Jul 20, 2018

New community-based initiatives in Tultitlan

The community garden growing strong!
The community garden growing strong!

Ten months have now passed since the initial emergency after the earthquake in Central Mexico on September 19, 2018. Things in Tultitán are back to normal now, with the Amextra Community Center focusing on the usual activities of elementary and middle school tutoring, adult education, computer classes and English classes.

In the last two months there have been two exciting new additions to the program in Tultitlán. First, the community garden has started to flourish and take form. In March, a bare plot of land beside the soccer field was weeded and prepared for more than a dozen new vegetables, herbs and fruits to be planted. The plants, such as mint, strawberries, zucinni, beets, blackberries and strawberries bring families into contact with fresh, locally grown ingredients that are otherwise not readily available  in Tultitlán.  This garden serves as a model for community members to implement in their homes.  María José, shown in the photos below, is one of the first commuity members who has decided to grow vegetables at home.  As with many families in Tultitán, she has limited space outside her home as it is built on a steep hill. To overcome this challenge, she has built her garden in a 3 foot by 3 foot plot of land she was able to clear, plus a few species planted in old tires and wood crates. Even her 4-year old nephew wanted to participate, and now has his special area which he is in charge of caring for! 

The other exciting new initiative in Tultitlán is the beginning of an income generation project. On July 19, 2018, the Comercial Branch of Amextra as well as a natural product expert provided the first training on creating the base for herbal shampoos, creams and other natural health and beauty products.  20 women participated in this first training and are interested in creating a variety of different products.  As you may know, Amextra has also worked with a group of very hardworking women in Lomas de San Isidro, State of Mexico in a similar, very successful project! We are planning an exchange experience within the next few months so that the women from Tultitlán can ask the women from the Xanatl Tlapantli Collective about their experience being entrepreneurs.  This new income generation project in Tultitlán will require the participation of many people and also the capital to make it happen. If you believe in this project, consider making a donation! 

We are so excited to include you as part of the community that believes in Amextra and cares about families in Tultitlán.  If you have any questions or comments about news from Tultitlán, we´d love to hear from you! You can email me at stephanie@amextra.org.  

Warmly, 

Stephanie

Maria Jose in her new backyard garden
Maria Jose in her new backyard garden
Paying attention to the herbal products training!
Paying attention to the herbal products training!
Jun 1, 2018

Rebuilding Morelos, One Brick at a Time

A volunteer carries bricks to the future home site
A volunteer carries bricks to the future home site

It´s now officially been over half a year since the devastating earthquake in Central Mexico and the resulting destruction of Tetela del Volcán and Jojutla, Morelos. Amextra has been very humbled by the opportunity to accompany families in these last months of rebuilding their lives and communities. It has been a experience of much learning and community building for all involved.   

Last weekend we broke ground on the 8th and 9th permanent homes Amextra has build, thanks to volunteers from Amextra Finances, the micro-finance branch of Amextra, who helped us dig the foundation and clear the land  to make it easier for the building to advance.

When we started this project we suspected the impact would not just be reflected in the build homes, but also in rebuilt lives as well. Now, eight months in, we are starting to hear stories that this is absolutely true.  Zobeida, one of the first beneficiaries of the permanent home construction, has experienced a process of healing in the last few months from the pain caused by different family losses and by other situations that, with the loss of her home, had led her to become discouraged by life. With the support for the construction of her house and the post-traumatic stress workshops, she now tells our team she feels encouraged to carry on.  We´re so glad we met Zobeida and have been able to witness her new look on life.  

In regards to the post-traumatic stress management workshops, a total of 13 have been given to 200 primary school children and 30 adults over the last 8 months. We have heard of many women who feel liberated in the workshops, because, in order not to worry their families, they have kept their emotions in and not cried or otherwise expressed their feelings at home. Another outcome that inspires us is that women are also recognizing that it is important to get to know their neighbors. They are realizing that they can help each other overcome the difficulties they are experiencing, which is a take-away from this project that will last well after the last permanent home is built.  

In these first months of the project the reactivation of businesses has also been almost completed. So far, 25 families have received supplies and materials to reactivate their chicken coops. In order to maximize the functioning of these chicken coops, a workshop to reinforce the holistic management of chickens (regarding vaccination, feeding, and cleaning care) was also facilitated. In addition to the egg and chicken businesses, one family that works buying and selling fruits of the region, and making handmade wines, was supported with materials for the reconstruction of their winery, which fell with the earthquake of September 19. In Jojutla, the business of a family engaged in the sale of food was reactivated. A total of 27 businesses have been reactivated, offering the families a way to produce their own income to help in the rebuilding of their lives.  

A very important and inspiring part of all elements of this project has been the volunteers.  The UAEM (Autonomous University of the State of Morelos) architecture volunteers, who are grouped in the Molcajete Collective,  have been a huge help with the design and construction of  permanent houses. The students have shown a great attitude of service and a high level of professionalism, which has made the program flow smoothly!  Also, volunteers from the Cisco technology company were extremely important in breaking ground for permanent homes; they were present for the very first groundbreaking for Amextra´s construction of permanent homes in Morelos, and are coming back on June 16th to volunteer again!  We´re been very fortunate to have such committed alliances in these last few months! 

Thanks again for your support of this project. The families are forever grateful! 

If you´d like to read more about our project check out our website www.amextra.org or our Facebook page www.facebook.com/AmextraOficial. 

Teamwork is everything!
Teamwork is everything!
Post-traumatic Stress Management Workshop #11
Post-traumatic Stress Management Workshop #11
Post Traumatic Stress Workshop Awards Ceremony
Post Traumatic Stress Workshop Awards Ceremony

Links:

May 1, 2018

7 months and 7 days since the earthquake

Kids in the 3-5 age group ready for the relay
Kids in the 3-5 age group ready for the relay

It has now been exactly 7 months and 7 days since the devastating earthquake in Mexico that affected Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Morelos, and Puebla. While the country has not forgotten the tragedy and especially not the lives lost, for many, daily life has returned to some level of normalcy.

In this first trimester of the year, the Community Center in Tultitlán has continued providing academic support to children and adults. 45 children and 8 adults so far, to be exact. The space continues to open its doors to any and all community members that have a desire to reach an academic goal, whether it´s getting help on a topic learned at school, studying for a GRE-type exam, or learning to use a computer and programs like Microsoft Office. Since the earthquake, we´ve noticed more families feeling comfortable with the Center and the staff. 

On April 21, 2018 we held our annual Mini-Olympics event, designed to provide a safe, fun, space for children who otherwise may not have many opportunities for sports or group activities. Around 120 children attended this activity, making it one of the biggest events to date. The attendance in this event shows us that the Community Center is becoming more known by the community and is a trusted space for community reunions. Without a doubt, there is a correlation between the increased attendance and the increased visibility the Center gained after the earthquake, when it was the only educational institution open immediately after the disaster.

In the next few months, we will continue working with the community through English classes, tutoring, reading groups, a summer course, backyard gardens and rain water filters. We are also very happy to welcome a new volunteer, Luis, who will be teaching computer workshops and tutoring children and youth in math at the Center on Saturday mornings.   Luis is finishing his B.A. in Accounting at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and has a great gift for teaching and an inspiring spirit of service.

Thank you for accompanying us on this journey of community building in Tultitlán, State of Mexico! We´re very excited for the months of growth ahead and hope you are, too.

Mini-Olympics obstacle course
Mini-Olympics obstacle course
Luis, far left, volunteering at the Mini-Olympics
Luis, far left, volunteering at the Mini-Olympics
Girls at the Award Ceremony
Girls at the Award Ceremony
 
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