Children studying with their mother at the SOS Children's Village Hampolol, Mexico…
Mexico is a country of scents, colours and spices, a country rich in tradition and unique customs.
Children studying with their mother at the SOS Children's Village Hampolol, Mexico
Mexico is a country of scents, colours and spices, a country rich in tradition and unique customs. It is also a country of festivals, including "El día de los muertos" (All Souls), which is celebrated on 1st and 2nd November. That is an old custom in Mexico. Mexicans traditionally remember their dead, inviting them into their homes where they have prepared colourful altars with the food and fruit the deceased enjoyed when they were still alive. The Mexicans never forget their dead. And for the big festival they wait for them, expecting them to pay a visit and spend two days with them, enjoying their hospitality and sharing their memories. And the flowers! All those orange blossoms! - Our wonderful sempatlxochitl flower, with its bright colour and wonderful scent, a blend of guava, apple and orange. With a glass of tequila to help wash everything down! Yes, Mexico is a fabric spun of the natural cycles of life, and death as the culmination is never far away. For as long as we are on this Earth, we invite our spirit visitors to achieve immortality by joining us - year in, year out - in our family celebration.
These traditions are the source of our history and the fabric of our identity. They are also a part of life at SOS Childrens Villages, who also play a role in preparing the sacrificial gifts. The children of Mexico are a part of this cultural fabric, too. By familiarising them with their traditions and encouraging them to observe them, we are helping them to consolidate their identity and become a part of a history that they in turn will pass on to future generations. A typical example of this approach is the competition organised by SOS Childrens Village Hampolol/Campeche, with prizes for the most attractive altars to the spirits of their ancestors. That makes a visit to the SOS Childrens Village a rare experience indeed - seeing all the bright colours and expecting to encounter Death as the most important guest at the family gathering. It is a more than astonishing creative act to issue an invitation that is, quite literally, out of this world. What is more important, however, is that the children of the SOS Childrens Village can share in their culture and history together. They produce their own ideas and develop their creativity with the scents, colours and spices, and contribute in this way to a common heritage, to a cultural space in which Death is seen as a positive force. And that is how things will be in Mexico from one generation to the next. SOS Childrens Villages Mexico will continue to promote a culture, an identity and a history that are in harmony with the present and interact with the future. That means the children will be given the opportunity to quite simply write their own history.
Little boy learning to walk, beneficiary of FSP - SC Comitán, Mexico
For Mrs Rosa the family strengthening programme of SOS Children's Village Comitán is a reason to go ahead and evade the extreme poverty that her family lives in a little.
The family strengthening programme has changed my life
To Mrs Rosa, the fact that the family strengthening programme has come to her neighbourhood is life-extending. For the first time her children have the opportunity to receive decent food, which life denied them due to the extreme poverty and marginalization of which they were victims.
Rosa comes from Baquelchan, in the municipality of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. She is 32 years old and earns her living as a maid. Rosa lives in free union with Rosenberg, aged 32, who works as a driver. The family is of indigenous origin, so they speak "Tzental".
From the union of this couple, three children were born: seven-year-old Rosenberg, who does not attend primary school because he has no birth certificate; four-year-old Erika and Maria de los Angeles who is two years old. The three children currently attend the community centre "November 20th"; this situation has significantly improved the lives of Rose and her family, as she herself says:
"My husband and I met in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, where I worked as a maid. I fell in love with him and for eight years we have lived together. We moved to Comitán, Chiapas; we began renting a small room in which we lived for a long time. Then we joined a group of people and we cultivated the land on which we have lived for four years; however, it is a high risk and irregular terrain. Despite the lack of electric light and drainage facilities, we have drinking water once a week".
Rosa makes a break. The silence, her shyness and faltered voice, reflect how difficult it is for her to talk about her life. Rose misses a few seconds and continues:
"The father of my son and daughters is an aggressive alcoholic, and does not have a permanent job, this situation obliges me to wash and clean others people's clothes and houses, to get some money that will allow me to cover the basic needs of my children. My house is very poor, the money is not enough to fill the walls and during the rainy and cold season we suffer much because we are in a very high area.
Poverty is very sad! Five months ago I lost a baby... I remember that I got off to buy tortillas and when leaving my girls at the community centre I began to feel very bad. The waist hurt me much, I went with my midwife, who even though I had little time for pregnancy, told me that my baby was about to be born. I didn't want to go to hospital due to lack of money, the midwife attended me at home and a seven-month-old baby was born at dawn. Early morning, my child didn't move or cry; neighbours called the Red Cross but when paramedics arrived the child was dead. I feel very sad because I couldn't do anything for little Gabriel's life.
The beginning of the family strengthening programme in the neighbourhood has changed my life! For me, it means food and care that I can't give to my children due to lack of resources; it also means the opportunity to go to work without worries or concerns..."
When Rosa's three children joined the programme, they had a severe degree of malnutrition and neglect in terms of their personal hygiene, because while the mother went out to work, the two girls were left alone in her house under the care of their little brother.
During the time they have remained in the programme, progress has been exceptional. The children overcame malnutrition, they have been integrated favourably, they are participatory in the different activities and most important: now they smile with joy and satisfaction.
Article written by María Graciela Maldonado Bermúdez, Comitán family strenghtening programme director and Ana María Domínguez Moreno, facilitator of community processes in Comitán.