Is That Someone's Home?

by Renate Shotwell

This was a question I asked Richard Flamer on several occasions during the most recent Chiapas Project delegation in February, 2003. Richard invariably responded "yes" to my question. My North American eyes, adapted to the Des Moines landscape, were still getting accustomed to the things I was seeing in Mexico. My small modest home in Des Moines is large and extravagant compared to the structures I asked Richard about in Chiapas, Mexico.

The lack of material things was obvious in Chiapas. In the U.S., even most poor or low-income persons can go to a thrift store to buy a needed item. In Mexico, people have very few material things and live at a very basic level. The poverty of the third world is at a much lower standard compared to most poverty in a first-world nation such as the United States.

Growing up in one of the many suburbs of the U.S., it is easy to be unaware of the many hardships that others in the world experience. Access to good health care, food and drinkable water, indoor plumbing, easy access to public education and employment opportunities are but a few of the more obvious ways that my life has differed from that of the descendants of the Mayan Indians in Chiapas.

The delegation visited the SYJAC Mayan Indian Cultural Center and a number of amazing groups supported by SYJAC. We visited two schools that provide valuable skills and education to the indigenous people, two communities that have been established within the last several years that offer safety and an opportunity to own a small piece of land, as well as a marvelous hospital. Claire Quiner and Richard Flamer are both doing wonderful things in Mexico.

I am very grateful for my experience and highly recommend going on one of the delegations to Chiapas, Mexico. The next delegation to Chiapas will be from June 14 to June 23, 2003. If you would like to go, contact Mary Quiner at 515-334-9831 or for more information.

For those of you living in the Des Moines area, Richard Flamer will be in town the end of May. He will be speaking on May 20th, at 7pm, at the St. Catherine of Siena Drake Catholic Student Center. It is located at 1150 28th Street in Des Moines. Please join us! This will be a great opportunity for Richard to fill us in about the work of SYJAC and the Chiapas Project in Mexico.

If you have a group that Richard can speak to, please contact Renate Shotwell at 277-0218. The Chiapas Project is very low on funds. Without Richard's full-time presence in Iowa, we have fallen behind on our financial commitment to support the great work of SYJAC. The Chiapas Project really needs regular donors. If you can pledge on-going financial commitment, it would really help!! Your assistance to this work is essential in keeping it going. Thank you!