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Changing Lives Through Partnerships

By Janice Zimolzak

Donnie Masterton and The Restaurant staff have been partnering with numerous local not-for-profits for more than three years. They support the community by generously donating a percentage of their Sunday lunch and dinner receipts to a specific organization for an entire month of Sundays. Friends of Vivienda are honored and very grateful to be the beneficiary of The Restaurant’s benevolence throughout the month of August.

Our small ad hoc organization is only 18 months old and has just three members plus a small group of very kind people who donate to our projects. There is no board of directors and no overhead. Every peso and every penny goes directly to programs that help to improve the lives of members of the community of Vivienda de Abajo, located just 15 minutes from Centro along the road to Guanajuato.

Awareness of poverty and food deprivation in the village was the factor that triggered Friends of Vivienda to organize and partner with the women of the village to seek solutions. There are 247 children and adults living in 41 households in the community. Forty of the women volunteered to join the planning team. Self-determination (does the community want it?), self-reliance (can the community create and sustain it?), and communal cooperation are the hallmarks of every project. Today, there are 40 family gardens producing enough vegetables and herbs to more than satisfy the needs of the entire village. A school garden at the secundaria (junior high school) teaches children where good food comes from and helps them develop good work habits. The students take care of the garden and are rewarded with produce to take home. Two members of the organization matched the funds of a small group of donors to provide organic seeds, fencing to keep out the animals, shade cloth, compost, training, and 15 months of experienced oversight.

The community’s common well is laden with very high levels of arsenic and fluoride and is the source of many serious health issues. In 2008, Midday Rotary began constructing rainwater catchment cisterns that are large enough to garner a reserve during the rainy season, supplying a family of eight with safe water for drinking and cooking for the entire year. They have already built more than 800 cisterns in 30 villages throughout the municipality, including 19 in Vivienda de Abajo (17 for families and 2 at the schools). The community recently took advantage of their experience to build 12 more family cisterns. Friends of Vivienda provided the motivation, organization, and fundraising; Midday Rotary provided the technical training and oversight; and the receiving families provided the labor. Only 11 more to go and the entire village will have access to safe water for the rest of their lives.

Amigos de Animales sterilized 130 domestic animals, and Clínica Almas (Sonora), which specializes in Mexican rural family health, has provided both private consultations and six rural health workshops, to date.

With the support of The Restaurant, friends of Vivienda will begin providing each family with an eco-friendly stove. Women currently build a wood fire in the morning, and it burns throughout the day for the preparation of food. The eco-stoves will reduce the health risks of smoke inhalation by 80 percent and the need for wood gathering by 90 percent.

The organization is doing well, but there is a lot more work to be done. A donation of 9,000 pesos (US$480) provides safe, clean water for a family of eight for the rest of their lives. A donation of 650 pesos (US$36) buys an eco-stove. They need to purchase 34 more. If you would like to donate to either of these projects or would like more information about Friends of Vivienda, contact Every gift, large or small, is welcome and helpful. You can also help by simply enjoying a Sunday meal at The Restaurant.


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