The MEXICO Report
“The Good News About Mexico”
The Birth and Growth of PEACE – How One Idea is Transforming the Bay of Banderas
All it takes is one. One belief. One idea. One person. Eight years ago, that person was Molly Fisher, a science teacher from South Bend, Indiana, now the Founder and Director of PEACE: Protection, Education, Animals, Culture and Environment.
Fisher has built a team 35 employees strong. Last year alone the PEACE team prevented more than 234,500,000 unwanted animal births over the next seven years, more than 1,000 students participated in education programs, 250 students increased their education time by 35% for less than $1 USD a day. Volunteers clocked more than 10,000 hours and more than 40 women increased their household income thereby improving the lives of over 118 children. More than 645 students participated in environmental education and 150 children received free dental care from licensed dentists – all for under $400,000 USD.
When Fisher moved to Isla Mujeres in 1999 —a small, idyllic island off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula—she was planning to stay for a year. Her mission was to learn Spanish so that she could communicate easier with the majority of Hispanic students in her classroom. But when Fisher’s adopted dog, Jordi was killed in what was known as a “dog sweep” in which a local government team rounded up loose dogs and electrocuted them in attempts to control animal over-population, she decided to do something about it.
“I thought, I can waste all this energy being angry, or I can use it to do something positive,” Fisher said. “I realized spay and neuter clinics were the best way to do that.”
Ayuda a los Animales (Help the Animals) ran its first spay and neuter clinic in 2001 on Isla Mujeres. PEACE grew from there.
“It doesn’t make sense to look at one sector of the community alone,” Fisher said. “If one part is off-balance, it can through the entire community off.”
So Fisher looked at one community.
In 2002, she relocated to the Bay of Banderas and founded PEACE, to combat animal overpopulation, provide education, encourage community building, and help local women become self-sufficient. All programs were made alongside community members who are consistently integral in every decision-making process.
Punta de Mita was the starting point for many reasons. There were no spay and neuter clinics in the area at that time, and development and tourism created a unique set of circumstances that provided the potential for funding through both donations and sustainable businesses.
Today, PEACE is headquartered in Punta de Mita and has four main programs that focus on education, entrepreneurship, ecology, animal well-being and community engagement in communities throughout Nayarit and Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Community Pride seeks to foster pride through programs that demonstrate the importance of protecting the environment through awareness and education programs about recycling, composting, organic farming and green business and conducts community beautification projects including recycled parks built in schools and beach, town and river cleanups.
Help the Animals responds to the challenges of the unwanted pet population in 30+ towns throughout México in aggressive and free spay/neuter programs, free or low cost veterinary services and community-wide education about the humane treatment of animals. Every year, 2,500 unwanted animal births are prevented.
Adults and children are given the opportunity to complete their primary and secondary education through a state certified continuing education and alternative school program, Casa Comunidad. Free tutoring and extracurricular activities are also provided which stimulate creativity, analytical thinking and problem solving.
More than 40 local women empower themselves through their involvement in the PEACE Boutique artesian cooperative. Through this outlet, they learn design and craft skills and sell their art through various venues, while boosting confidence and increasing their economic independence.
PEACE programs are designed to be replicable. “It doesn’t have to have the PEACE name on it, “Fisher said. “If we can teach others to do what we’ve done, that’s even better. We want to learn from them too.”
PEACE will begin guiding other non-profit organizations to administer similar programming starting this year in Puerto Vallarta.
Visit PEACE, http://www.peacemexico.org
Visit PEACE Blog, http://peacemexico.blogspot.com/