Uprooted Learning Tour 2015

Enjoying some of the sites in Mexico City. This is the Monumento a la Revolucion. 2015 Uprooted Team (left to right): Tonja Friesen Ehpaw Eh, Katrina Doran, Thomas Caldwell, Josie Willms, Erin Willems

Enjoying some of the sites in Mexico City. This is the Monumento a la Revolucion. 2015 Uprooted Team (left to right): Tonja Friesen, Ehpaw Eh, Katrina Doran, Thomas Coldwell, Josie Willms, Erin Willems

I just returned from a learning tour with five other young adults. We spent three weeks observing and learning about migration in Mexico. We also spent a week in Guatemala and Southern Mexico looking at the border, visiting an MCC flower cooperative, and learning how cooperatives serve as an alternative to migration. We flew to Mexico City and spent a week experiencing some Mexican history and culture and visiting migrant shelters. The last week was in Northern Mexico where we spent time visiting with migrants and walking in the desert, and along the border wall. It was an incredible opportunity and we learned and experienced a lot in a short time

In orientation we talked about how to have a well-balanced trip. We discussed how we would feel if a learning tour came to Canada and all they learned about was homelessness and First Nations relations and other vulnerable areas in our country. This idea framed our historical and cultural visits for me and helped me to see the value in planning a well-balanced trip. We spent a week in Mexico City experiencing some of the history and culture of Mexico. We went to the Ballet Folklorico at the Palacio Bellas Artes and saw some traditional Mexican dancing and visited the pyramids at Teotihuacan. These visits were enjoyable, but I now realize the importance of them as well.

We hiked 12km in the Sonoran desert and brought food and water for migrants who frequently take this route.

We hiked 12km in the Sonoran desert and brought food and water for migrants who frequently take this route.

At the beginning of our week in Mexico City, we had a presentation about migration and root causes of migration. Arturo (an MCC partner) explained that migration is not an easy subject with an obvious solution. It involves so many countries, governments, and people that there is no simple way to deal with such an expansive issue. Talking about some of the realities of migration discouraged me and caused me to feel the need to make drastic changes in my life to help migrants. In Mexico City, we went to a migrant shelter called CAFEMIN. It used to be a school, but was donated to Catholic nuns who developed it as a migrant shelter. They provide a safe place for families to stay while they are getting settled and waiting for their papers. They have doctors to treat illness, and workshops for women to learn how to cook, sew, fix computers, etc… There is also space for the kids to run around and have fun. We visited another shelter in Nogales (San Juan Bosco) and heard the inspiring story of a former businessman who started a shelter that can house 300 migrants because he saw a need and rose to meet it. We also visited a coffee roaster called Café Justo.

This river marks the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Many migrants cross the rover at these unofficial border crossings. It was interesting to see the drastic difference between the Northern and Southern borders of Mexico.

This river marks the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Many migrants cross the river at these unofficial border crossings. It was interesting to see the drastic difference between the Northern and Southern borders of Mexico.

It was so interesting to learn about their work and how they started. They have four different cooperatives in Mexico that each employ 25-50 families. They offer a fair price for the coffee, which allows the kids of those families to return home because they can afford to go to school. It also allows for local workers to be hired to pick the coffee because the kids are in school, not working. These workers are paid a fair price, because the farmers are paid a fair price for their coffee. There are also seven full-time employees at Café Justo to roast the coffee and help with the business end of things. Café Justo is making a huge difference.

It was really encouraging to see people making a difference in the lives of others in their country. It made me realize that maybe I don’t need to move to Mexico, but rather need to pay attention to those who are in need in my sphere of influence. I think one of my biggest take-aways from this trip is that I need to use my resources, gifts, and passions to serve in places that make sense for me.

Learn more at mccsk.ca/uprooted

Erin Willems
MCCS Youth and Young Adult Engagement Programs Coordinator

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One thought on “Uprooted Learning Tour 2015

  1. Reblogged this on mccuprooted and commented:
    Reflections and take aways one month later from Uprooted leader, Erin Willems, (MCCS Youth and Young Adult Engagement Programs Coordinator). Erin wrote this for the MCCS blog: “Peacebuilding on the Prairies”. Posted June 18, 2015.

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