Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Expats help feed needy in Baja, Guanajuato and Quintana Roo

Expats who have begun initiatives to assist their communities hit hard by during Covid-19 quarantines often end up forming connections with local Spanish-speaking residents who help them identify neighbors in need.

Expats Jenny and Steve McGee moved to Centenario, a community in La Paz, Baja California Sur, barely two months before shutdowns began. As strict quarantines put thousands of area residents out of work and hungry, the McGees decided to help their neighbors by forming Food for Families.

“Within three weeks, we saw a desperate need here in La Paz and neighboring areas,” said Steve McGee.

New in town, their challenge was finding the people who needed help. Their campaign took off once they began working with the owners of local businesses, Mexican locals who helped the McGees identify and spread the word to over 50 families it now provides with regular care packages. To date, the group has raised US $7,000 and provided over 1,000 such packages, or despensas.

In Cabo San Lucas, the Los Cabos Missions for Christ, founded in 2017 by Brian and Jacqueline Ruple of Ohio, has been steadily addressing residents’ needs since the destructive flooding caused that year by Tropical Storm Lidia. In the face of widespread joblessness caused by the Covid-19 shutdown, they began providing despensas of food and other supplies to about 400–500 families with the help of local pastors.

A Food for Families recipient with donated supplies in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
A Food for Families recipient with donated supplies in La Paz, Baja California Sur.

The group has recently shifted gears after learning that many recipients have run out of propane and water with which to cook food and is currently supplying community kitchens like Comedor Shalom in the Caribe neighborhood with buffet-style meals instead.

In March, the Playa del Carmen Seaside Rotary Club began distributing despensas of food, necessities and prepaid grocery cards to over 1,000 families in the area, relying on longstanding connections with school officials, community leaders, and other local charitable organizations formed over years of charitable work in the community.

When it found out about people going hungry in the nearby community of Puerto Aventuras, it identified a local connection and began a community kitchen that is feeding 150 people hot meals four days a week. In a recent video posted on its Facebook page, it cited “community ambassadors” as crucial allies in finding at-risk families and institutions in need.

In San Miguel de Allende’s Guadalupe neighborhood, families and business owners going back generations in the colonia and a newer expat population have formed stronger bonds in the face of Covid-19 shutdowns, thanks to a citizens group, Por Amor a la Guadalupe, that encourages neighbors — both Mexican and expat — to help each other.

Formed two years ago by its president, María Elena Rincón Llamas, the group connected with its expat neighbors last year when Cate Poe, a former community and labor organizer in the U.S., began to bring her neighbors into the group.

The connection has borne fruit during the pandemic, Poe says. Thanks to donations from both Mexican and expat Guadalupe residents, the group is supplying families in need with food bought from neighborhood mom-and-pop businesses whenever possible and providing free masks to residents who need them.

The masks are sewn by colonia seamstresses that the group is paying and are made with fabric donated by residents themselves. 

Mexico News Daily

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