Last week Community Links hosted high school student groups from San Francisco, California and Springfield, Massachusetts. Enthusiastic teens and dedicated teachers volunteered with local partner organizations and were instrumental in furthering work on our own latest projects. Perhaps the most exciting venture Community Links is undertaking at the moment is the development and construction of composting toilets and a new classroom for our growing after-school program in Tecuanípan, a farming community 20 minutes from Cholula.
After a month of work on the composting toilet in January and February by the after-school program (staff AND children), adobe walls had finally been fully erected. Following the help of students last week, the outhouse now sports plastered walls, a streamlined bamboo roof, and a sparkling sculpted gecko decorated with broken glass. This particular bathroom is important because it will serve as a prototype for further development and as an example for community members. Composting toilets are especially efficient in areas like Tecuanípan where water is scarce and contamination is common; they simultaneously conserve water and produce fertilizers for gardens.
For weeks a classroom for the after-school program had been just a glimmer in the mind’s eye. But with 30+ energetic, inspired volunteers battling dust and heat, we managed to dig a three foot deep foundation. This classroom will propel academic studies forward for youth in Tecuanípan.
Student Reflections from the February Groups
Working with Community Links in Mexico was, in many respects, an eye opening experience. Even those of us who were making this trip for a second year in a row gained much understanding and empathy for the lives of the people in Mexico as a result of our experiences last week. We could not be more grateful to the families who welcomed us into their homes and shared their way of life with us, so that we might embrace and appreciate their culture on a personal level. We were humbled by the contrast between the optimism and jovial attitudes we encountered from the people we met and worked with while on the trip and the slightly more anxious, fast-paced setting of the average American existence. Having now been introduced to the interrelated nature of all communities around the globe, many of us hope to use our experience in Mexico, and what we have learned from it, to better our own communities and hopefully, by doing so, better the world as a whole. We truly enjoyed the work, the food, and, most of all, the new friends that we made. Thank you, Community Links, and thank you, Mexico! ~Christina Rodriguez, Cathedral High School ’11
I found this trip to be a pretty big challenge. Not in the sense that we had to build a replica the Great Wall of China, but the things I saw and the things I heard just continue to tear at my gut. About 15% of the people here live off less than a dollar a day. I can’t even wrap my head around that. Many make about $80 dollars a week. I use that for a round of golf. These things really make my heart ache. I’m consuming food endlessly while there are people here who have pizza once a year if they are lucky. I still need to do some more reflecting. ~ Nick Lukit, Stuart Hall High School ‘13
In my sixteen years of life, never have I had an experience quite like our trip to Mexico. Throughout the trip, many of my pre-conceived notions of Mexican culture have been challenged by the actions and the behavior of the native people of this land. One experience in particular that was exceptionally memorable came from the very simple act of buying ice cream. The largest size that they had, cost fourteen pesos. I gave them three big coins that I thought were five pesos each, but the man who barely had enough to feed his family only took two of the coins and gave me six pesos in change. I then realized that I had almost given him three ten peso coins. I felt sudden warmth and respect. Even though this man could have easily taken the thirty pesos, he respected me (a foreigner from a different world with no concept of the suffering and pain that they suffer) as a person and acted honorably and honestly. This small act of honesty coming from a street vender had the most powerful effect on me. I now hold a much deeper respect, admiration, and love for the people of this different yet magical culture. ~Trenton Lowe, Stuart Hall High School ‘13