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NGOs of San Miguel

By Karla Ortiz

Yaxx Wool: Helping Needing Communities Thrive

The name of Yaxx Wool, one of the 114 nongovernmental organizations registered with San Miguel’s NGO Liaison and Assistance to Foreigners Directorate since its opening in 2010, means “green circle” in the Mayan Lacandon language (currently spoken in Chiapas). Circles are typical symbols of the ideas of giving back and cooperation, while the color green is associated with preserving the environment. So Yaxx seems like a good name for an organization started by professionals who wanted to support human rights, gender equity, and environmental conservation.

Inspiration for this organization began in 2006, when a group of friends with experience working at other NGOs—professionals in every field from psychology to biochemical engineering to soil conservation—noticed that the poorest communities in our region are subjected to repeating cycles of aid and abandonment by NGOs that come in, help, and then disappear due to lack of follow-up or lack of consistent funds. Many needy communities initially receive charitable support but then, in the face of the NGOs’ lack of resources and transportation to reach the most remote communities, are forgotten for years until another organization arrives and helps them anew, only to abandon them. As a result communities end up with no consistent benefits. Yaxx Wool aims to end that cycle.

Like many nongovernmental organizations, Yaxx Wool officially began in 2009 without a lot of support. It applied to municipal, federal, and international projects, looking everywhere for something to subsidize its proposals.

Its first project was an observatory on violence against women, which was supported by the Instituto Nacional de Desarrollo Socia (National Institute for Social Development), known as INDESOL. Being the only state observatory that does research on domestic violence and on raising awareness among women about the meaning of rape. Thanks to its research, organizers realized that they had two problems to cover, the first being that women felt helpless in the face of social prejudices. To attack this problem, they began emotional support groups in which women gradually opened up until they gained confidence and achieved autonomy from families or partners. The second problem they tried to solve was finding jobs to support the women’s autonomy, so they could manage their household expenses independently.

To address this, the organization offered these women training of their choice in making a variety of artisanal products that they could then sell at fair trade prices to bring in a self-sustaining income. These women are already selling their products at the TOSMA farmers’ and artisans’ market on Saturdays.Later, in the same rural communities where the organization’s domestic violence studies were conducted, researchers found that many older women there had lung problems. Research revealed that most of the women with problems had a wood stove inside their home. Yaxx Wool then invited the Pfizer Foundation to support lung cancer research in the community. Unfortunately, all the women with lung problems were found to have pulmonary plaques—lesions on their lungs—and developed Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), but they were caught in time to prevent the development of  pulmonary cancer and all the women started a treatment that Pfizer Foundation donated, which practically took care of COPD symptoms. They also supported the women in this group with their emotional problems brought on by dealing with their illness.

In addition, Yaxx Wool thought about the root cause of the problem, the wood stoves. They invited an engineer to design stoves that would conserve wood (to cut down on logging) and that would lead the smoke generated out of the kitchen and then installed these stoves in all of the women’s homes. They also trained people to do respectful pruning.

Thanks to their hard work, the Pfizer Foundation gave Yaxx Wool an award for its best project of the year and gave them resources to continue working the following year.

Yaxx Wool’s next project was to attack water scarcity in these communities. They began to build water cisterns, along with what they call “4×4” vegetable gardens, referring to the amount of arable land that most houses have. Such a garden is specially designed to be sown and produced with little water consumption and to grow year-round.

In those same garden areas, people in the communities are also being asked to help create the Green Islands Project, since the land in these communities is considered to be of semi-desert quality, with almost no trees or plants, but there are birds and wildlife that need the trees. The idea is to create little green spots in these communities, a refuge for birds and animals with trees that generate shade. Unfortunately, this is a project that has for the moment stopped due to the scarcity of donations.

On the other hand, the organization began to work with the Comisión Nacional para el Desarollo de los Pueblos Indígenas (National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples), known as CDI, to identify indigenous communities and to begin to work with these communities on improved societal inclusion as well as the rescue of their indigenous traditions. Their research revealed that many people in these communities no longer spoke their indigenous language, for fear of not being accepted in society. As a result, these people had learned Spanish and spoke it continuously until they lost their original native language.

The organization decided to help rescue these communities’ disappearing indigenous traditions. It found two women from the Otomí community in Querétaro who are teaching the women traditional indigenous embroidery, which tells stories via the designs. The teachers are also working with indigenous children in these communities, teaching them how to make crosses for the Fiesta de la Cruz with the leaves of the cucharilla plant. Yaxx Wool eventually produced a book about all its projects to rescue indigenous culture, which was presented a couple of years ago at the Allende Museum. The organization also did a photography project with the communities’ children in which people donated cameras with which the children could portray their daily reality. By participating in the project, the children began to learn the meaning of inclusion, exclusion, rescuing traditions. The project culminated in a exhibition of the children’s photography in 2016 at the Organic Market, where they had the experience of presenting their own work.

With each project they start, Yaxx Wool tries to be maintain constant activity, because for the organization it is important not to leave communities unserviced and to try to support them as much as possible. They regularly visit the people they work with to follow up. Unfortunately, the donations aren’t as constant as their visits, and the help to subsidize the organization’s expenses in helping these communities comes sporadically. The organization needs many volunteers and donors to continue their projects and to ensure that aid to the most remote communities does not dry up.

Donors and volunteers can request a tour to learn more about the organizations’ projects in needy communities. People interested in supporting Yaxx Wool can contact the team by email at circuloverdeyw@gmail.com. They also accept in-kind donations such as wires, cyclonic maya, and cardboard roofing tiles, among other items. They would even be grateful to find a volunteer to help them with social media or the systematization of information.

 

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