Community Development Under Way in Banda

By Jeannie Schnakenberg

In the village of Banda, in the rural area beyond Cieneguita, there is a population of approximately 300. They are mostly women and children and few men. Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora A.C., headed by director Ezequiel Mojica Galván, recently received a grant from the estate of San Miguel resident Delilah Henry, through the Community Church of San Miguel, for start-up funding for a pilot program benefiting women and children in Banda. Through training and educational workshops in the areas of health and nutrition, the goal is to improve lives, empower the women, and develop the community as a whole.

The program, referred to as “mamás,” began this year with a survey of the needs in the village of Banda followed by the establishment of a vegetable garden on the grounds of the school, where the mothers and students were introduced to bio-intensive gardening. Under the leadership of Isabel Rico, program coordinator, and Antonio Sanchez, assistant, the women were asked if they wished to sign up to start individual gardens at their homes. Initially, 23 women signed up for the program, which included training by Isabel and Antonio, fencing to keep their animals out, and seeds and seedlings to start their gardens. Some of the vegetables being grown are kale, cucumbers, cilantro, tomatoes, lettuce, beets, carrots, eggplant, peppers, and a variety of useful herbs.

An additional 10 women signed up after the first group, for a total of 33 family gardens. All of the labor is done by the women and their families, including children. It is not easy because the soil in the village is extremely hard and rocky. This poor soil must be removed and replaced by compost. However, the women are enthusiastic and many of the children are participating and very interested in the garden.

At the beginning of the program, in addition to gardening, plans were underway for workshops to be held in the local Community Center (which was constructed with 30 percent assistance from the State of Guanajuato and supported 70 percent by families). In May, a volunteer group of 14 third-year Bachelor of Nursing students and two professors from the University of Vancouver Island, BC, offered to conduct workshops for early teens and the mamás sex education, alcohol and drug abuse and prevention, domestic violence, and other subjects that are not offered in the community or school. During a three-week period, the nursing students conducted 10 workshops in the school for the 12- to 16-year-old adolescents and at the Community Center for the mamás. Volunteer translators, recruited by Apoyo, assisted in the presentations. The workshops were enthusiastically received by the teens and the mamás with increasing interaction between teachers and students as trust developed. The nursing students and professors were extremely impressed with the Apoyo staff and with the enthusiasm and attention of the students and the women of Banda. In fact, they plan to return again in the fall of 2017 and perhaps every year after that as the program expands to other communities.

Additional workshops are in the planning stages for the coming year, to be led by medical professionals in our area and beyond. For example, a local pediatrician will be teaching the children of the mamás about sanitation, hygiene, and beginning cooking, so that they can learn to appreciate the nutritious vegetables growing in their gardens. From her experience, she tells us that the children will proudly go home and teach what they learned to their mothers.

For more information on the mamás program and Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora A.C., please contact Ezequiel Mojica: apoyoemprendedores@yahoo.com.mx. Apoyo and the mamás will need ongoing funding to support this community development program in order to spread the program to other needy villages in the future.

 

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