Focus on Leadership
I don’t often write about the leadership side of the program, which is as important as the educational part. Once out it the world we want our young women to take more than just a BA, MA or PHD, we want them to take a new way of thinking. That is where the second half of the program comes in, we want to promote service based leadership, or Servant Leadership. It is a different style of leadership from the top down traditional style. The old style depends a lot on either respect for power, which seems to be slowly disappearing, or fear, which unfortunately still works. But we need something different, especially here in Mexico. When you ask most anyone if they trust their leaders you will get a strong “no” or perhaps a laugh. When I ask most people why someone runs for office their answer is, "to steal money". If it is not true for all in office, then it is at least perceived by most of the people as true. So the ultimate mission of Casa Isabel and CDC is leadership formation. We need leaders who are placed in authority, by the people because of their love, willingness to serve, dedication, and character. We also need an understanding that leaders do not necessarily needs to be in positions of political power, Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a few, never held political office yet lead their communities and the world to a new way of thinking and behaving. With the students we use various different books and materials. The first step for the younger girls here at Casa Isabel is to understand themselves better, their gifts, talents, shortcomings and strengths. For more information on servant leadership a good first read is The Servant by James Hunter.
Focus on Service
Another part of the program is to teach the students that they are always in a position to give back to their communities. They do not have to have immense resources to serve one’s community, or need to have a excess of wealth before they give something in return. We tried many different models to get the students to work on service, but with the young age of our students we decided that we needed structured projects, We have three projects in motion here at Casa Isabel. The first is a recycling project. None of the towns here in the region have a recycling project, what is so common in the States in nonexistent here in Mexico. We contacted a company in a neighboring town that collects plastic bottles for recycling. It is quite sad how many soda bottles are just lying on the streets, along the highways and along the banks of the rivers. We collect them, put them in large bags and then the company comes and picks them up and takes them to a recycling plant in Puebla. The town fair was in November and we managed to fill three bags about 16 cubic feet each with crushed soda bottles. We now have five bags ready to go and are waiting for a pick up. Our second project is the radio show that our students give weekly. They prepare a topic and present it on Saturday mornings for an hour. One of our students, Aurora, loves the project and has taken the younger students in hand and picks out the topics each week. They still need guidance in organizing the themes but they are getting good at research. The final project we have is tutoring. Several of our older students spend time in the afternoon tutoring local grade school students. They come to the house and get individual help on homework or skill development. Our small library helps us to provide reading material for the students. We can’t lend out the books but the kids can read and be read to when they are here. We also have lots of board games to play with the kids as a reward for their hard work. Each student at Casa Isabel chooses an area in which they want to focus and dedicates about three to six hours a week on their chosen projects.
More building for the New Year
We are very quickly developing our new property, much faster than I anticipated. In May we moved onto the new property, having remodeled the building from a one room warehouse to a three bedroom home. I thought that was it for a while but one of our board members found funding to cover an area outside so that we would have more space to move around, especially in the rainy season. Our first several months were all in the rainy season and we found out very quickly that we needed a covered place to hang clothes to dry. All three bedrooms were strung with clothes wires for several weeks when we had non-stop rain. We had to make some adjustments; we moved from a four bedroom house to a three bedroom and then increased the number of students from six to seven. I have seven girls this year. By American standards ten people in a three bedroom home is a bit tight, and I must admit that sharing a bedroom with my two daughters is a bit stressful. Although all of my students come from two room homes that all have six to eight people living in them everyone was pleased when we were awarded a grant to complete the second floor of the building, The second floor will have four bedrooms, a study area, and two more bathrooms. Downstairs I will have a separate room for my girls as well as room for the computers and library. I still can’t believe we have made so much progress in this past year. We are so grateful to all who have helped our new home take shape. Now we will have room for up to 16 students, but before we can expand the program we will need the funds to support the students, and I will need a volunteer to help with all the work.
God bless you all, and thank you for all of your generous support.