The “First World” has lessons to learn about community building!

The Bajio is a region in Central Mexico which is made up of the States of Guanajuato, Queretaro, and Jalisco as well as a part of Michoacan. It is an area of extreme poverty and lack of economic opportunity. The able-bodied men of the area migrate north to the United States leaving their family members(mainly women, children and the elderly) trapped, dependent on remittances they can send back as one of the few means of support.

The Fundacion Comunitaria del Bajio(the Bajio Community Foundation) is a non-profit association that works to promote local development in the communities in the region. It seeks to help address access to basic services, infrastructure, and creation of economic opportunities at the grassroots level. The community members in partnership with field workers from the Fundacion and both public and private sector partners from Mexico, the United States, and Europe collaborate to address the needs of each particular community.

The Fundacion helps the families involved work through a process which starts with the identification of the specific challenges, needs, potentials and priorities in six(6) basic areas: economic, social, education, health, intangible heritage and preservation of natural resources.

Next, the Fundacion aids the community in setting up their own management groups, local organizations, businesses, and social activities which will over time improve the daily lives of everyone in the local community, their friends and neighbors.

The Fundacion then helps connect the communities with organizations, government agencies, corporations and individuals both in Mexico and abroad who will be able to provide expertise and funding to develop these projects for the betterment of the community.

The ultimate goal of these projects is to create a solid infrastructure which will allow the people in these communities to break the cycle of migration to the United States by creating viable enterprises in the area which not only create jobs now but create an environment which allow for longer term growth, prosperity and stability in the region. A by-product of this development is that it builds a citizenry that will have the knowledge and ability to interact with their government officials and direct normal government programs to their best use in the community also.

The Fundacion Comunitaria del Bajio has taken to heart the meaning of the old adage, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” It should serve as a model of development in Mexico as well as the rest of the developing world. While it is good to provide for immediate needs, the best way to help individuals long-term is to work with them to create an infrastructure that allows them to support themselves.

An argument can be made that it could serve as a model for use in pockets of poverty, urban and rural, in developed countries including the United States and Europe. While these countries lead the world in social programs to take care of those who are lacking, most of these solutions are more of the ‘give a man a fish…’ variety and have less emphasis on ‘teach a man…’ concept. Perhaps this is something that should be rethought by these “developed” nations.

By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity Jeffery is a mostly socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative Anglo male who is involved in his local Hispanic community as the widower of a 1st generation Mexican-American woman and his active, some would say hyperactive, membership in the local Council of the League of Latin American Citizens(LULAC).

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