On a Mission in Mexico – Part 2

Below is Part 2 of ‘On a Mission in Mexico’ written by guest blogger, Betsy McNair of My Mexico Tours.
On a Mission in Mexico

(Note surprised look on the gal at the table on the left. I think she might have mistaken us for famous people.)

On Monday, October 24, Jane and I met with John and Consuelo, the filmmakers responsible for El Andalón, a documentary film on the work of my hero Sergio Castro, and Mary  Murrell and Ivan Schuster, the couple behind the fund-raising events for Sergio in San Miguel. Team Sergio was beginning to gel. Over cappuccinos on the jardín, we introduced ourselves to one another and learned more about the plan of events for the next few days.

(Note surprised look on the gal at the table on the left. I think she might have mistaken us for famous people.)

Sergio and his wife would arrive from Chiapas later that day. (What a coup to have them here; Sergio rarely travels away from San Cristóbal, where his many patients need him on a daily basis.) Patricia Ferrer, a physician’s assistant from Tucson who travels to Chiapas twice a year for two weeks to work side-by-side with Sergio, would be in San Miguel late that night, along with her physical therapist friend Kathleen and the 200+ pounds of medical supplies they carried with them. They were both en route to Chiapas but had squeezed in two days in San Miguel to help with the fund-raising events.

Patricia arriving

Patricia, arriving in San Miguel

Mary’s local helpers Iri and Olivia were busy building forms on which thetrajes would be displayed and with preparations of food and drink for over 100 people. More local pals were scheduled to take tickets and otherwise assist at both events. The San Miguel bilingual paper, Atención, had just run the second of Mary’s beautifully written articles about Sergio’s work and his upcoming visit. Posters were up around town, the buzz was building. Everywhere we went we talked about Don Sergio and El Andalón and people responded enthusiastically; two guests at Casa Luna, our gorgeous home-away-from-home in San Miguel, bought tickets for both events and went about spreading the word to others.

On Tuesday morning a visit to Patronato de Niños, a fabulously successful andvenerable non-profit organization in San Miguel that provides free of low-cost medical and dental care to low-income children, was planned.Tuesday afternoon Mary and Ivan would host a luncheon and planning session for Team Sergio at their home. Tuesday night was the first of the two public events scheduled: the screening of El Andalón at the Angela Peralta Theater. Wednesday the Sala Quetzal at the Biblioteca was reserved for a showing of a portion of Sergio’s traje collection. On Thursday Sergio and Elsa would head back to Chiapas, Patricia and Kathleen would be there to greet them, and they’d be back at work helping and healing by Friday.
Our days were full. I was engaged. Engaged as in a gear that was properly meshed, interlocked and interacting with the other moving parts – in this case, Team Sergio. It felt beyond enlivening.

Tuesday dawned clear and cool. Sergio and Elsa had arrived safely, Patricia and Kathleen and the 200+ pounds of supplies were also in town. We all met up for the Patronato visit, an inspiring time. Pedro, the taxi driver who brought us back to town, became our new best friend and member of Team Sergio and offered to take the group shots at the Mirador, coaching us into the best poses.

The luncheon was just lovely, Mary and Ivan’s beautiful home a marvelous backdrop for our first gathering as Team Sergio.

On a Mission in Mexico

L to R, Consuelo, me, Sergio, Elsa, Patricia, Jane, Consuelo's parents Gloria and José, and Kathleen. Photo by Pedro the taxi driver.

All of us, in emails leading up to this meeting, had expressed our awareness that no matter what our own personal goals for Sergio were – a brick and mortar clinic, a proper museum on the main street in San Cris, establishing nonprofit status for organization, Yok Chij, etc.- our only real goal was to find out what he wanted and make a plan to get that for him.

Elsa and Sergio with their Welcome Cake

Once the dessert plates were cleared we slowly segued into meeting mode. We asked Sergio what we wanted and needed. It wasn’t easy for him; he talked about how hard it was to predict the future, to see past the immediate needs of each day – shelter and food for his family, medical supplies for his patients, and transportation for him to reach them. I was aware of how difficult this conversation must have been for him, a humble guy just trying to do his work because, as he says, “What else would you do?” sitting at a table with eight eager friends who really want to help. I, for one, can be pretty intense in a situation I am passionate about, and I was most definitely passionate about this. I attempted to lower my energy level so as to not overwhelm.

Eventually Sergio found a safe spot and began to share. What emerged was the crystal clear need: financial security, both immediate and long-term. We compiled a laundry list of very specific items needed and their monetary value. Into focus came the amount of $72,000 pesos needed to get things up to speed. We then looked at Sergio and Elsa’s monthly expenses – rent, utilities, food, medicines, transportation to the villages six days a week – and settled on the amount of $4000 USD per month needed to keep things running for the long-term.
Miss Pep Club that I am, I encouraged us to rally around the $72,ooo peso (about $5500 USD) figure as a goal for our time together in San Miguel. “Si,se puede!” I called out, and the gang joined in.
The screening was wonderful. Eighty-one people were in attendance and all eighty-one clearly felt the love. During the Q&A after the film the questions focused on “What more can we do to help?” We raised $15,000 pesos that night in ticket sales, DVD sales, and a spontaneous passing of the hat. The surprise of the evening was Sergio and Elsa’s attendance. They came up on stage toward the end and Sergio spoke to the group in impassioned Spanish, explaining his mission to help very clearly:”I trust in God, he entrusts me with a gift to heal, and so I do.”

Don Sergio on stage with John, Patricia, Elsa, and Consuelo after the Tuesday night screening.

Wednesday evening found us at the Sala Quetzal, putting together the trajeson the stands that Iri had made. They looked absolutely stunning in the context of the room; they formed a border above which David Leonardo’s bold mural floated.

A printed guide of the trajes was available and people walked their way through the exhibit at their own pace. In the courtyard, Sergio and Elsa greeted people, and the crowd grew. Olivia’s team served a gorgeous selection of botanas and an excellent sangria. We raised $5,400 pesos in ticket and DVD sales, and donations of $1,200 USD were received, with the promise of more to come. An exciting night.
And now, the good news.
The results of our fund-raising events in San Miguel are as follows:
October 25 screening of El Andalón: $15,000 pesos
October 26 reception and traje exhibit: $5,400 pesos
Other donations ($2700 USD donations made at and after the events)$35,910 pesos
IF Foundation ($990 USD from event by Food in the Hood in Santa Cruz, CA)$13,167 pesos
My Mexico Tours’ peeps donations $2000 pesos
Patricia’s friends’ donation $1330 pesos
Total $72,807 pesos¡SI, PUDIMOS! We did it. We met and topped the $72,000 peso goal.Aside from the joy of hitting the mark, I am touched beyond words at the contributions that came from so many of you who weren’t there in person in San Miguel but were most definitely there in spirit: Tereza and the whole Food In The Hood family; the IF Foundation, which has taken Don Sergio under their wing quite literally, allowing people to now donate through a US-based non-profit organization; Patricia’s generous friends in Tuscon (whom it turns out I met years ago at the B&B), and the many friends of My Mexico Tours who allowed me to be there and sent money directly to Sergio as well. Bravo and mil gracias to each and every one of you.

Tereza's darling daughters, who cooked, served, and cleaned up at the June Food in the Hood event in Santa Cruz.

The monthly $4000 USD is a bit more complicated and will take some work. Monthly pledges from supporters might be the way to go. Allowing people to “join” Team Sergio, now known as Amigos del Andalón, via his web page would raise funds little by little while building a community of like-minded supporters of his work. A grass-roots movement to show the film and raise money among friends and colleagues seems a likely path to take. And without a doubt, a grant or the backing of a foundation would help immensely.

Aside from the concrete achievements produced during of our time in San Miguel, many important seeds were sown that will likely produce fruit down the road. Several people from within the Rotary Club were in attendance and expressed their desire to help Sergio through the Rotary, possibly with a car or other concrete items. A well-known professional photographer (NY Times, National Geographic) is planning a trip to San Cristobal to spend time with Sergio in January, giving us a good chance of wide coverage for Sergio. Contacts were made with at least two large foundations who expressed interest in sharing Don Sergios’ work with their boards. At least two people I spoke to have offered to go to Chiapas in the coming year and provide hands-on help. These are just the results I’m aware of, I’m certain there are more wheels turning out there that we have yet to discover.

Amigos del Andalon

Amigos del Andalon

Our work is cut out for us. And we’re ready. We met for the first time as a team just two short weeks ago, and we left as partners, Amigos del Andalón. We each have something unique to bring to the table and we worked together brilliantly. We share a vision that is bigger than ourselves yet completely achievable, and we’re committed to sharing that vision so that everyone may participate in helping Don Sergio to continue with his work.

It’s a rare and beautiful thing to be able to help such a purely good cause. Please visit YokChij.org any time you’d like a hit of the joy.

Read the first article, ‘On a Mission in Mexico – Part 1‘ by Betsy McNair.

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Susie Albin-Najera
Susie Albin-Najera is the creator and editor of The Mexico Report, an award winning travel blog showcasing news, deals and resources for the modern traveler. Najera is a writer, author, travel blogger, marketing and public relations specialist and producer. Najera serves on the host committee for Maestro Cares, founded by singer Marc Anthony and producer Henry Cardenas; and on the advisory board for Corazon de Vida, providing aid to children in Mexico. She is also the creator of 'The Real Heroes of Mexico' showcasing community heroes in Mexico and producer of Latino Thought Makers. Najera has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate and Mexico Tourism Board for fostering positive relations between countries and her dedication to showcasing Mexico as a premiere destination. She can be reached at info@themexicoreport.com

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