the women of ISY Colorado gathered, on the original plot of land, where we first began to understand the power of reciprocal dignity and how much each one of us need to connect to our worth as a woman.

Stories From the Past

Edervirjen was an 81-year-old woman, who willingly allowed us to use her yard whenever we would gather. Eli, the director of ISY La Canita, had the great idea to have a time in which we would return to our origin and share stories of how we started as ISY, to appreciate more deeply how far we had come. That day we heard all kinds of stories from the approximately 20 or more different kinds of trips including women, mother/daughter, single women, youth, men, music, building and repair, well-digging, medical, sports, jewelry making, sewing, weddings, birthdays, sickness, healings, floods, cooking, etc....that have contributed to the unfolding of long-term mutually empowering relationships. We laughed, cried, sang songs, danced, and washed each other's feet, all in the spirit of remembering who we are and where we have come from. It was a sacred and lovely time.

One story bravely shared, that stands out in my mind, was from a woman named Reyita, who has been a part of ISY from the beginning.  Reyita spoke succinctly and tenderly remembering when she first learned to make a "bead", and then an earring, and then necklaces and bracelets. She remembered with us when she first realized that "she was creative" and that she could make something beautiful and was good at it. With gratitude and warmth, she expressed how this changed her life, and we all clapped for her.

"WOW!" I felt and thought hearing Reyita tell her story, seeing clearly how teaching a woman a new skill brings new power and opportunity into their life.  This story sparked more awe and wonder in me remembering times when we would be gathering and working on different projects together in the streets of La Canita, and how we would all voice the wish and need to have a place with a roof and electricity, so our efforts would not be so easily thwarted by the weather or sudden power deficiency. Being outside in the elements truly made it difficult to hear, or carry out whatever project we were working on.

Equal Footing

I remembered how this one time we (a group of women) came into La Canita and were filled with surprise when the women of ISY La Canita revealed their "new place" that they had secured. The rusty, corrugated metal on this little casita shone beautifully with the sign they had made and hung on the front, which said, "Proyecto Te Veo". "WOW! We have a building. This is Amazing!" I said in amazement, and right there in the streets of La Canita, we all felt our worth. Things were changing. We were changing. These women were no longer waiting to be directed and given to, they were taking their own steps toward something better.

That day, this past April, re-visiting the plot of land, Edervirjen had generously offered us to use, it felt like we were immersed, just like the feet of our wise, elderly women were immersed when they humbly allowed us to wash their feet. We honored our sagacious women - Edervirjen (93), Michele (68), Theresa (67), Susie (60), and Matilda (71), their years and the wisdom that comes with those years, their suffering, and their beauty. In all, the stories and worship offered, found us all filled- up with awe and goodness, experiencing no difference between the one washing and the one being washed, or the one giving and the one receiving. At the end of this sacred time, we all stood to our feet, on equal footing and walked together through La Canita (stopping in and praying for a woman who could not come, because of the pain in her feet from neuropathy) to the spacious Centro Te Veo on the "beautiful view corner of mutuality".

Trash to Treasure

It wasn't long after the ISY woman of La Canita had secured their own building to work from, paying monthly from their own pockets, that vision and momentum grew even more in the hope that ISY would one day be able to acquire a building of their own. It was September 2015 when the property was purchased, and the construction of the beautiful, blue, and bold Centro Te Veo began.

We all worked together, men, women, and children from both countries joining forces to see this land cleared and prepared. This particular corner had been designated, for many years, as the local dump for the people living around there to throw their garbage. There was an enormous mound of trash that needed tending. The hours it took to conquer the depths of trash piled on this property were many.

While we were working one day feeling the sun beating down on us, I remember realizing how each scoop of garbage was the symbol of transformation becoming the foundation of this new structure. This building was going to be a place where beauty would be made from refuse. It was happening, hope was being found from this old ground, and life was springing up from death.

Centro Te Veo was the physical provision of collaborative long-term relationship come to fruition. This space would one day further the work of empowering women to connect with their local resources in creating beauty (jewelry, furniture making), education, community outreach, as well as further emotional, relational, and spiritual healing.

Our Trip

And here are, right now, eleven women from Colorado, re-uniting with the women of La Canita, (since it has been a three-year hiatus from working together in person, due to Covid struggles) having walked through twelve years of relationship, to step together into this beautiful, blue and bold center of reciprocity where we all connect with our innate worth and exist with each other beyond our stations, possessions, achievements, sex, color, etc.

This is a place where hierarchies are dissolved, and love is offered freely. It was fitting on this night, in this new center of seeing and being seen, we had a party. Two women from our Colorado group and two women from their La Canita community had birthdays in April, during that very week. We celebrated their arrival into the world and the years they had lived - Michele, Francesca, Susie, and Albania. Each one is so full of love, personality, and unique gifts to offer the world. And just like we celebrated them, we reveled in Centro Te Veo, how it came to be and all the new ways it was going to hold space for people to know their worth, and experience relationships that are positive, interactive, and kind.

There was a new hope growing that many other groups, from all over the world, would find their way to La Canita and be hosted in the center, giving and receiving from Centro Te Veo. Dancing, laughing, games, music, sharing of gifts, talking, food and drink, and an overall really good time filled the Center on this night. It was fun!

So much has changed. In the beginning, Project I See You in La Canita was a group of women, who gathered to learn and grow and interact with "the Americans" who came to visit. Now, "Project I See You, La Canita" is a community of women using their own voices and hands to be a presence in their community, offering hope and love to those around them. We, Project I See You, Denver, are honored to come/walk alongside them in actions they are taking to invest and strengthen the world around them; we come to encourage them and in reciprocity, receive from them in the process.

Centro Te Veo

“It stands strong reminding us of the work to see and be seen. It builds us all up rippling out love and change to our communities.”

Centro Te Veo is a large two-story building.  The bottom – is an educational space where people can gather, business occurs, and lots of community interaction. This place is active, expansive, and there for the people of La Canita. It stands strong reminding us of the work to see and be seen. It builds us all up rippling out love and change to our communities.

Usually, when a group goes to La Canita, we rent a house in La Victoria which is further away and separate from the community of ISY women. Not anymore. We are hosted now by ISY women. We slept, ate our meals, played games in the streets, completed a jewelry project, sang, danced, celebrated birthdays, grieved losses, worshiped, and daily gathered 'round, and all this at the Center.

Each day of this weeklong trip was a vast confirmation of the work of Project I See You. Getting to remember stories of where we have been and spending time dreaming of where we are going, made the present moments complete with love. Centro Te Veo is a compelling, wonderful, spacious place offering service to the community and the women of ISY are transforming the community around them.

One of the most powerful events we witnessed at the Center was a "graduation". Thirty-two people, 30 of them women, graduated with certifications from three different classes: furniture making, pastry creations, and "chemicals (making their own cleaning supplies). There were about 100 people, dressed in their finest, for this significant occasion.

“They are now their own non-profit organization, actively reaching out to provide for and help those around them. ”

Every five minutes I found myself leaning over to whoever was sitting next to me to express awe and wonder over the empowerment happening through Centro Te Veo. They have come so far! They are now their own non-profit organization, actively reaching out to provide for and help those around them.  There were moments where it felt overwhelming to see each of the graduates take pride in their accomplishments and know they have furthered their ability to sustain themselves and their families. Our whole team expressed deep joy and affirmation for the work happening through Project I See You.


As a team of eleven women going on this trip to continue the story of Project I See You, we were uniquely equipped with extra measures of openness, vulnerability, and acknowledgment of our own places of poverty. We brought with us a willingness to receive and be taught by the women of La Canita, as well as each other. We were deeply affected by all we encountered - the place, people, and specifically the women living their lives in La Canita. They gave us so much and we came home, as women influenced and changed because of their hospitality and service.

Here are some of the things said by the women in our group about what they received

  • Love, support, and confirmation that I am enough
  • Love and confirmation about who I am
  • New perspective that will forever shape how I move forward in many different aspects of my life
  • Called back into the work of creating community God's way
  • Reassurance that the work of Project I See You is GOOD
  • No condemnation - to stop and for a while living without the voice of condemnation in my head critiquing who I am
  • I felt so much love and acceptance
  • I was humbled and in awe of where Project I See You has come, from the beginning until now.
  • Waking up to more of life because of being out of my comfort zone and finding my need for community and relationships with those who live life differently than me.
  • I found freedom in allowing myself, especially parts I feel shame about, to be seen and included by others
  • Connection to my deepest longings
  • A sense of humility and awe over seeing where Project I See You has come from the beginning until now
  • Being able to deeply experience the joining together of the sacred and the ordinary
“What started out as a small seed of woman gathering outside, in the streets of La Canita and in the yard of Edervirjen, has taken many shapes and forms, growing and transforming.”

We came home transformed into beings that will ripple into the lives of our family, friends, and community with new, more expansive ways to love one another.

What started out as a small seed of woman gathering outside, in the streets of La Canita and in the yard of Edervirjen, has taken many shapes and forms, growing and transforming. One of those shapes is in the form of Centro Te Veo (I See You Center) on the corner of "Bella Vista Esquina Mutalismo" (Beautiful View Corner Mutuality). It is a beautiful, blue and bold building containing space for us all to see past another's poverty and receive something beyond our own prosperity - to connect with each other. This reciprocal dignity exchange dissolves false power hierarchies and brings healing, belonging and the ability to use one's own voice to bear in our communities.

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