Community Voices in 2016

 

Our Puente community, from board members to strategic partners to community allies to staff members and volunteers, makes our work possible and helps us to strengthen our work and extend our reach. Here are some of their voices:

 

Gabriel Garcia

Board Member; Professor Stanford School of Medicine

Our board members share a common vision for the organization... our ties to the communities served by Puente are deepened with time.

I first got to know Puente’s work on a field study with the University of Stanford that I led in 2005. We were looking to partner with organizations in Oaxaca doing extraordinary work in public health, and worked on qualitative research projects with Puente in those years. Based on our collaboration, Puente won the Outstanding Community Partner Award from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

I now serve on Puente’s board of directors. It is inspiring to support an organization that wants to make a difference in communities in Oaxaca that are culturally rich but economically vulnerable.

Our work on food sovereignty identifies existing assets of the community and aims to enhance them. The staff and board members share with community members a desire to collaborate, make decisions based on ethical principles, and strengthen social and economic ties.

I have a strong sense at our board meetings that our members share a common vision for the organization, that our values are closely aligned with Puente’s mission, that our interactions with staff are seen as opportunities to learn and engage, and that our ties to the communities served by Puente are deepened with time. I am delighted to be part of this effort.

 

Carmen Genis

Development Director, Oaxaca Community Foundation

It always seems impossible, until it's done.

In 2006, I was working as a part of the Puente a la Salud Comunitaria team, which was, in those times, just beginning with a unique idea: to promote the consumption of amaranth as an alternative to improve nutrition in Oaxacan communities.

For me, this was the beginning stage of Puente, innocent and a bit naive but with good and noble intentions. We would go out to the communities in two “Vochos” (old VW bugs), slightly dilapidated and full of amaranth, to talk about the importance of a healthy diet and to do workshops on integrating amaranth into family meals.

We needed to spread that idea; and through that initial work, other people became involved whose community development-focused knowledge complemented the work we were doing. Amaranth farming initiatives were started, as it was clear that we couldn’t continue to promote its consumption without covering the supply for communities. That meant facing new challenges in operation, resources, logistics, etc. At this point I stopped working with Puente, but with the intention of returning in the future.

By means of an alliance between the Fundación Comunitaria Oaxaca (where I currently work) and Puente, I’ve once again begun to collaborate with Puente, and I have been able to see the tremendous achievements Puente has made in these past 13 years; the focus is no longer just consumption and cultivation, the work has expanded to cover the entire cycle: production, commercialization, and consumption, all grounded in the core concepts of economic solidarity, nutrition, and communal well-being. It is with great happiness that I see the fruits of the labor that before I had considered to be incomplete: communities committed to improving nutrition, expanding their alternatives to maintain their food sovereignty, families farming and commercializing a variety of amaranth products, and two regional networks propelling all this work.

Recently, as I drove down a highway in Oaxaca I came across an enormous and leafy amaranth plot, and I remembered something Nelson Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”

 

 

Minerva Cruz Dominguez

Amaranth Farmer

My women's community group built an amaranth processing center... we are happy to see this shared benefit.

I am from Santiago Suchilquitongo and have been an amaranth farmer for two years. I really like working with Puente because they are a unique organization that truly collaborates with farmers. What I have most enjoyed is learning to organize projects with other community members, we are used to working alone but I have built stronger relationships with my neighbors through working with Puente.

Last year, I formed a community group with nine other women and we built an amaranth processing center with the support of Puente and a Mexican Federal government project, which is now accessible to all amaranth farmers. The space has been of great use, farmers go and clean and store their amaranth grain there and we are happy to see this shared benefit.

The biggest challenge is motivating young people to farm the land, which is now very abandoned. Farming amaranth is simple, it all depends on us. The only limit is our own vision and goals. In the future, I would like to see at least half of my community members farming amaranth and everyone integrating amaranth into their diets on a regular basis.

Hipolito Molina

Social Economy Program Facilitator

I see people learning and growing together; and truly taking ownership of the commercialization process.

I am from the Sierra Norte of Puebla, where I studied development planning. I am interested in how to support sustainable community development in our indigenous communities of Mexico.

Motivated by this, I joined the Puente Social Economy team two years ago. Puente was going through a transition after our Strategic Plan to strengthen the regional teams, so I joined the Mixteca Alta team, and have worked to amplify our community impact.

My day looks like, arriving to the regional office to have a cup of coffee and check in with my teammates, then visiting one of the ten amaranth micro enterprise groups in the region, planning a product innovation workshop with them, or making sure the minipopper is running in the regional sales center. 

I am also in charge of helping to strengthen the organization of the Regional Amaranth Network, a network made up of farmers and micro enterprise groups from the communities we serve to work together to expand the local economy for amaranth in the region.

It has been really exciting to see the progress of both the micro enterprise groups and the Regional Network. This year, we have three new micro enterprise groups, the groups have innovated new products, and sales have grown. Most importantly I see people learning and growing together, and truly taking ownership of the process. Don Crispino makes amaranth granola bars and porridge mix with him family and sometimes works to 3 in the morning to finish an order! He says, “I am grateful to be able to contribute to my community’s nutrition and health and earn a living wage working with my family.” I am thrilled to be part of positive change for the communities we serve.