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Let me start with a hard confession: Before coming to Mexico I imagined a country full of traffic, people, and dust. Growing up in the United States provided me with a very slanted view of Mexico and the people who live there. The media, whether it be the news or television shows, portrays our neighboring country as unstable, filled with illicit drugs and desperate people. Please hear me when I say that cannot be farther from the truth. Sure, there may be specific places that reflect that, but no country should be judged based solely on what we see on the internet or television.
I love people and being a part of providing empowerment and dignified work through fashion and accessories. That is what brought me to Fashion & Compassion in the first place. So this trip wasn’t just “up my alley” it was my alley entirely. When our Founder, Michele Dudley, invited me on this trip, I asked the Lord to convict me of any assumptions I didn’t even know I had to open the door for genuine conversation and connection with those who are a part of this partner project, located in a small rural village.
When our flight landed in Mexico City, I found an enormous, vibrant city! After several hours of travel by bus and car, I found myself in an expansive, beautiful, and peaceful place covered with every green plant you could imagine along with some of the kindest, most interesting people I’ve met. These people have so much joy and love for others and they've endured hardships in ways I cannot imagine experiencing myself.
There is a reason we call this our Community Collection. Our partner project in Mexico is a metal workshop founded and run by ingenious and passionate women named Laura. Laura’s mission is to provide dignified jobs to those in her community so they may stay with their families instead of having to bear the pain and separation that comes with a family member leaving to find work in the United States. The men and women in this project are provided with dignified work and the ability to stay with their families but have also developed an incredibly supportive community with one another. The men and women help and support each other, both in their work tasks and in their lives. If there are a lot of cuffs to be sanded, staff who work in the office help complete it. If there is a large order to pack-up, the metal-artisans come to the office to lend a hand. They work without grumbling - each is grateful for the opportunity to work and know that together they can achieve any task.
Not only do they have community with one another, but they welcomed us like family. Our first day they shared a special soup called Posole with us to celebrate Three Kings Day, a Mexican holiday.
I had the privilege of interviewing the Artisans and staff to hear their stories and how the project has impacted their lives. As we discussed the questions, I found myself laughing as Erik from the office gave Mari, the youngest one on staff, a hard time for constantly laughing or Thania and Adriana would laugh at me for something I said or misunderstood. It was a true joy and privilege to learn how working in this project provides a better working environment than anywhere else.
The majority of Mexicans come to America because they are trying to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families. They do not want to be separated from those they love or leave their hometown; the place they’ve known their whole lives. Unfortunately, in many cases, they have little choice. Our partnership with this workshop literally provides daily work to this community. Every product purchase and/or donation to Fashion & Compassion impacts a life. It keeps a woman named Idee safe from working long hours in the fields where she was beaten. It provides Lulu with the income she needs to support her family and one day allow her sons to “have something that is their own”. It provides a loving community to a Naim who was deported from the US and is separated from his wife and three children.