Thursday, June 30, 2011

Noche En Vía, A Night to remember!

Change is something that we have to do everyday. Everyday we have an opportunity to make things better, but Noche En Vía was an exception. It was perfect! We were able to show how hard everyone is working and collaborating with the communities of Teotitlan del Valle and Diaz Ordaz to make Fundación En Vía possible.

During Noche En Vía, last Thursday night, I was very proud to be part of a project in which people from different cultures, idiosyncrasis and backgrounds have collaborated together to make the lives of many families from Teotitlan and Diaz Ordaz a little better and I would like to thank them all for such a great night.

The Team that made this night possible

Andy Healy, Carli Blankenship, Chris McCoy, Heather Hutcheson, Susan Aycock, Kristen Thomasson, Erik Johnson, Liz Patel, Jessica Lawrence, Naomi Harper, Armando Josue Angel Ramirez, Samantha Wattson, Shelley Tennyson,Yu-Ting Lin, Alonso Gorozpe, Erika Moreno, Sofia Etchegaray, Erik Carlberg, Kim Groves, Shauna Dillavou, Flor Salazar, Pritha Dev, Julia Turnbull, Mikhail Kaler, Mae Wiskin, and Chonita Ruiz.

I wish everyone (Volunteers, Friends, Staff) that has made Fundación En Vía possible was there last Thursday night, but especially I wish Emily Berens was there because without her help and great work Fundación En Vía wouldn't be what it is today! She deserved to be that last thursday night celebrating with us.

I would also like to thank the people from Cafe Central who contributed such a great venue for our first En Vía event. 

Noche En Vía was full of good stories and I would like to share some of them with you.

Sam opened our presentations by talking about our Microfinance program


Shelley and Erik presented the business training program "Como manejar el dinero de su negocio" which was given to Fundación En Vía by Freedom from Hunger's branch in Mexico "Alcance"

Susan Aycock presented the English Program, which thanks to her help and that of dozens of other volunteers, we now have a succussful English program with a wonderful curriculum that serves the artisans and children of Teotitlan del Valle.


Alo Gorozpe presented the graphic design program in which he works with Sofia and Erika to design the corporate image of many of our entrepreneurs. Alo, Sofia and Erika are all part of Universidad Iberoamericana's social work program.

Teresa Lopez Montaño, Josefina Guzman and Amelia Ruiz presented their projects and spoke about the differece Fundación En Vía has made in their business, and the growth they've experienced! Thanks to Cafe Central this women were able to sell their handcrafts at the event!

Aquilina and Soledad (Doña Chole) sold Quesadillas on the terrace of Cafe Central - another excellent way to support them!

I had a blast last thursday night, but if I had to say what was the best part of the night. I would say it was the performance of "Güilli Ska." A brand new band from Teotitlan del Valle who played their first gig during Noche En Vía, they played beautifuly.


 DJ Betina from Mexico City closed an amazing night playing electronic music!

Last but not least I would like to thank all the people who joined us during Noche En Vía for their support and help. It encourages us, and keeps us moving forward with our programs!




Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What does it mean to graduate?

By Julia Turnbull and Shelley Tennyson

Last Thursday, I attended the sixth session in a series of business training classes, which En Vía offers in the village of Teotitlán del Valle. After the women finished discussing the pros and cons of selling their wares to clients on credit, they received their certificates and graduated from the program. Having just attended several graduations, I began to think about what it means to graduate. 

Graduations mark an accomplishment, and usually follow times of intense examinations and marathon paper writing. For the 37 entrepreneurs who just completed the business training, graduation was a very significant milestone. Shelley, one of our volunteer teachers, was very impressed with the students’ dedication – many of them having had perfect attendance and a sincere interest in employing the skills they learned during the training.

As each student received her certificate, she shared one thing that she learned and how she had already improved her business. Shelley was thrilled about the transformation she saw in her students’ attitudes toward their businesses.

“Most of them started with an attitude that their businesses were something that barely kept them and their families alive, over which they had no control; it was a feeling that their lives of poverty were hopeless and could never change. At the end they were planning to separate their money, find ways to save in small amounts, invest more in their businesses, and selling new products. They were seeing their businesses as something that could really become viable and serve their lives—crack in the wall of poverty that they have lived with all their lives. It's just been incredible.”

Like the graduates I saw in the two college graduations I attended this past month, these graduates were full of hope for their new beginnings. They too have dynamic skill sets that they could not have imagined before they started this journey with En Vía. Their certificates are passports to stronger businesses and better futures.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mexican Hospitality Style

By Susan Aycock

It's a funny thing that Americans don't invite people to their houses much
any more. I'm not sure Martha Stewart did anyone any favors -- she made us
all feel inadequate to entertain if we didn't grow the frigging corn before
making the tortillas for a theme-based dinner party. (Of course, she's done
her time, but I hear she's out entertaining again.)

The great thing about Mexico is that people DO invite people over, but the
chickens might be tied up outside the kitchen, the floor is dirt so mopping
won't help, and guess what? The food is still usually great!

My English teaching friend Shelley and I were invited Sunday to the home of
Crispina, who's been in my English classes since September, in Teotitlán del
Valle, about an hour outside of Oaxaca. We knew it was to celebrate her
husband Fernando's birthday, but it would be just us and the family.

Since the buses don't run much on Sunday, we took two collectivo taxis for
the 45-minute trip; Crispina met us at the city hall to walk us to her
house. She does have an indoor kitchen and gas stove, but gas is expensive
-- so they most often use the outdoor kitchen: dirt floor, rooster
(tomorrow's dinner) tied up outside, and a huge pot on a wood fire.

She and her daughter-in-law Celyflor, also one of my English students, were
making yellow tamales, a huge labor of love because they're so time
intensive. They had already made the sauce and tortilla dough, which
Crispina rolled into balls and put between plastic in an  arm-yanking
tortilla press; Cely put some chicken and salsa in each one and wrapped it
like a little package in a milpa (corn) leaf.

Shelley and I got wooden chairs to sit in and we made conversation (in
pretty damn decent Spanish!) while they worked for a couple of hours. The
tamales went into boiling water with the fire constantly fed by odd pieces
of wood, and then Crispina fished them out with her bare hands, dipped first
in cold water.

Around 3:30, we joined the family in the indoor kitchen with two huge
baskets of cooked tamales, the beer Shelley had brought and the zucchini
bread I had made. There were cloth napkins; Crispina is a talented
seamstress who makes tablecloths, bedspreads and more. We sang the birthday
song in English.

When it was time to leave, Fernando walked us back to the main road to make
sure we didn't get lost. We had to wait by the side of the highway for a
collectivo back to Oaxaca, mine a carload of hearing-impaired guys signing
wildly to each other back to front seats (is there Spanish sign language?).

And you know what? I think I've never been entertained so graciously. Even Martha Stewart wouldn't be able to find fault with Crispina's cloth napkins.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Hard Part about Spring

We have celebrated many accomplishments in the last two years, but like every organization/business, we face many challenges…

Last night I was tossing and turning unable to sleep, because today I knew I would have to cancel a tour, and in turn, next week we would not be able to give a loan, and then in addition to even this, we would have to push back the line of 30 women all waiting to receive a loan from us, yet again. May was a hard month, tourism and Oaxaca was sliiimmmm and getting a tour together was a struggle every week, when all was said and done, we ran 3 tours.

This was not a surprise for us; we knew May would be a slow month and we planned for it, alerting our borrowers in March that April and May would be slow, but that we would pick back up in June. Now, here we are in June unable to run our Thursday tour, and Saturday doesn’t look promising either. Although last week, we were able to run both our Thursday and Saturday tours, which I took as a good sign for the month, we have found ourselves again struggling to sign-up tourists.

We are a project based on tourism and these ebbs and flows come with the industry. However, it hits hard because we know that when we don’t have tours we can’t give loans, and in this moment we feel like we are letting everybody down: the 140 women borrowers in Teotitlán and Díaz Ordaz counting on us, our incredible alumni making everything possible, and our dedicated volunteers helping us grow.

The last two days I have been asking everyone I know to come on a tour. And with every ‘I am on a budget, and I can’t swing the $50 bucks’ comment – I find myself wondering, what does $50 mean to people? It is not as though, I don’t think $50 is a lot of money, because I do, especially if travelling on a budget, but all I am thinking about in this moment is what $50 means to us. To us $50 means, next week we are providing 6 loans that will help jump start projects and provide 6 women with the opportunity to get themselves out of poverty. Even more, the money becomes more than just a loan, it’s facilitating social change and cross-cultural exchange – and uplifting and connecting communities. So, how do I communicate to someone that this will be the best $50 bucks they spend in Mexico, because believe me it is. Just the other day, Audrey, a tour alumni, “This tour was by far the best thing I’ve done in Mexico.” 

Luckily, with a current team of 20 volunteers and so many incredible things going on at En Vía, I can’t help but wake up everyday excited for what the day will bring and the work we will accomplish. From the design of our very-own logo to the kick-off of our business-training program to the creation of new curriculum for our English program there are a lot of cool things going on. I can’t help but stop the next person I meet and tell them all about En Vía, and hope that after hearing everything we’re accomplishing, they’ll want to be part of it all by joining us on our next tour.

So I ask all of you for a favor - if you haven't already: Like Us on Facebook, suggest that your friends Like Us on Facebook, talk about us on Facebook, if Tweet - tweet about us, if you blog - blog about us, read our blog, re-post our blog, and finally if you hate social media, and really don't understand whether tweeting is a bird call or new sport and frankly you could careless, talk about us to someone in town at a local coffee shop, I even give you permission to use it as a pick-up line ;)

Thank you in advance for all of your support!  -Sam