CASA: A safe space for everyone
By Nina Webber
The Center for Adolescents of San Miguel de Allende (CASA) is not only a nonprofit that serves over 80,000 Mexicans a year, but it also provides a safe and welcoming environment for its own staff as well. Oscar Damián Ramírez is a Peer Health Counselor from a rural community called La Huerta, where CASA counselors had spent last year giving workshops and talks in the middle school and to groups of women. After Oscar was informed about CASA, he realized he wanted to do the same thing one day.
Coming from a family of 12 children, however, Oscar did not have the support or resources necessary to continue his studies. Therefore, when the month-long recruitment training for new counselors started in November, Oscar decided to take a risk and apply. It was challenging to leave his family for a month, but the risk may have been greater if he had stayed in La Huerta.
Oscar always felt different from the rest of his classmates as well as his siblings who would taunt and make fun of him. Since coming to San Miguel, he has been able to come out as gay, which is still hard for him to do in La Huerta. According to Oscar, the environment is very different there and the people are not as open to differences. He is scared of how his family is going to react due to the machismo present among his brothers and members of the community. The various programs at CASA touch on a number of themes such as sexual diversity, self-esteem and most important, equality for all. For that reason, we provide a welcoming, safe and open space for everyone.
“CASA is a place where I have always dreamed of working, where there are youth in the same situation that want to continue progressing, but are scared of failing or taking the risk. I have met all types of people at CASA and in the communities. I have also gained more self-esteem, as well as a sense of security and good friends,” said Oscar.
After leaving La Huerta, Oscar was able to recognize the problems that affect the community such as alcoholism, domestic violence among women and children and drug addictions. It is not uncommon for a girl to marry young like his 14- year-old niece who is expecting her first child. Because the issues affect him so personally, Oscar wants to go back and work with the youth in La Huerta, improving the quality of life within his community.
If you would like to sponsor Oscar or the program, please contact Ana Marquez at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get to know our organization personally on our weekly tours, every Friday at 1pm, or set up a tour any other time with Nina Weber at email@example.com.