It is safe to say that in the last few months, the world has changed. And the communities we serve are no exception.
In the community of Miguel Alemán (near Hermosillo, Mexico), where I coordinate 1MISSION’s work, we have had to adapt our strategies and expectations. We’ve had to scrap old plans and make new ones.
We had planned to build six new houses during this time. We planned to host a large team of volunteers who were coming to serve during their spring break. And we had planned new classes and workshops for the families we serve. Most of those plans are on standby for now.
During the early days of this crisis, when the local authorities in Miguel Alemán started to alert residents about the new reality we were facing, there were strong reactions. Some families went into a total panic, while others completely ignored the warnings and decided to continue on with their normal lives.
The first decision I had to make as project coordinator was to modify the construction projects, classes, and workshops to be sure no more than 10 people were gathered at any one time, while also keeping their distance from each other. For a week or two, our community development trainers taught classes on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Eventually, we had to suspend all activities to comply with a decision by local authorities to stop all “non-essential” activities.
As I write this, Efrain, our construction foreman, and a team of masons continue to work on two houses. The rest of our normal community development programs are on hold.
My local team is made up of pastors from the community, which means they too are suffering the consequences of this pandemic in their churches. At first, they were gathering in small groups at homes. Then that changed to making more personal visits to community members. Now all they can do is pray for them from their own homes.
While many of us have started “going to church” or “attending school” online, in Miguel Alemán this is extremely difficult. Most community members don’t have access to the internet or even good cell phones. Despite these challenges, pastors Josue, Efraín, Margarita, and their families continue to pray for their neighbors. And they stay in touch with local families through a WhatsApp group chat. As for students, we fear many of them are falling behind in their studies.
For others in Miguel Alemán, like field workers, the work never ends. Some agricultural workers have had reduced hours, and others have been laid off. Meanwhile, food prices have gone up. Those fortunate enough to keep their jobs in the fields don’t usually have protective equipment. Recently the first local case of COVID-19 was detected in an agricultural field worker. He is now under medical supervision.
The families we serve in Miguel Alemán were already vulnerable. COVID-19 has made their situation worse. That’s why, as an organization, we are looking out for the comprehensive well-being of these families.
Over the past month, we have been distributing food baskets with enough to feed a family for a week. Because we want to support the local economy, these food baskets have been purchased directly from Super Cele, a family supermarket in Miguel Alemán.
It was a great encouragement to us when we received a generous donation of more than 250 fabric masks made by students at the sewing shop in Puerto Peñasco, which you may have read about. We began delivering those masks to the families we work with, many of whom didn’t have access to any other protective materials.
Last Friday, while delivering masks to families, I saw 10-year-old Itzel sitting outside doing her homework. That image stays with me: a brave, disciplined little girl, doing her best – no matter what.
This has been a challenging time for all us – including you and me. And while we cannot control much of what goes on around us, we do have some control over our reactions to it. For those of us who are blessed with safe, comfortable houses with beds, bathrooms, and kitchens, let’s remember to be grateful for what we have. And let’s remember the families 1MISSION serves – families that are often crowded into small, unsafe places. Thank you for partnering with us to change this reality.
We’ll get through this together. But for now, let’s stay home and stay safe.