Between Mexico and Saudi Arabia

Juventud Utopía is a local organization based in Cuernavaca that has been directly involved in the development of the poor and indigenous Chiflón community since 2010. Their future plans are to continue building more stable housing for the community, make them more “livable” by painting murals on the walls of the houses, continue to support La Esperanza with fundraising events and educational activities for the children, and build environmentally conscious orchards for the members to grow and cultivate their own produce and help them build sustainable microbusinesses and enterprises that could support their shift from the drug industry to more legitimate sectors. Utopía depends on grants and awards to secure funding for their projects as well as university students who volunteer with them to complete a social service mandate to get the work they need done.

I am in Cuernavaca working with Juventud Utopía with three main tasks; the first is to teach critical and philosophical thinking to the school children, the second was to give an extensive course of critical and philosophical thinking to the university volunteers who will work with Juventud Utopia in their development projects next year. And the third is to create an evaluation system for the development projects Utopía is implementing/ planning to in the next 5 years in Chiflón.

Before coming here I read many development blogs that talk about the importance of being empathetic, patient and most importantly modest with the communities you work with, but this is the first time I had to really challenge myself to really drop who I was back in Saudi Arabia (along with the standards of living in Saudi Arabia) and live with these children in their own circumstances. To really immerse in conditions of poverty and understand them is truly a humbling experience, which has given me many insights on the problems that face the poor of Morelos, how it shapes their interaction with their democratically elected governments and their understanding of the importance of their education and political participation to improve their situations. My past experiences have always been to educate the young people of middle and upper income status in the politically starved society of Saudi Arabia, helping them improve their personal freedoms with restricted participation in public life.

The children at school, university volunteers I instructed and my colleagues at Utopía have each taught me a thing or two about the different aspects of life in Mexico, and whether they intended to or not, my interactions with them have been extremely educational for me both personally and professionally.



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