We were excited to be finally meeting with World Vision in Mexico and two dates set up no less!
The first was in the tiny town of Bochil, high in the mountains in the gorgeous state of Chiapas. We travelled for 17 hours by bus from the Tucatan to San Cristobel de las Casas, then 2 hours in a collective taxi.
Bochil is a small town that is definitely off the tourist trail.
It is the kind of town where it takes 20 minutes to walk 20 yards as friendly and inquisitive locals quiz you about your nationality and why you are visiting.
Our first World Vision experience
This project looks after over 1500 families in the local region – we learned that World Vision projects are all about creating a sustainable future for those involved so that they are able to look after themselves in future and here it is no exception.
We visited three small villages to meet with different people who were working in the development plan. Children came out in droves, shy and inquisitive, the older ones learn Spanish and most of the younger ones understand only a little. The local language is Tsotzi, one of the hundreds of Mayan dialects.
Language is one of the many reasons why Mayan communities are so isolated in Central America and Mexico.
Domitilo, the project manager in World Vision’s local office, actually started as a translator and eventually came to be responsible for the whole project. All of the staff at World Vision are locals and we were politely informed of the importance of dress (locals do not wear shorts BTW!).
Creating a sustainable future
The first farm we visited had a family of 5 young children, they have been working closely with the project for 2 years.
The projects here are based around the basics of provide water tanks, teaching how to raise chickens and turkeys and passing on skills in farming and agriculture. While they look at these means for sustainability they provide the community with education on sex, nutrition, childcare and more.
We have visited now with about five different Mayan communities throughout Central America and Mexico and the problems are similar from place to place. After centuries of persecution and invasion, they have lost much of their historical knowledge of the land, medicines, agriculture and much more. They often now live in isolated, subsistence living.
Every Mayan village we have visited has been the same, they are extremely hardworking and very keen to learn how better to look after themselves and their families.
With help to use tools, their land and farming techniques, they are able to provide for their families into the future.
The festival of Guadeloupe
The day we arrived also happened to be the festival of Guadeloupe.In Bochil this means a 3-5 day celebration with bands, dancing through the streets, parades and fireworks day and night. There are trucks everwhere carrying hundreds of kids as they take turns to run along the highway, carrying a burning torch.
It is an interesting mix of Catholisicm and traditional dress and the result is a massive celebration for the whole country.
Lunch with the locals
We were invited to join one village for their celebratory lunch. We were brought to a shed opposite the little church, where lunch was being prepared.
The enormous carcasses of two cows lay open on a large table with nine men working away at butchering the meat. Young boys were peeking their heads in from outside wide-eyed, witnessing the knife skills, their bellies gurgling for the feast.
In the corner, giant cauldrons bubbled away above the raised wood fired stoves.
A small girl of 6 or 7 sits in a plastic chair jiggling and soothing her crying baby sister until her mother can turn from the cooking, settle in the chair and breastfeed her.
A toddler quietly amuses himself in a dark corner on the dirt floor. Oblivious to the room full of chattering adults, smoking fires and bubbling pots all around him.
We were ushered in to sit at a large table on plastic chairs. Lunch was a small polystyrene plate with a handful of rice and 2 chunks of beef sloshing in gravy, with handmade tortillas in hollowed out gourds, waiting to soak up the juices.
Being special guests we were also offered bottles of fizzy drink which were eyed up eagerly by the local kids watching our every move from the doorway. We could eat first, they have to wait for the whole village to be ready for their turn.
We were asked not to film or take pictures over lunch, so I have tried to give you as much detail as possible.
This is everything a community should be, everyone chipping in and doing their part. We were humbled by the communal creation of a feast for a village, with no one left out.
Empowering a community
It is so great to see how the World Vision model works in person. Although people sponsor a child, that money in fact goes to lifting whole families and whole communities out of poverty.
World Vision works to understand the community for 12 to 18 months before they invest in development which means that they put their resources where they will be most effective. What I didn’t know is that World Visions plan always includes leaving!
They work with the community to empower them to be sustainable and the effects of this are pretty incredible. Seeing the pride on the faces of these new farmers, who can now provide more for their families is a beautiful thing.