Letter to a friend not yet met
What if you could become more than a tourist – what if in one week you could get to the heart of Mexican culture and actually make a difference? Delegations of students from all over the United States have been visiting Mexico through Community Links International for nearly two decades. These delegations get to dip into Mexican culture not only by guided tours, but they actually get to know, work with and live among the people of these communities.
What makes Community Links International unique is that we weave together tourism, service and education so that our guests get a holistic experience from which they can bring home not only sombreros and photos but also a greater understanding of how US-Mexican relations operate. We create the connections and then provide the tools to continue to make change locally with a new, global awareness.
By traveling with Community Links International, you are supporting the local economy in a number of ways. All of the funds that come from student delegations are directly invested into community development projects like building ecological stoves and a classroom for our afterschool program. During the trips, we contract our neighbors to help us facilitate projects and workshops for the groups. Then we have the homestays, which serve as an enriching exchange for all parties. These experiences are truly about taking small steps to make big change: our delegates get the opportunity to expand their worldview, and each trip and project reinforces the idea of economic solidarity and cross-cultural understanding.
Our trips have generally attracted Catholic youth groups from all over the US, but we are unaffiliated with any religious or governmental organization. We have also hosted strictly educational seminars and workshops with other non-profits and academics, and recently discovered that many of our students engaged with community members by playing soccer. Now we are inviting athletic teams to join us on trips focused on sports, culture and service. If you have a specific idea in mind for how you would like to orient your trip, our experienced and well-connected staff would enthusiastically work to structure a program to your group’s needs. We invite you to experience the pleasure, taste and profundity of Mexico’s rich culture through our service-learning programs.
Here are a few testimonials from past delegates and their faculty:
I have done a lot of service trips, and I think CLI is one of the best (if not the best) program I have worked with. Arturo is a fantastic host. The hospitality that he and the CLI staff showed us was exceptional.
There was a great balance between the cultural activities and the work projects. I have been on trips when you receive a few instructions but are largely autonomous on the work projects which can be a huge challenge. I appreciate the work you, Manuel, Ena, Jay, and Maggie did to teach and guide the students on the work projects. The work projects were also varied, which was great. The students stayed engaged by doing a variety of projects. It was nice for the students to have the opportunity to visit the pyramid and Puebla. And it was good for them to get a presentation each day to make connections with the work they were doing. The work projects went very well. There was excellent supervision by the CLI staff.
This trip was wonderful. I hope to return next year as a potential leader for MSU. Please, keep up thegreat work. You have a great vision and some excellent people trying to carry that out. I fully support Community Links and would love to return someday.
-Steve Ragatzki Michigan State University
We visited churches, attend mass, went to the market, drove up and down the streets, played soccer, toured ancient pyramids, ate local food, [participated in a] sweat lodge, had a home stay, visited the river, stayed at the Hermitage, used economic Mexican building techniques and so on. We learned about the good (sense of community and generosity) and the bad (poverty and pollution).
Something I have realized is that these trips do not accomplish a whole lot on their own, but each visiting group adds a small piece, and together a lot is accomplished. I have faith that my work will inspire and encourage others.