July was a busy month at ConeXión Mosaico! For three full weeks, we were busy hosting a variety of summer activities in multiple locations for children, youth and women. Over 50 U.S. volunteers from three churches came down in four teams to help with the summer programming and work on the site of our future community center.
With so many helping hands, this year we were able to impact over 600 children and youth and close to 80 women in multiple neighborhoods in Chimalhuacán, San José Palmas and San Sebastian.
The children were very happy to have something to do during the summer. In slum communities like these, when school is out there is nothing for children to do. The lack of public spaces means there is nowhere for them to go. Due to their family circumstances, many children are also forced to assume responsibilities of housework or caring for their younger siblings. From a very young age, they may have few opportunities to just be children. The summer program gave many a much-needed chance to play, have fun and enjoy their childhood.
In addition to offering specific activities for youth in several neighborhoods, ConeXión Mosaico also recruited youth volunteers to help out with the younger children’s activities. Slum communities also typically lack opportunities for youth to participate in positive, pro-social activities. They are often stereotyped by the adults around them as being lazy, rebellious, or troublemakers. They don’t really have a space where they can participate and feel important. Some of the youth who showed up to volunteer were already participants of our ACJU project, but many were not. Helping out with the children’s activities gave these youth the chance to contribute to their community in a meaningful way.
The theme of this year’s summer activities was a “box of dreams.” Each day focused different dreams the participants have, including their dreams for themselves, their families, their communities, and the dreams they believe God has for them. Far from yearning for expensive material things like X-boxes and iPhones, children from these impoverished slum communities have simple yet poignant dreams that touched the hearts of those who were working with them. For themselves, the children dreamed of finishing school, of having a house, of owning a car someday. Their dreams for their families included things like having their parents get along better, or having their father spend more time with them. One volunteer reported having difficulty holding back tears hearing one little girl’s dream for her father not to hit her mother any more.
As far as their community, the dreams they shared were simple things that so many children take for granted: to have a school, running water, paved streets, a park with a playground, a library. These dreams are eloquent reminders of the deprivations slum children face each day. Yet, at the same time, they are inspiring… because these are dreams we believe that communities can work together to achieve.
In fact, we have already been able to see how the summer program activities have helped to bring the different communities together even more. As they watched the staff, U.S. volunteers and local youth work together day after day, community members who don’t usually participate in ConeXión Mosaico activities began to come forward. Several people surprised the staff by showing up with unplanned food and snacks for the volunteers and participants. Also, as a result of community relationships that were strengthened during the summer programs, 8 new health, youth, children’s and parent’s groups will soon be starting that will impact an estimated 280 people in the different communities where we work.
At ConeXión Mosaico, we believe that God has dreams for each one of us, and that those dreams involve us living lives of sufficiency and dignity. We also believe strongly in the power of communities to come together and organize to realize their dreams. The dreams that the people in Chimalhuacán, San José Palmas and San Sebastián have to see their communities holistically transformed are dreams we believe they can…. and with your help will…. achieve.