Our time in Mexico thus far has been wonderful! There are 10 students and two professors (Ada Schmidt-Thieszen and Hamilton Williams) on the Social Work/Social Justice trip. We are currently in Cuernavaca, where we will be until January 17.
We started our trip with an overview of the QUEST program. We are staying in the guest house here. We have spent two days at La Estacion, which is a Squatter Settlement that is home to 6,000 people. It is one of the poorest areas of Cuernavaca. The first day we were there, we visited in homes with residents there about their lifestyles. Today, we went back again to volunteer our time by helping with their breakfast program and the Women's/Community Center, painting, and helping in the Kindergarten across the street.
We have also taken a QUEST around downtown Cuernavaca where we spent a day living like the bottom 70% of the population do. We were given an amount of money that are equivalent to their wages and had to visit markets to collect necessary food items. We also visited many local downtown landmarks, like the Cathedrals and the People's Market. On January 6, we went to Xochicalo, which are ancient ruins. We spent the day climbing on and exploring large structures that were built thousands of years ago.
We had the opportunity to try a Temaxcal (Sweat Lodge) that is located on the QUEST grounds. It is a way of cleansing the body in a natural way by being in touch with the Earth and nature.
Gerardo, the QUEST Mexico director, also arranges for us to hear many speakers as they tell their stories about immigration, working as a domestic worker, and much more. Yesterday, we drove to a small village to meet with a traditional healer who creates and prescribes natural (plant) medicines to those who come for her services. In the afternoon, we went to Casa Hogar, which is an orphanage. We learned about how they operate and then spent the afternoon singing, playing soccer, talking, and laughing with the children there. These kids range from ages 3-18. In Mexico, adoption is not really allowed, so these kids will be in there until they turn 18, which was difficult for us to hear.
We are having a great time and are learning a lot. We are definitely not ready to come back to the cooler temperatures!
-Kristin Unruh and Jennifer Scott