Special USMF Newsletter - People-to-People Program
Chiapas, Mexico 2012-2013
USMF Launches P2P Program With San Antonio Delegation in Chiapas, Mexico
In 2012, the USMF received a multi-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to develop and roll out our new People-to-People (P2P) program, intended to enhance philanthropic/binational partnerships among Mexican Americans, migrants, communities and non-governmental organizations primarily in the Chiapas, Campeche and Yucatan micro-regions. The USMF launched its pilot P2P program in Chiapas, Mexico with great success, culminating a first phase of the project with a recent visit to Chiapas by an affinity group from San Antonio, TX.
P2P is an initiative of the USMF’s Mexican American Leadership Initiative (MALI) that brings together U.S. business and civic leaders and selected Mexican communities in order to forge long-term understanding and collaboration between the two. The intent is to achieve long-term engagement with Mexico in a strong, coherent way in order to improve the conditions and quality of life of the people of the chosen localities in Mexico. This is based on the conviction that we share a common destiny as a region, and that the many links that bind us (geography, history, migration, etc.) should translate into greater solidarity and effective development support.
In January 2012 USMF presented the new P2P initiative to the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and received an enthusiastic response from that community. Subsequently the USMF conducted more in-depth research on Chiapas and on specific civil society initiatives in the region, Zuraya Tapia and Mercedes Caso visited the area and evaluated a number of projects to present for the consideration of the San Antonio community. The group of San Antonio leaders then received the proposals and developed their own internal structure, dividing into working groups by project and selecting a sub-set of the broader group to make an initial visit to the potential partner communities in Chiapas. This initial visit took place in November 2012 and the USMF and San Antonio team prepared by holding regular online meetings with counterparts in Chiapas and by participating in a preparatory webinar briefing conducted by Michael Greces, Virginia Calhoun, Deborah Colvin and Nils McCune of the Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas.
Building Bridges: San Antonio Goes to Chiapas
Chiapas, Mexico – From November 24-28, 2012, a group of leaders from San Antonio visited four specific projects in various Chiapas communities: Aid to Artisans in San Cristóbal, Chiapas; a clinic project in Pocolúm, Chiapas; a youth group –DIFA– in Chenalhó, Chiapas; and a middle school with a number of development projects in Majosik, Chiapas. The San Antonio delegation was comprised of the Honorable Henry Cisneros, Dorothy Ettling, Carlos Martens, Margarita Martens, Dr. Josephine Ruiz Healy, Patricia Stout, and Mario Vázquez. USMF staff present included Martha Smith, President and CEO; Mercedes Caso, Program Officer; and Ana Laura Pacheco, consultant to the project.
The group, based out of San Cristóbal de las Casas, began their trip visiting the project to develop a clinic in Pocolúm that would serve the entire surrounding region. They were received with a welcoming ceremony of the native authorities, T’sunujel, and festivities by representatives of the communities that would benefit from the clinic: Chenalhó, Tenejapa, Oxchuc and Mitontic. Afterwards the group toured the construction site of the clinic, learned about the needs that would be met by the same and learned about the main health problems and diseases that affect the local populations. As a result of this visit and bringing the two groups together, the U.S. group will help these Chiapas native communities as they work with a local consultant on how best to meet their healthcare needs, develop a plan to ensure that the current construction meets their needs, and a plan to subsequently operate the clinic. Click here to view the very moving flag ceremony, welcoming ceremony, San Antonio group message, and videos about this project.
Aid to Artisans
On the second day, the group met with Aid to Artisans (ATA), an organization that helps women weavers and artisans develop methods of production and design in order to improve their access to markets. This experience exposed the San Antonio group to the role arts and crafts can play in these communities, making it a primary or sole source of income in most cases. Women artisans who visited with the group shared that owning their craft and making it a business is also a source of self-esteem and value for them. Members of the San Antonio group committed to hosting a trunk show in 2013 for the Chiapas artisans and working with them on an ongoing basis to develop a catalog of preferred designs and to show them in the U.S. Click here to view the videos about this project.
The group later traveled to Chenalhó to meet with a group of students and young adults who launched their own local non-profit, DIFA Alternativas y Actualización A.C, in order to educate young people on basic health and safety issues and to promote educational attainment. The group discussed with the San Antonio delegation an idea to start an online University program for local students and their desire to also build a University that could serve the numerous surrounding tzotzil-speaking communities that otherwise do not have access to higher education. The San Antonio delegation provided their feedback based on their own experiences working with Universities in the U.S.
Playground Project, Majosik
On the last day of the visit, the San Antonio delegation traveled to Majosik, Chiapas, to meet with Eduan Arce, a professor who trains other teachers on interactive and engaged learning. Using teaching techniques that he is also learning through a continuing education program, Eduan has successfully designed and completed several projects with his middle-school class. The students take an active role in assessing needs in their community, then design and execute a project in order to address that need. The students are currently working on building a playground for the benefit of a number of surrounding communities. The San Antonio group joined the community by taking part in simple construction activities and installation of playground games. As additional and next steps, members of the San Antonio group committed to explore the ways in which they can contribute to the completion of the playground. The group was greeted by elders, students and families from numerous communities who all congregated to meet and work with the San Antonio delegation. Click to view the welcoming ceremony and other videos about the project.
The U.S. delegation ended the visit with a debriefing and meeting to discuss the next steps in their collaboration with each of the projects selected. The broader San Antonio group will resume meeting on each of the Chiapas projects in January 2013 and will carry out another visit to Chiapas in March. The USMF would like to thank the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for making this program possible; the leaders of the San Antonio group who traveled to Chiapas for their commitment of time, talent and resources; as well as all those in Chiapas who have provided invaluable support, including Ana Laura Pacheco, Michael Greces, Virginia Calhoun, Deborah Colvin, Nils McCune, Jeannette Arreola, Olga Lidia Solís, Elías Pacheco, Eduan Arce, Quetzalli Sotelo, Fernando Santíz, María Eugenia Pineda, Erika Lardo, Cecilia Gómez, Alejandra Mora, Maria Gil, Favio López, and Jesús Gil.