During my stay in Cuernavaca I had the opportunity to meet several people from different community organizations that are involved in helping local disadvantaged people.
Pablo Buitron is the General Coordinator of Fundacion Comunidad, an organizationt that dedicates itself to co-investing in initiatives that help the most vulnerable groups in the Mexican State of Morelos. In particular, his group works a lot with local disadvantaged and indigenous women to help them build small business and community projects and empower them along the way.
In this interview Pablo will explain to us what his community foundation, Fundacion Comunidad, is all about.
1. Please tell us about yourself and your background. What is your involvement with Fundacion Comunidad?
I have a PH.D. in management form the University of Texas, my field of specialty is entrepreneurship. In 2001 I started working for Comunidad as a board member, since January I am the general coordinator (main operating officer).
2. Who came up with the idea of Fundacion Comunidad and how did it get started? Please tell us about the history of Fundacion Comunidad.
Fundacion Comunidad was started in the USA. In 1996 a special project was started, with help from the World Bank. Gabriela Videla, our founder, had 30 years of experience in the social sector, when she found out about the idea, she approached CEMEFI, the Mexican Center for Philantrophy, in order to get help to start Comunidad. In 1996 the charter for Comunidad was established.
3. Please tell us a bit about the situation in the social sector and in communities in the Mexican state of morelos. What are some of the greatest needs in the communities you work with?
Compared to Canada, people in rural areas are very, very poor. However, we do not like to use the term “needs”. We rather use “assets”, since we believe that needs are endless, but passive, while assets are active in terms of solving problems. We work mainly with groups established by women (since many men emigrate to the US) and help them to become formal groups to solve issues related to education, health, nutrition, gender issues, regional development, etc.
4. What general areas does your foundation get involved in?
We help groups that aim to improve the situation of women, kids and youngsters, handicapped people, in areas of education, health, nutrition, gender issues, regional development, etc.
5. Who are the people that you work with? Who are the beneficiaries of your projects?
Mainly we work with women and kids, we do not use the term “beneficiaries” (we are the real “beneficiaries” since we gain so much in terms of learning and sensibility)
6. How is the money raised and how is it allocated?
We approach international, national and local donors, at the present time, about one third of our funds come from each source: however, we are trying to increase the local funds. The money is allocated about 80 to 85% to projects, 5% to the patrimonial fund, and 10 to 15% to the operational fund.
7. Please give us some specific samples of some of the projects that fundacion comunidad has been involved in.
Here are some examples:
– training of a group of women in Totolapan, where they were first trained in traditional medicine techniques, and later they are selling their products, such as shampoos, creams, soaps, etc.
– training of youth community promoters, in which junior high schoolers learn to identify the main problems in their community, and then create and implement proposals for solving these problems
– environmental education, where families are trained in recycling and reusing techniques, this helps them improve their living conditions
– training in artistic techniques for the creation and marketing of products by the interns at the Atlacholoaya Federal Readaptation Center
– nutritional care of children up to 5 years of age, where mothers are taught better ways to feed their children, for example, using soy as a cheap but very nutritional alternative, and their children’s height and weight are monitored every week.
8. What have been some of the results that Fundacion Comunidadhas achieved in the 10 years that it has been in existence?
We have worked with 77 groups, invested almost a million and a half US$, and worked with 40,000 people. We have built several school kitchens, libraries, and health centers. We feel we are making a difference in Morelos, since more and more women, including indigenous women, are becoming more active in solving community problems.
9. Please comment specifically on some of the women’s micro enterprise initiatives you have been involved in. What is the situation of women in your community and how are you helping them?
Probably we are helping women become in charge of themselves, almost all the projects (health, education, employment, etc.) we help are headed by women. In a state where “machismo” is still rampant, we feel women appreciate our help in order to become self reliant.
10. Please tell us about the radio programs that you are involved with.
We currently have a radio program, perhaps the only one in Mexico, directed at handicapped older adults. We are currently starting a program on corporate social responsibility.
11. How do you promote the cause of corporate social responsibility?
In several ways, perhaps we feel we are the most effective and efficient space for companies to invest in community causes.
12. How can we contribute?
By being close to us, by having this interview, by helping us to get in touch with potential donors, but, since we are looking to become a local beacon, just by being in touch and letting us know we are not alone!
Thank you, Pablo, for telling us about your local initiatives. Your organization makes such a great difference to the local community and we wish you all the best for all your efforts!