lunes, 23 de marzo de 2015

Reflexiones de Amna Fatani de la Universidad de Georgetown sobre su voluntariado de verano 2014 en Juventud Utopia A.C.

Community Development in Chiflón

– Submitted by Amna Fatani

This summer I am working with Juventud Utopía, a local organization based in Cuernavaca that has been directly involved in the development of the Chiflón community since 2010. The Chiflón de los Calderos community is based in the eastern Colonia of Chula Vista in Cuernavaca, the capital city of Morelos, the second smallest state in Mexico. The residents of Chiflón are of a native indigenous background and they speak the indigenous language of Nahuatl. Because they are a marginalized community and are not very active in the political sphere, the indigenous community in Chiflón has not received much support from the government in the past. And while this has been changing in the last few years with more programs targeted to the indigenous community, the history of marginalization of this community has led to many households that are dependent on the drug cartels for support, especially economically. Indeed, the shift away from the drug industry has been difficult for many households.

Juventud Utopía runs a range of community development initiatives including building stable housing for the community, supporting La Esperanza with fundraising events and educational activities for the children, building environmentally conscious orchards for members of the community to grow and cultivate their own produce, and helping establish sustainable microbusinesses and enterprises that could support an overall shift from the drug industry to more legitimate sectors. Utopía depends on grants and awards to secure funding for their projects as well as university students who volunteer with them to complete a social service mandate to get the work they need done.

I am in Cuernavaca working with Juventud Utopía with three main tasks; teaching critical and philosophical thinking to the school children, facilitating an extensive course on critical and philosophical thinking to the university volunteers who work with Juventud Utopia in their development projects next year, and creating an evaluation system for the development projects Utopía is implementing in the next five years in Chiflón.

Through working with the students at the “La Esperanza” (“The Hope” in Spanish) elementary school at Chiflón de los Calderos I had the pleasure of being a small part of the development of this community, The first day I attended La Esperanza, the teacher asked me (politely, but firmly) to introduce myself to the students in Nahuatl. “NotōcāAmna.” I didn’t understand then but came to realize that he was illustrating a part of his culture through this request – pride. The indigenous communities in Mexico have been for a long time, and still for the most part are, a marginalized population in Mexico and all of Latin America, yet this didn’t stop them from being proud of who they were. That was why it was important for him that I introduce myself in Nahuatl (and later end up taking some Nahuatl classes) to the children.

Teaching critical and philosophical thinking to children in this community was an enriching and fulfilling experience as the children were so advanced in how they grappled with issues. These children did not only know what they wanted out of life, they were also very appreciative of the opportunity to be at school, whilst their siblings and most of their neighbors children were in el centro selling products in order to make a living for their families.

I read many development blogs that talk about the importance of being empathetic, patient and, most importantly, modest with the communities you work with. For me this experience was the first time I had to really challenge myself to immerse myself in conditions of poverty. It has been a truly a humbling experience, which has given me many insights on the problems that face the poor of Morelos, their interactions with their democratically elected governments and their realization of the importance of their education and political participation to improve their situation. My past experiences have always been to educate the young people in middle and upper income level communities in Saudi Arabia, helping them improve their personal freedoms with restricted participation in public life.

The children I worked with at La Esperanza were very genuine in their desire to learn. Yet they face significant challenges due to the conditions in which they live in – the everyday struggles of securing food for everyone, the difficulty of getting a good night’s sleep before school, and the balancing of education with household chores and responsibilities. One of the students will complete grade 6 next year, and says he insists on both going to school and working after hours so that his family may never have to go back to the drug industry again.