A few days ago I was inspired by the smile of a small boy named Diego, who lives in a poor community of Tecate, Mexico. I spent last week in Mexico as a guest of Rancho La Puerta. Our group of 18 bloggers visited Diego’s community last Thursday.
As a border town, Tecate is known as a migrant town and is highly transient. The average worker earns $5-10 per day. Diego and his family live in the outskirts of Tecate where people can still acquire land by squatter’s rights. Diego’s neighborhood is crammed with one tiny home after another, many without running water. Poverty is rampant in this part of town.
Fundacion La Puerta, Rancho La Puerta’s non-profit, gave us a tour of several of their projects in the area, including the Professor’s Park, where local children are educated on environmental issues. We then visited Diego’s community to experience the organic garden projects and see first-hand the environmental and social impact of their work.
Fundacion La Puerta was inspired to help this poor community because of one main reason- the people voluntarily came together to improve the life of everyone in their community. They started neighborhood projects to work together to make things better for everyone. Fundacion La Puerta heard about their existing efforts and wanted to support them and assist with expansion of their existing programs.
Our visit today took us to the home of the elder woman who leads the project. She was proud to show us their recycling equipment and their gardens. This community has one of the first machines to crush products for recycling. They gather all of the recyclables from Rancho La Puerta as well as from many of the neighboring schools. Last year their efforts earned a profit of $800, which they have set aside for the purchase of a new truck. This will allow them to increase their recycling efforts with additional clients and earn more profit to build a larger garden to provide more food for the people of their community.
We toured their organic neighborhood garden, located along the riverbank of the Tecate River. The women proudly showed us their beds of fresh chilies, lettuce and other crops. The fresh salsa from their garden must be amazing!
The garden was fenced with a chain link fence with a large lock. I thought the fence was to keep rabbits and other hungry critters out of the garden, but was told it was put up to prevent local residents from stealing the water!
Adjacent to the garden is a rusty old swing set and a few playground toys for the local children. Diego and his two friends were playing and laughing, and seemed to be quite happy.
Time for true confessions here….. After a week at this amazing health-conscious ranch, many of us were craving chocolate. Don’t get me wrong….the meals at Rancho La Puerta are amazing, and while we greatly enjoyed the incredible meals, we just missed chocolate. So, on the way to visit the community, we asked our driver to stop at a mini-market to purchase some chocolate bars. I think the grocery story clerk thought it was quite strange when I ran in and purchased 20 Hershey bars. The 18 bloggers on the shuttle bus were quite happy and shared the chocolate with delight.
By the time our bus reached the community gardens, we still had a handful of candy bars remaining. After asking permission from their mothers, we shared the remaining chocolate with the local children. The smiles and wide-eyed wonder of Diego and his friends were contagious.
What stuck me the most was the innocence and joy in the faces of these children, ranging in age from 5-9 years of age. The two boys and the little girl seemed very happy! Here there were living in one of the poorest communities one could find, with little prospect of creating a prosperous life, and yet they seemed genuinely happy. Was it that they didn’t know what they were missing or did they know something we don’t know?
Our guide told us that these children rarely get treats like chocolate and this could have been the first time they had ever experienced this luxury. Wrap your head around that one for a moment…. to have never eaten chocolate before? Wow! They’re within a stone’s throw of the US Border and one of the most abundant nations on the planet, and yet a world away.
Spending time with the residents of this small community on the outskirts of Tecate and seeing the work of Fundacion La Puerta was one of the highlights of my trip. It certainly provided an extreme adjustment in perspective to us, especially since we were coming here from Rancho La Puerta, the 5-star resort and spa. I felt a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunities in my life and an even greater sense of responsibility to reach out to make a difference.
Yesterday, as I was writing this post as I watched the consumerism displayed in the Super Bowl commercials, it gave me great pause once again. This IS in our backyard and feeding hungry people is more important to me than the latest gadget. I’m compelled to help.
Thank you Fundacion La Puerta for sharing this experience with us. I plan to come back again soon and find a way to help this small community help themselves through our upcoming Global Hug Tour. If you are moved and want to help, please comment below or feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.