This past week I had the privilege to travel with CHOICE Humanitarian to central Mexico and visit the developing villages outside Guanajuato. As the Director of Expeditions, I was able to meet with village residents and discuss current projects and accomplishments...and I was amazed. At a time when our nation is disputing the immigration policies along our southern borders, I must take a moment to recognize the solid work ethic and determination of our southern neighbors in rural Mexico. While brief, this vital trip provided me the chance to connect with new friends and landscapes. I felt invited...I felt safe...I felt right at home.
The trip was designed to introduce new CHOICE board members to the powerful development work taking place in the remote communities of Guanajuato. We flew down on a private jet from Salt Lake to Mexico - sitting "shotgun" is so much more impressive at 20,000 feet!
Once in Mexico, our local directors led us to multiple villages where we witnessed the impact of CHOICE Humanitarian firsthand. We traversed rugged terrain, climbed rock-laden hillsides, and drove along dirt roads lined with towering cacti and roaming mules. Native villagers welcomed us with warm smiles and firm handshakes...eager to show us their new schoolhouses, chapels, and goat cheese production facilities! Fields once desolate now host village preschools. Land once barren is now home to water cisterns and pipes that link villages to potable water sources for the first time ever.
The best part? CHOICE did not build these structures...the villagers did. In fact, CHOICE has empowered and mobilized these villagers to believe in themselves and purse sustainable projects and essential skills that will lead to true self-reliance and high-impact development. These wonderful people were proud of what THEY had accomplished in pursuit of a better quality of life. We were simply there to encourage them and admire their work. What a humbling and memorable experience.
As for the goat cheese? Exquisite! The local women's cooperative of Tamaula has created a small business venture utilizing the abundant goat milk available in the village. A combined expedition with Feel Good World will arrive to Tamaula this weekend to paint and finish the new production facilities...working hand-in-hand with the villagers themselves!
We concluded this powerful international venture in the colonial masterpiece of Guanajuato capital. Established in 1554 under Spanish control, Miguel Hidalgo would later promote the Mexican independence movement from here in 1810. Narrow cobblestone streets criss-cross the heart of downtown, zig-zagging in between pastel-colored homes and exquisite monasteries. An underground tunnel system once used to channel the Guanajuato River now serves as a complex labyrinth of bus stops and highways. Silver jewelry and precious pottery stock local craft markets, while authentic tacos de carne asada are best served from a roadside stand with a tall glass of horchata.
As I first mentioned, I felt right at home in Mexico. It felt as if I was in a familiar place...somewhere I've been before. Ahhh...there's a sign I know far too well :)