Last month I saw a facebook post (don’t turn off, please) asking if anyone could help out with supporting a local community group. I got in touch with the group to find out more and was invited to go and visit.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for a well run community support programme so I was pretty excited to go and meet Laura, the woman who set up El Renacer del Mayab. I drove (all on my own) across town to meet her and see where she works.
Laura herself was great, she talked, nineteen to the dozen, making no allowance for my foreigness at all. She explained all about the area’s problems, how families work (or don’t) and what she tries to do for the people she helps.
She began simply by providing lunch for children who weren’t getting lunch at home. As Laura said though, once you begin feeding kids, you get to know them, and once you get to know them it’s pretty hard not to see all the other ways in which their families need assistance. Today she provides lunch for 30-45 kids every day, she provides medical and psychological support, care packages for the poorest families, and homework and educational support after lunch. Lala, a local dairy company, has just started providing her with milk for the children, and local businesses often pop in with stacks of tortillas and other foods for her too.
Pretty much everyone who walked past when we were sitting in the small concrete compound surrounded by plastic tables, called out a greeting to Laura (and while this is customary in Mexico, this was not just a ‘buenos dias’ that most people get, no, it was a personal ‘how is X?’ or ‘my Y is back from hospital now’). And everyone who walked in to the compound came and greeted her with a big kiss.
It costs 15 pesos for Laura to feed one kid for one meal. 45 kids every week, therefore costs, 3375 pesos or £135 just to feed the kids. Then she has gas, electricity, water and supplies to consider. Truthfully, in two hours of extremely rapid Spanish, I did not get to the bottom of how she does this! I know she has very little support. I think local government is just starting to get involved in assisting. Laura did tell me that they local government are very grateful and often say thank-you but they’re only just beginning to talk about helping financially.
Actually, we spent a lot of our time chatting about sugar and the Yucatan love for it. I had taken a bag of sweets for the kids, partly because I hadn’t remembered to stop and buy a crate of fruit, and partly because I knew how my kids in Rwanda were always so excited when someone sent sweets for them. However, this gift led to me denouncing myself and explaining my horror when the local dentist suggested the sugar intake here was fine, kids just had to brush their teeth well. We talked about diabetes and how the kids in her centre struggle with her demand that they drink water, so used are they to drinking sugary drinks. She actually ends up putting tiny amounts of sugar in the water just to get them to drink it and then gets them to plain water slowly. We agreed that for kids with very little pleasure in their lives though, a sweetie after a meal is no bad thing.
Before I left, I did give Laura some money to help out. I have since received voice texts and photos telling me how she has used some of the money I gave her: they talked about violence against women with the children and their mums, having used some of my money to prepare materials for the children. They will also be using the money to create a theatre group session for the children.
If anyone does want to know more about the group, feel free to drop me a line and ask a question.