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Meet an NGO

Parque Juarez pollinator garden

clean up

By Karla Ortiz

Audubon of México

Ecotourism and sustainability have been growing movements in San Miguel de Allende. More and more, people here have been seeking out green spaces and recreation areas, healthier food, and more places to interact with wildlife. While the demand for these things may be greater as of late, Sociedad Audubon de México AC, one of the oldest NGOs in town, has been advocating for them in San Miguel for nearly 53 years. Over a half century’s time, it has made significant advances in the greening of San Miguel—both of San Miguel’s natural landscapes and of the minds of its children.

Audubon México’s story began in 1967 with the Vidargas family, who belonged to the international NGO, the National Audubon Society. Over the years, the Virdagas family lost their ties to the National Audubon Society, and Audubon began to function independently under the name of Sociedad Audubon de México.

The NGO’s main objective is to sustain what it has achieved in San Miguel and support the natural environment, including wildlife. They have four programs that aim to improve the quality of life for people, nature, and wildlife in and around San Miguel.

“We want to be sure that we have sufficient water for the population, and we are making advances in creating more ecological spaces in the city,” said Audubon México president April Gaydos.

Audubon México’s main programs

The organization’s  four primary programs are Amigos de la Presa (Friends of the Dam), Nature in the City, Niños y Naturaleza (Children and Nature), and Wildlife Care and Conservation.

Niños y Naturaleza is a program that works with primary schools. It currently works with 400 children from three different schools, including the Nueva Zenda school in the San Luis Rey neighborhood, the Fernando Montes de Oca school in Azteca, and Fragua de la Independencia in the San Juan de Dios neighborhood.

“We take them into nature so they can see birds. The objective is that they connect with nature and learn to care for it. We integrate art and natural sciences,” explained Gaydos. “All the themes have to do with the environment, discuss how to resolve problems in a creative way, and teach children to work as a team and be part of a community that cares about these issues. We bring new experiences to these children.”

Amigos de la Presa (Friends of the Dam) began as a separate NGO 10 years ago, but three years ago joined forces with Audubon, realizing they were stronger together. Their joint work mainly focuses on problems with the Allende Dam’s water. The NGO’s strategy is to bring people to the reservoir to better educate them about this city resource. Their programs include hikes, kayaking, and monthly cleanup of the area around the dam.

“Some three or four years ago, a team of volunteers from Amigos de la Presa and Audubon mapped the Laja River, and we were able to begin using it for trips by kayak and to have hikes along the shores of the river,” Gaydos said. “We have trees inside the river and birds roost on them, which makes it a very interesting trip. Part of our work is ecotourism because we believe that if we bring people interested in San Miguel as a recreation destination, we can help preserve nature.”

The kayak trips, hikes, and monthly cleanups take place Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. But it is advisable to check the schedule on the AudubonMexico.org website and reserve a spot in advance, said Gaydos.

Nature in the City attempts to create green spaces throughout the city, such as the Garden of Pollinators, found inside Parque Benito Juarez.

“We try to show that you can have a beautiful garden at home and invite butterflies, bees, and birds to enjoy it,” she said.

The Wildlife Care and Conservation program sponsors bird walks that take place in the Charco del Ingenio nature preserve or at hills where various bird species have been spotted in the past. The NGO also keeps a register of the birds seen on these walks, information that gets passed on to scientists researching bird populations and migration patterns. They also care for wounded, sick, or orphaned wildlife.

Plans for the future

The Niños y Naturaleza program is planning to expand its work. For example, it is addressing the scarcity of water in some neighborhoods, which leaves many schools without water to wash hands, clean bathrooms, or water plants.

“We are taking spaces in the schools to turn them into vegetable gardens so that the students themselves might harvest the vegetables and eat them. We want to put on a roof to capture rainwater for a sink to wash vegetables and to provide some shade where perhaps they could have lunch or do some artwork,” Gaydos said.

Among the NGO’s future goals is transforming school spaces into green areas as well as cleaning out more space along the Laja River.

Needs

As with all NGOs, Audubon México’s needs are for donations and volunteers.

“It’s a challenge being an organization in San Miguel. It’s always a challenge to collect funds in order to do our programs, but we try to be creative in that aspect,” said Gaydos. “The volunteers help us in the program for children. As advisors, they help to clean the garden in Parque Juarez and to clean the dam. The majority of the money that we receive is from our membership and from donations,” she says.

To know more about how to support this organization, visit their website at AudubonMéxico.org.

“Nature needs our help, and our goal is to preserve it, connecting people with the environment. We can all make a difference; it doesn’t matter if you have a house garden in the back part of your patio or if you want to support some project of Audubon,” Gaydos said. “Life can’t exist without natural life, and we have time to help nature; each action makes a difference,” she said.

 

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