I’ll start by sharing the stories of three incredible people I met during my time in Mazateca.
They come from the actual communities that are working with The Hunger Project Mexico (THP) – and are now employed by THP. Being from the communities brings an insiders view of what daily life is like within this region – and a thorough understanding of the challenges they face. But it also offers clarity when setting the Vision for these communities, and the importance of not losing the essence of their culture along the way. Each person has their own personal vision, that slots in with the vision for the communities they are working in. Being paid members of the team also means that their families benefit from their income.
Up first is Cleo. Having no kids of her own yet, Cleo joked that she feels like the wealthy aunt since starting work with THP. Many times on my way up to the community (and on the way down), Cleo was there to lend a hand across the trickier parts of the track – and wouldn’t take no for an answer when I said I didn’t need a walking stick!
Growing up in Cerro Alto (one of the 4 communities being helped by THP in this region), Cleo was still in high school when THP first arrived and started holding their workshops. She says she didn’t take too much notice initially (and used the all too common excuse of ‘I don’t have time’), until her mother and grandfather strongly encouraged her to be a part of it. She then started attending the workshops: listening, but not participating at first.
Cleo comes from a family of 8 children, made up of 6 girls and 2 boys (she is the 5th girl in line). With most of her siblings having moved to Mexico City, or other states once they were old enough, Cleo had also dreamed of doing the same thing. But after her younger sister ran away with her boyfriend, and her mum got sick, Cleo re-assessed her priorities and decided that her family was more important than the big city lights.
This is when Cleo started becoming more involved in the work that THP was doing, both in her own, and the other communities. She found it interesting, and started to attend more of the workshops. Initially she felt nervous, like people wouldn’t listen to her, but eventually she won their confidence. Her dad’s family and her brothers resisted at first, but when she started to share the stories of what was happening (and her involvement in it) she had their full support. They could also see how happy it made her.
Emanating a quiet confidence and strength, I have no doubt Cleo is destined to touch many people’s lives with her incredible work with THP. I got the strong feeling that she isn’t yet sure of her own strength and impact. I’m so thankful to have met Cleo, and continue to feel extremely moved by her story.
I travelled to Genova in Oaxaca with The Hunger Project Australia as part of the ‘Leadership & Immersion’ Program run in conjunction with Business Chicks. This post is written using my notes taken in Oaxaca as a guide. If you find that any of the facts contained in this post are misleading or incorrect please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org