Tag Archives: helping

The Important Role that Grassroots Organizations Play in Oaxaca, Mexico

By Pete Noll

As I was thumbing through previous editions of The Eye during the start of our quarantine in amazing Huatulco, I was pleased to see a number of social organizations highlighted. After college, I took the path most followed by many of my peers and began a job in finance and sales outside of Los Angeles. Fortunately, that journey ended when I got the news that I had been accepted to join the Peace Corps and would be going to Guatemala.

Since then, I have transformed my vocational pursuit, or life strategy as I now refer to it, to working in social justice, primarily in the nonprofit sector. In addition, I went back to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) to add to my academic portfolio of the theory and practice of public policy and management, with a focus on structural change. I believe that, while far from perfect, the nonprofit sector can provide a space and balance to address many issues that are underserved, intentionally or unintentionally, by the private and public sectors. I would include independent media as a fourth element, although we are regrettably seeing most of the content absorbed by a handful of corporate media outlets.

Since 1997, I have had the opportunity to work in both rural and urban centers in Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. I have had the opportunity to un-learn a lot of my beliefs about top-down management and miracle market forces and, ultimately, have discovered the empowerment gained from participatory social processes.

I often refer to two sayings that I believe exemplify grassroots work. The first one uses the image of a person atop a donkey, with the caption “Only the donkey knows how hot the ground is.” You can draw your own reflection. For me, I have been humbled time and time again when I have left my preconceived ideas in the background and observed and learned from the local people and customs. In Oaxaca, the people have deep traditions in community action, like gueza, guelaguetza, and tequio, indigenous words (Zapotec and Nahuatl) for slightly different forms of reciprocity. I have been inspired by those forms of collectivism and solidarity. And thus, to my second adage: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, we go together.” I hold a strong belief that humankind is best served when we can focus on the common good.

For the past 11 years, I have collaborated with Puente a la Salud Comunitaria (www.puentemexico.org); in August I started a position at TASH, Inc. (www.tashinc.org), an organization that helped initiate and grow a nonprofit hospital, La Clinica del Pueblo, A.C., located in San Martín Mexicapam. Since 2000, TASH has been able to support a total of 15 organizations in Oaxaca in addition to La Clinica. During the pandemic, we have also given a grant to a civil society coalition, AMOax (https://amoax.ong.mx/), or Apoyo Mutuo Oaxaca (Mutual Help of Oaxaca), which is giving meals and supplies to low-income families affected by the situation.

One might ask how the Mexican government or private sector supports these organizations. The unfortunate response is their responses are limited, with only about 150 foundations compared to over 86,000 in the United States. However, charity or generosity is complicated and nuanced, as the society and culture practice social contributions in their own ways, such as the solidarity after natural disasters or community support to those who need help. Moreover, differences in tax codes – i.e., whether or not they incentivize charitable contributions – affects giving around the world. Mexico itself has an anti-money-laundering law that makes reporting on incoming funding more of a burden.

In conclusion, if any readers are interested in engaging with any specific areas of health, education, environment, or a whole range of other possibilities, I am a promoter of collaborative efforts and you can reach me at pete.noll@tashinc.org. I live in Oaxaca City, while TASH currently supports projects in the Central Valleys, Sierra Juárez, and the Mixteca.

The Huatulco Foodbank

By Lenore Harder and Tamara Plugers

Community is an amazing gathering of people who make time for each other to help as needed, accept when needy, and be humbled without recognition. In the tropical paradise of Huatulco, we have just that thing, community!

Thanks to several ambitious kind souls and their commitment to help others during difficult times, countless hours have been spent to purchase, assemble, and deliver hundreds of essential food hampers to some of Huatulco’s less fortunate population. As Covid-19 has approached and affected the world, we want to thank these “warriors” for the additional time and energy they have put into this since, almost overnight, the Huatulco tourism economy shut down, leaving thousands without work and the means to support their families.

In 2014 Randy Clearwater partnered with his friend Wilfrido Justiniano and a local church to start the Huatulco Foodbank. The goal was to, in love, meet the physical needs of those in the community who could not support themselves and their families for various reasons. Initially funds came in by means of donations through the local church and the business community, as well as from expats who were made aware of the need.

In time, various fundraisers for the Foodbank started up; now, thankfully, the Foodbank is continuing to receive additional funding to help support some immediate and desperate needs via Facebook. In the past few weeks, hardworking teams have hit the ground running to make sure that as many people as possible could be served with food and basic necessities.

We are blessed to have Wilfri’s wife, Nada who because of her past work experience in the community, is well acquainted with many of the women and families in the area. Both Wilfri and Nada have huge hearts and a gift for comforting and supporting struggling people. One experience stands out in Wilfri’s mind:

One day we organized a trip to El Manantial [a small town on the on the road between Santa María Huatulco and Pluma Hidalgo]. Our friend Pedro, a Cuban volunteer and former Barcelo dancer, and I took around 25 food hampers to deliver to a group of people. When we got there, we realized that about 12 of the people had come from the mountain area called Loma Limón, walking two hours to get food for their families. They explained to us that there was no grocery store available, and because of the blockade [at the airport], there was no way to bring food from Huatulco by car to the community. So we felt so blessed to be able to put some food in their hands.

A hearty thanks to the hands-on team working on purchasing, assembling, and delivering the food hampers. Randy Clearwater, Wilfri Justiniano, Rock Berube, and Manny Novoa have organized and distributed in excess of 640 hampers in Huatulco and the surrounding rural communities. They have been on the front line, recognizing the risks involved in this epidemic. To assist even greater numbers of people, food is also being donated to local community kitchens in the outlying areas.

Let this be an exchange for years to come, no matter the circumstances. People Helping People.

We invite you to contribute however you can. More donations always gratefully accepted. To donate, go to Facebook and search for Huatulco Foodbank:
(www.facebook.com/groups/1574782399424249/).

If you are donating from Canada, you can send an e-transfer; from the United States, use PayPal.
In either case, send your donation to rlclearwater@gmail.com.