Child Refugees in MexicoIn recent years, Mexico has become an increasingly significant place of asylum. More than 70,000 refugees have submitted asylum applications in 2019, and despite an initial drop in applications in 2020 due to the pandemic, COVID-19 claims for asylum in December 2020 hit a record high. The well-being of child refugees in Mexico is of particular concern.

Child Refugees in Mexico

People are arriving in Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela in search of safety, local integration, Mexican residency and a pathway to U.S. citizenship. In 2020, one in five refugees were children. With such alarming demographics, it has been essential for Mexico to address its overwhelming influx of asylum-seekers and find solutions to protect those vulnerable, especially children.

COVID-19 has heightened poverty among child migrants. Child refugees in Mexico are escaping forced recruitment, gang violence and crime that is a daily reality in their Central American countries. This has resulted in displacement, food scarcity and poverty. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, levels of insecurity amongst these children have only increased, with about 5,000 children (60% unaccompanied) returning to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

COVID-19 has devastated children and families as extended lockdowns, school closures, stalled essential economic activities, neglected migrant reparations and rising violence has escalated vulnerability. Children seeking asylum are most affected by the virus due to the lack of access to safe water, sanitation and other essential services. Restricted access to international protection and regular migration pathways are other obstacles they are facing as they search for safety.

UNICEF has responded with efforts guided by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action that focus on providing 2.3 million children and their families, including children affected by human mobility,  protection from the exposure of COVID-19.

Trump Policy Endangers Child Refugees

Since the Trump administration’s 2019 Remain-in-Mexico program, 70,000 non-Mexican refugees have been waiting in asylum camps for their U.S. court hearings in northern Mexico. Within this group, 700 children have crossed the U.S. border alone as their parents wanted them to escape the terrible camp conditions and show themselves to U.S. border officials since unaccompanied minors cannot be returned to Mexico under U.S. policy and law.

CBS News reported that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has been able to house all children who had left their parents in Mexico and 643 of them have been released to family members in the U.S. Although this is good news, the Justice Action Center has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for its plan to deport children with circumstances like these, threatening their safety if they go back to their home country. The NGO, Human Rights First, has complied more than 1,300 reports of murder, rape, kidnapping, torture and assault against migrants returned by the U.S.

Mexico Enlists Reforms to Protect Child Refugees

As of November 2020, Mexico has approved reforms that apply to children in all migration contexts, accompanied or not. The reform will put an end to immigration detention centers for boys and girls and instead will be referred to alternative accommodation. It will also allow international protection and eligibility for temporary humanitarian visas to prevent deportation or return until the migrant child’s best interest can be resolved.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is collaborating with associated government agencies, U.N. sister agencies and civil society organizations to certify that referral procedures and appropriate shelter capacity are arranged.

Mexico’s Solidarity Plants Seeds for Progress

For a country that has been overwhelmed by the influx of migrants desperately seeking asylum, Mexico has responded with compassion and an assertion to reform its immigration policy. This combined with other humanitarian efforts will provide monumental aid and help eradicate the suffering of child refugees in Mexico.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Mexico
The progress of psychology, medical intervention and social work is making mental health and illness awareness a necessary part of daily life. In Mexico, estimates have determined that 17% of the population has at least one mental disorder, with the expectation that one in four people could suffer from an ailment once during their lifetime. According to Plan Seguro, a health insurance provider, the financial and economic costs of mental illnesses in developing countries is equal to 4% of a country’s GDP. Red Voz Pro Salud Mental (VPSM), a nonprofit organization in Mexico, is doing its part to better serve the community and bring understanding and resources to those struggling with mental health disorders. Gabriela Cámara, psychologist and honorary president of Red Voz Pro, addresses the issues surrounding mental health in Mexico through education and the establishment of vital rehabilitation programs and facilities.

Combating Stigmas Around Mental Health

Red Voz Pro Salud Mental is a nonprofit network of organizations providing services for those suffering from mental illnesses in Mexico, as well as their families and professionals in the field. These resources range from establishing support groups and publicizing vital information on social media to providing psychoeducation of clients and promoting laws to the federal government. It also teaches the National Alliance of Mental Health’s Family to Family course and VPSM’s Land Ahoy course for patients. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Cámara contended that the most urgent challenge facing VPSM is “combating the stigma” that comes with mental illness. According to Doctor Medina Mora’s study at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mexico ranked second in the world in the level of stigma associated with mental health services. As a result, outreach is a crucial tool in Red Voz’s belt.

The biggest misconception regarding mental health in Mexico is the belief “that one gets better with cleansing or esoteric methods, or that it is the fault of the mother or family or the patient themselves.” This mythmaking, blame-casting idea affects a patient’s ability to get treatment, find employment and social interaction opportunities or disclose their concerns with family and friends. Red Voz Pro’s solution is one of publicity and support.

The Key is Education

Cámara insists that “through support groups, messages on social media and psychoeducation,” Mexico can overcome the stigma of mental illness. By eradicating stigma, the country can turn its focus to fostering a communal understanding of mental health and thus develop a greater ability to help those afflicted. Mental disorders among young people are almost twice as high in Mexico than in the U.S. and Canada. This likely mirrors poverty’s relationship with mental illness. Cámara points out, “lower-income increases the chance of family violence, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide,” all of which one can combat with education.

Depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world in the decade ahead and the first in developing countries, such as Mexico. The number of people experiencing mental health illnesses only continues to increase, putting the onus on learning how to recognize, accept, investigate and nurture the thoughts and feelings that one may associate with malaise. While education might appear the trite and oversimplified solution to mental health in Mexico, Cámera asserts it is the way forward.

Institutional Organizations Help Support Mental Health

VPSM focuses on “uniting similar civil organizations with government programs, crisis hotlines, and rehabilitation facilities” as a means to serve its population. The need for comprehensive health coverage is a problem that Mexico, and other nations, face. “Approximately 40% of the population has no insurance,” says Cámara, leaving integral treatments underdeveloped and underfunded. Mexico is waiting to see if the current administration is willing to tackle these issues. Number six of Red Voz’s 13 “Objectives at the National Level” is to work with the federal health system to detect and prevent issues that arise from unidentified mental health problems. By giving an increased voice to nonprofit health services such as VPSM, the federal government can receive support from a caseload and transparency point of view.

Moreover, institutional restructuring and cooperation is a process that Cámara maintains is vital to help citizens get through these hardships. “Institutions must have programs of relapse prevention, support for families, people working to decrease suicide, etc.” Without these social nets, human beings lack adequate understanding of what they are going through and thus make struggle and despair an obvious pathway. VPSM aims to be there for Mexicans looking to steer back toward the road of recovery and community.

Red Voz Pro Salud Mental is consolidating an alliance between mental health networks in Mexico by promoting psychoeducation to improve the quality of life of those struggling with mental disorders. In a world where systems feel impervious to mental health, particularly in Mexico, this nonprofit stands out by valuing human-to-human management, supporting other civil organizations and understanding mental health disorders.

– Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Slow Fashion in Mexico
Mexico is rich with indigenous craftsmanship but it is slowly disappearing because of fast fashion. Without artisanal work, indigenous communities have had to work in different markets or migrate to seek jobs overseas. This has caused highly skilled artisans to leave behind their craft and their unique culture in exchange for underpaid jobs with inhumane working conditions. Brands and consumers that prioritize Mexican artisanal work help preserve the textile heritage and techniques unique to indigenous communities. Here is some information about the relationship between poverty reduction and slow fashion in Mexico.

Slow Fashion

The concept of slow fashion takes into account the resources and processes necessary to make clothing with a positive social and environmental impact. It means valuing the fair treatment of people, animals and the planet. Slow fashion in Mexico has been most effective through the small-scale, ethical and eco-friendly production of textiles and garments that artisans make. Carla Fernandez, designer and pioneer of slow fashion in Mexico, set the framework to prioritize a bottom-up creation process rooted in studying the artisanal textile-making techniques so that artisans can be the protagonists in the production and design process. This allows respect to go to ancestral production techniques and designs and helps preserve traditional pre-hispanic craftsmanship.

The Partnership with Conaculta

In 2013, Fernandez and her team partnered with the Mexican Secretary of Culture to systemize a methodology to work with artisan cooperatives. The Barefoot Designer Manual published the research and the General Directorate of Publications of Conaculta edited it. Partnership with Conaculta meant greater institutional responsibility for preserving Mexico’s cultural heritage through fashion. It also allowed more designers to take part in slow fashion through the detailed training manual. This has empowered rural artisans because they can receive fair wages for their labor and greater market access as more designers acquire knowledge on sustainable production techniques in indigenous communities and how to fairly integrate them into the fashion industry.

As indigenous artisanry secures more commercial success at international value chains, it also helps shift the industry to slow fashion. This transition especially supports Mexican artisans based in rural areas. In 2016, Mexican Household Income and Expenditure Survey data revealed that citizens within major federal entities earned more than 50% in comparison to those in rural areas. Artisanal cooperatives would help bring economic growth within Mexico’s most remote areas, which was previously not achieved by top-down NGO and governmental development programs aimed at supporting and training artisans.

Benefits of Slow Fashion

At the beginning of the pandemic, Mexico’s federal government and two companies committed to purchasing handmade face masks produced in Mexican communities that the pandemic hit the hardest. The National Fund for the Promotion of Handicrafts managed 139 artisanal groups which included Mayan, Mixtec and Zapotec artisans to make cloth masks using their traditional techniques. This initiative provided $85,560 USD for materials and provided training to ensure masks met health requirements. Every mask produced has had the name of the maker and the name of their town embroidered on it. This initiative is an example of how artisans are capable of producing essential goods during COVID-19 while still promoting cultural diversity through slow fashion.

By understanding the problems of unemployment and artisanal skills unique to each region, it has allowed for economic opportunities to open up. This helps preserve traditional artisanal activities, supports the growth of slow fashion and empowers forgotten and invisible rural artisans.

– Giselle Magana
Photo: Pexels

In the small town of Agua Prieta, Mexico, about 20 minutes past the US-Mexico border, live a resilient, selfless and connected people. Many interconnected organizations are working to improve the lives of the community; making it a safe and enjoyable place to work, live and visit. In the poem, “Home,” by Warsan Shire, it says: “You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.”

Here are five organizations working to improve life in Agua Prieta.

5 Charitable Organizations in Agua Prieta

  1. DouglaPrieta Works Co-op: The co-op promotes “a mutual-aid ethic among community members, with the goal of economic self-sufficiency.” They teach women to sew, cook, create jewelry, build furniture and more. This empowers the women of Agua Prieta to support their families. DouglaPrieta Works also encourages people to donate canned goods in return for a hand-made reusable bag. Additionally, migrants who are staying at the nearby shelter are invited to work in their woodshop and garden; in turn, earning money for their journeys to a new home.

  2. Café Justo: Café Justo is a coffee shop that hires recovering drug and alcohol addicts. They partner with Agua Prieta’s rehabilitation center, supporting people on their journey to a better life. The cafe also supports farmworkers’ financial well-being by buying coffee beans at a fair price and selling them at a fair rate.

  3. Frontera de Cristo: Located just five minutes from the US-Mexico border, this organization offers many resources for migrants who are waiting in line to cross the border, either into the United States or into Mexico. This includes information about asylum, warm-weather and winter clothing as well as information about the various organizations in Agua Prieta.
  4. C.A.M.E: C.A.M.E. is a migrant shelter in Agua Prieta that not only offers safe room-and-board but programs and classes for adults and children as well. Because Agua Prieta is right on the US-Mexico border, many migrants stop in this town while they are filing for asylum. Migrant families can be especially vulnerable to gangs; this shelter ensures the safety of each migrant. The shelter often invites students from different countries to converse with migrant families over dinner; these conversations are a meaningful way for students and migrants to connect.

  5. C.R.E.D.A: C.R.E.D.A is a substance abuse treatment center offering rehabilitation programs in Agua Prieta. They also work to help reintegrate those in recovery into society; assisting them in finding housing and jobs. C.R.E.D.A. often recommends Café Justo as an option of employment for those who complete their treatment program.

It is evident the community of Agua Prieta works together to support each other as well as the migrants passing through. These organizations are working to make their community a better place for all.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Blockchain Startup in MexicoAs internet connectivity expands around the globe so do the benefits of blockchain technology and its potential to better the lives of those living in poverty. In Mexico, accessible financial services and insurance programs are vital to the improvement of the quality of life of Mexicans living below the poverty line. Saldo.mx, a blockchain startup in Mexico, helps facilitate this access.

Blockchain Startup in Mexico

A blockchain startup in Mexico has utilized the security of blockchain technology to meet the needs of Mexicans living in poverty. Saldo.mx offers Mexicans a secure and easy-to-use platform on which they can pay their bills using remittance money from abroad.

This is a significant development in the Mexican fintech market as Mexico receives billions of dollars in remittances from the United States each year, with $10.6 billion reaching Mexico in the third quarter of 2020 alone.

Especially during a time of economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to securely receive timely remittances is crucial for the financial security of Mexicans who rely on remittance payments for their survival.

Saldo’s services have the capacity to reach millions of Mexican customers, as it has been estimated that by the end of 2020, upwards of 81 million Mexicans will have internet access and thus the ability to quickly receive and utilize much-needed cash without having to wait for physical cash to arrive from abroad.

Consuelo: Access to Affordable Insurance Plans

One of Saldo’s newer services is Consuelo, which allows users to find fixed health and life insurance policies. Consuelo uses blockchain technology to connect its users to an insurance plan with a “smart contract,” which eliminates the need for a claim adjuster and gives the users direct access to affordable plans.

By removing a costly middleman and lessening the financial bureaucratic burden on customers, Consuelo gives its users a chance at obtaining health and life insurance and decreases long-term financial insecurity concerns.

Consuelo also helps uninsured Mexicans bypass the bureaucratic messiness of the national public healthcare system, which is supported by numerous uncoordinated social security institutes. This allows for better continuity of care by allowing Mexicans to remain with the same doctor by staying on their plan provided by Consuelo rather than facing the possibility of having to switch to another doctor through the national system after losing their jobs.

The Diverse Applications of Blockchain Technology

Innovation is not confined to affluent areas of developed countries. Especially in the age of the internet, new solutions can be developed and rapidly disseminated from any part of the world and can impact the lives of millions. In Mexico, receiving international transfers of money and gaining access to affordable health and life insurance plans can be difficult for the unbanked and those without stable employment. Startups like Saldo exemplify the potential of internet entrepreneurship and blockchain technology in helping lift the global poor out of poverty.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

mexican avocadosMexico is the second-largest nation in Latin America with over 130 million residents. Mexico exports an abundance of fruits and vegetables but its number one export crop is avocados. Not too long ago, avocados were not the number one crop being exported from Mexico. Today, the economic impact of Mexican avocados has helped many people escape poverty.

Poverty in Mexico

According to the World Bank, in 2018 almost 42% of Mexicans lived in poverty, with the rural population being the most impacted. Moreover, around 62% of Mexican children make it to high school and only 45% graduate. To reduce poverty, Mexico has increased its social spending to help those in need. The Mexican government has implemented programs such as cash transfers, farmland subsidies, scholarships and subsidized medicine. These programs are put into place in the hope of reducing poverty in Mexico.

The Mexican state of Michoacan is one of the poorest in the country. A whole 46% of people in the state lived in poverty in 2018.  However, Michoacan is rich in agriculture. In fact, around 20% of the land is used for agriculture and the industry employs 34% of the population. Moreover, Michoacan’s most popular crop is the avocado.

The Avocado Industry Boom

Michoacan is the top producer of avocados not only for Mexico but for the entire world. Increased demand for avocados has created an economic boom in the country. Mexican avocados make up 82% of all U.S. avocado sales. Furthermore, Mexican avocados have created more than 30,000 U.S. jobs and have an economic output of $6.5 billion. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, avocado sales were flourishing.

The United States had banned the import of Mexican avocados in 1914 due to fears of insect infestation. In 1994, The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)  implemented between Mexico, Canada and the United States resulted in the ban being lifted. The agreement led to the free flow of Mexican avocados into the U.S. The company Avocados From Mexico (AFM) has sold 2.1 pounds of avocados in 2020 and expects 2.3 pounds to be sold in 2021. Mexican avocados have had such a great economic impact that they are called “green gold” by the locals.

Impact of Mexican Avocados

The increased demand for Mexican avocados has led to less migration of Mexicans into the United States. The competitive wages avocado farming has produced has meant many more Mexicans are willing to stay in their home country. The popularity of avocados has led to the creation of thousands of jobs in Mexico. Due to this fact, families do not feel the need to migrate to the United States for employment.

The demand for Mexican avocados has led to employment opportunities, less migration and closer economic ties to the United States. The Mexican avocado industry is playing a part in reducing global poverty.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

Future of the Garment Industry
Khadi Oaxaca is a small nonprofit with a big goal: community-based sustainable development. Comprising more than 400 families in Oaxaca, Mexico, this fabric and clothing producer is both contributing to local progress and taking part in a larger movement challenging what the future of the garment industry will look like. Seeking inspiration from the past, this avant-garde project has surprising roots in a tradition from across the globe.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Khadi Movement

Khadi refers to hand-spun, hand-woven Indian cloth. In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi began promoting khadi production as a means for impoverished individuals living in rural India to achieve economic self-sufficiency and consequently, liberation from dependence on British textiles. Khadi soon became a symbol of Indian national pride and the Indian independence movement at large.

Khadi Makes its Way to Mexico

Three decades after India gained its independence, Mark “Marcos” Brown—the man who co-founded the Khadi Oaxaca project—visited San Sebastián Río Hondo in Oaxaca. He subsequently traveled to India, where he lived in the Gandhi ashram for two years, learning about both the history of khadi and how to spin and weave the cloth. When he returned to Oaxaca in the 1990s, he brought with him a Gandhian spinning wheel and began teaching the other villagers, including the Ramírez family, how to use it.

In 2010, Brown, his wife Kalindi Attar and the Ramírez family laid the foundations of what would become Khadi Oaxaca. Together, they built what they hoped could be an alternative to conventional production for the future of the garment industry. They hosted a cotton-spinning workshop with more than 30 women from the town. In 2014, members of the group began designing clothing and using plant-based dyes. Today, the affiliation consists of spinners, weavers and embroiderers, as well as growers along the Oaxaca coast who supply cotton to these artisans.

Farm-to-Garment Economics

Khadi Oaxaca’s farm-to-garment model provides crucial income to indigenous Zapotec families living in the agrarian villages of Oaxaca. Though recent data is difficult to come by, Sedesol, the department of the Mexican Secretary of Social Development, reported in 2010 that more than 55% of the population of San Sebastián Río Hondo was living in extreme poverty. By promoting a “thread standard,” Khadi Oaxaca managers raised the market value of a kilogram of thread from 400 pesos ($18 USD) in 2010 to 1,500 pesos ($70 USD) today, enough to meet spinners’ basic needs of survival and incentivize the practice of spinning. The integrated supply chain offers autonomy and provides a reliable source of revenue that has only become increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Than Just Cloth: An Ethical, Sustainable Alternative

However, Khadi Oaxaca is about more than just business. The company aims to provide an example of cottage industry production as an alternative to today’s fashion industry, which is too-often exploitative of both natural and human resources. The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply and produces 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions. Moreover, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second, amounting to 85% of textiles ending up in landfills every year. Furthermore, human rights abuses within the garment industry are rampant.

Fast fashion–inexpensive clothing produced rapidly in response to fleeting trends–is possible only through the employment of low-paid factory workers, a workforce that includes mostly females and may employ 16.7 million children in South Asia alone. Child labor is a major issue in Mexico as well, with several nonprofits currently working to eradicate its presence specifically from the fashion supply chain.

Weaving Sustainable Development

 Khadi Oaxaca believes that garment producers and consumers can and should do better. The company sources its organic cotton from local farmers along the Oaxaca coast and uses plant-based, regionally harvested dyes–never chemicals. While the project remains a small-scale one, it hopes to function as an archetype for what the future of the garment industry could be: an environmentally-friendly industry that supports the livelihood of its workers and delivers beautiful, high-quality clothing to consumers.

– Margot Seidel
Photo: Pixabay

border campsThe United States’ Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, better known as “Remain in Mexico,” is a policy that requires those seeking asylum within the United States entering from the southern border to wait outside of the United States in Mexico while their cases are reviewed by immigration judges. Since its implementation in January 2016, this policy has led to the build-up of camps of asylum seekers around Mexico. These U.S.-Mexico border camps are ridden with crime, disease and other dangers.

Rampant Crime in US-Mexico Border Camps

The NGO, Human Rights First, has reported more than 1,314 cases of rape, kidnapping, murder, torture and other violent crimes against migrants forced to return to Mexico. Of those cases, 318 have been kidnappings or attempted kidnappings of children. Rampant police corruption in border cities means nothing is done to protect migrants. Crimes including extortion, assault and sexual harassment have all been reported against members of the Mexican police. These reports come from individual interviews held by Human Rights First in order to determine the scale of crime within migrant camps. Given that about 55,000 individuals have been returned to Mexico as part of the Migrant Protection Protocols program, the organization believes that those 1,314 cases are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violent crime in U.S.-Mexico border camps.

The Dangers of Mexican Regions

The United States Department of State periodically releases travel advisories on countries and regions throughout the world to warn citizens of dangers they may face when traveling there. This includes the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, Matamoros, a hotspot for gathering migrants awaiting entrance into the United States. Thousands of migrants, returned to Mexico by immigration officials to await their trials, live in tented border camps in a place that the United States considers dangerous. This has led to scrutiny by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for endangering asylum seekers by sending them to places that the United States admits are dangerous.

Vulnerable Populations in Camps

Despite the fact that vulnerable populations are supposed to be exempt from the “Remain in Mexico” program, many individuals that should not have been sent back have shown up in U.S.-Mexico Border camps. The period from the programs start through June 2019 saw 13 pregnant women and 4,780 children sent to await their trials in Mexico according to Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch also reports that people genuinely afraid of returning to Mexico, including kidnapping and assault victims, have been denied exemption from the Migrant Protection Protocols program and were sent back across the border anyway. Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, Human Rights First and others, have all found that people including the disabled, the young, the sick and members of the LGBTQ+ community, have all been sent back to Mexico despite qualifying for an exemption from the policy.

Unsanitary Conditions Spread Disease

The unsanitary conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border have led to diseases spreading among migrants. Reportedly, there is little clean water and migrants often bathe in the Rio Grande River, which is known for containing E. coli, other bacteria and human feces. Few cases of COVID-19 have been officially recorded. However, with border camps’ proximity to COVID-19 hotspots both in the U.S. and Mexico, there is likely an abundance of unknown cases.

NGOs Assist Migrants

Immigration to the United States has basically come to a complete standstill as the border between the two countries has remained closed throughout the course of the pandemic. Because of this, NGOs have gone into border camps in order to assist those in need. The UNHRC has set up hand-washing stations and isolation areas in some migrant camps. It has also provided cash relief to migrants who have lost jobs due to the pandemic. Other organizations like Global Response Management and  Doctors Without Borders have provided medical assistance by building medical centers, distributing PPE and providing medical treatment for those infected with COVID-19.

The United States Migrant Protection Protocols, or the “Remain in Mexico” policy, has without a doubt led to an increase in concerns for the health and safety of people along the U.S.-Mexico border. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the already slow asylum process to a standstill, poverty and disease has spread throughout these camps. However, NGOs like the UNHRC have been stepping up and providing assistance to those most in need.

– Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr

DouglaPrieta Works
In many cases of migration, dangers from gangs and community violence force people to leave their homes. Migrants also tend to flee because of economic challenges and persecution. A few women in Mexico who were part of these forced removals did not want to move to a new country. It was important for these women to stay where their families, cultures and traditions existed despite difficulties like finding sustainable jobs in Mexico. As a result, they decided to move to Agua Prieta, Mexico and become a part of the family at DouglaPrieta Works.

The Beginning

DouglaPrieta Work is a self-help organization that women founded to help the poor. Specifically, the founders had the dream of procuring the means to stay in their home country through the creation of a self-sufficiency co-op. To fund this, the women sell handmade goods such as reusable bags, earrings, winter accessories, dolls and more. They sell these beautiful crafts throughout Agua Prieta, neighboring cities and even in the United States. Their efforts all center back to the main goal of promoting “a mutual-aid ethic among community members, with the goal of economic self-sufficiency.”

How it Works

The first step in economic security is education. The women at DouglaPrieta Works understand this and all self-teach. They work together to learn how to sew, knit, craft, cook and read. The women utilize these skills to then sustain themselves, their families and the co-op. To further support themselves, the group incorporated a farm next to their co-op. They use the fruits and vegetables they grow for cooking. The women encourage sustainable food security through culturally-appropriate foods based on the needs of the people in their community. The group also built a woodshop to craft furniture for the community to maximize the benefits of their surrounding resources. The co-op does not exclude the children in all of this work either. Oftentimes, their children learn the skills along with them and work with each other in school.

Actions

In 2019, they led an initiative where people in their town could donate canned goods and receive a handmade reusable bag in return. This program allowed the women of DouglaPrieta Works able to donate hundreds of canned goods to those in need. Additionally, they were able to provide reusable bags to the community in order to encourage limited plastic bag use to better the environment.

DouglaPrieta Works often provides migrants working at its co-op with funds to help them and their families survive the journey of migration. There is a nearby migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, C.A.M.E, to house the travelers. While at the co-op, many migrants work in the woodshop at AguaPrieta Works in exchange for meals, funds and friendship.

Students and groups interested in learning about the U.S./Mexico border are welcome to join the women at DouglaPrieta Works for a meal, as the women provide stories and information about the border. The power of education and inclusivity is a core value at DouglaPrieta Works.

Helping Out

Overall, incredible work is occurring in the town of Agua Prieta, Mexico. These women are sustaining themselves to stay in the country they call home and they are providing food, resources and work for migrants. Their children are able to learn and grow together, as well as eat healthy, organic meals from the garden. To learn more about the co-op, visit its website.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 in Central America
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have left no region of the world unscathed. Central America and Mexico have certainly felt the wrath of this virus. Recent outbreaks in the region threaten to compound upon other humanitarian struggles. The U.S. has recognized this challenge and taken action to provide aid, despite facing its own issues fighting the coronavirus — the difficulties of COVID-19 in Central America and Mexico are vast.

An Issue in Central America & Mexico Before COVID-19

COVID-19 poses a health and economic challenge to Central America and Mexico. Yet, before the pandemic, the region was already suffering from poverty. As such, the pandemic has hit this area particularly hard. Our World in Data projected that the extreme poverty rate was about 8.12% in Guatemala, 14.24% in Honduras, 2.79% in El Salvador and 1.96% in Mexico in 2019. The full economic impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known.

Apart from facing extreme poverty — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico also suffer from high crime rates. In 2017, Guatemala had an intentional homicide rate of about 26.1 per 100,000, Honduras had 41.7, El Salvador had 61.8 and Mexico had 24.8.

Providing sustainable assistance to Central America is particularly important for the national security in the U.S. As of July 2019, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition explained that there is a correlation between children seeking refuge in the U.S. and murders in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Aid to these three countries could reduce poverty and crime. Consequently, the number of people searching for safety in the U.S. may potentially decrease.

The US Steps Up

The U.S. has committed to providing more than $22 million for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The aid focuses on key areas of need. For example, the U.S. committed $850,000 in Migration and Refugee Assistance funding in Mexico. This includes funding for the dissemination of hygiene products and assistance creating a remote program to register asylum seekers and hold interviews.

The U.S. also committed to providing almost $6.6 million in aid to El Salvador, more than $8.4 million to Guatemala and more than $5.4 million to Honduras. Notably, these aid packages contain International Disaster Assistance for each country. The assistance also focuses on immediate and long-term health needs.

In recent months, the U.S. has also provided other forms of support to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Notable aid includes investments in critical infrastructures, such as energy programs. This is an important step in reducing poverty in the region. However, continued aid and investment are necessary to fight COVID-19 in Central America, save lives, reduce poverty and protect U.S. national security.

Global Help

This aid is a substantial sum targeted in areas that most need money to help fight COVID-19. However, there is more than the U.S. could do to protect global health. Global health spending has remained mostly constant for the past 10 years. Now, the future of U.S. global health aid is at-risk. The federal government’s spending on global health could reduce to its lowest point in 13 years if the proposed budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year receives approval. This could exacerbate outbreaks of other diseases that the U.S. has historically fought against. Without aid from the U.S., other nations such as China will have to step in as a global leader during this crisis.

Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Pixabay