Six months ago we arrived in Mexico. Even though it was a ‘big move’ – one we knew would be hard – being half Mexican myself there was also the feeling of coming ‘home’.
I remember telling my father many years ago, “one day I will live in Mexico and learn the language and heart of my family’s culture”. Back then, I didn’t expect to be here with a social enterprise, working in areas that both Ryan and I are so passionate about – disability rights, coffee and agriculture.
Over the past six months we have stumbled our way through the language barrier and worked hard to build strong relationships with the families and local Zapotec community.
During this time we have looked at the different strengths and challenges of the families and where the greatest needs lie. It was clear there was a great need for a communal space that is both accessible and can offer workshops and employment, benefitting each family in a unique way. A place that brings unity between those with disabilities and the wider community.
Recently The Lucy Foundation Mexico was given a great opportunity to lease two hectares of land that meets these needs and where we now hold fortnightly workshops for the families. These workshops have ranged from picking, drying and sorting with specialty coffee techniques, to planting, creating bio-fertilizers and compost soup, beekeeping and carpentry skills.
Every now and again we invite someone from the wider community to teach a workshop on a particular skill. We have had such a great response with entire families wanting to be involved, not solely those with disabilities. The progress of those that have been involved with these workshops has been amazing. Take, for example, Jose Gabriel (pictured).
To see Jose Gabriel, who was initially hesitant to even speak to other people, let alone plant plants or use a hammer, become confident and take ownership of his work, is just incredible.
We now not only have a space to teach and learn, but also a place that can offer work for other family members and to run coffee tours. The ranchito has an empty farmhouse on it, which is perfect as a place of rest for those in need and also an eco-retreat for tourists, creating more income for the families.
Together with Ryan (my incredibly hard-working, coffee-farming husband), some of the family members have planted 200 new Pluma coffee seedlings for the families to take ownership of and care for.
All in all, we are still learning, still growing (literally and figuratively!) and still working towards a brighter Pluma Hidalgo. An inclusive and accessible town that produces world-class speciality coffee.
Until next time…
Ryan, Jess and TLF Mexico
Jessica and Ryan Sanders are co-founders and Field Directors for The Lucy Foundation. Originally from Hamilton, New Zealand, Jess and Ryan now live with their two children Lorenzo and Ebony in Pluma Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Mexico. Support the Sanders and the TLF Mexico project by donating today.
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