VAMOS! (Vermont Associates for Mexican Opportunity and Support) is a small but powerful non profit based in Vermont that works with the poor in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. We started because we thought that we could and should do something about the poverty that we saw in Mexico.
While visiting Cuernavaca in 1987 we saw the incredible poverty that families lived in every day. Dirt floors. No water. Shacks made out of shipping crates from the nearby Nissan factory. Little opportunity and often no hope. When we see this, how many times do we say, that is terrible. We should do something. Well we did. A group of ordinary people made a decision to help our sisters and brothers in Mexico and so VAMOS! was born. We started with a few guiding principles. The first being that any money that people donated would go directly to support our programs. Thanks to a generous grant from a family foundation, the Woodhaven Foundation, which underwrites any US expenses we have been able to stay true to that pledge. We also decided that we would listen to the poor and partner with them in their dreams for a better life. And so we do not go into a community and begin a project. We meet with community leaders, we provide materials, they provide the labor. We hire local people and provide the training that they need to do the jobs they were hired to do. And the only condition to come to one of our centers is that you should be poor. Anyone and everyone is welcome! Today our10 centers provide, meals, education, medical services, computer classes, music classes and programs for women and the elderly. Each project is located in a poor colonia in Morelos, most of them on the outskirts of the city of Cuernavaca. In 2013 VAMOS! served over 180,000 meals at our various locations. We get our funding through grants form some organizations but primarily through individual donations. Won’t you join us in making a difference? Won’t you commit to ‘do something’ to help the poor? Your VAMOS! donations go a long way too! Our meals cost an average of 87 cents each and they are all made fresh each day at our centers by local women. You CAN make a difference! Please check out our site here and visit our facebook page at www.facebook.com/vamosinmexico. Thank you!
The VAMOS! Philosophy
We began in 1986 when our founders, Bill and Patty Coleman and Ike Patch visited Cuernavaca, Mexico and were shocked by the contrasts between the rich and the poor. Cuernavaca has been the summer home to many of Mexico’s rich and powerful since the time of the Aztecs. Today, it is also home to a nearly million poor people who have flocked to the city looking for work and opportunities for themselves and their children. Work, when it is available is poorly paid, often less than $10 per day but basic living expenses can be as high as in the U.S. Imagine if you were lucky enough and had the skills to find a job, trying to live and feed a family on $200 or dollars per month!
Right from the start, we believed that our First World ways of doing things were a product of our own culture and did not necessarily apply to the Mexican poor we wanted to help. Thus, we decided that it would be the poor who must lead us. We would have to be patient as they, not we, decided what to do and how to do it. The model of friendship seemed appropriate for us. VAMOS! would try to be friends with the Mexican poor and wait until it became clear what ways we could help the poor realize their dreams. We listened as they talked to us and we stressed with the people that we would need the support of the community in order for us to help. Communities asked for help, organized, decided what their community wanted and then gathered resources to work together. Most of the time it started with getting a place to operate, a piece of land where we could help them build a center, or getting a lease to use an existing building.
Today VAMOS! helps by helping communities build and operate schools and community centers. We start by working with leaders in communities to work out a plan for the services we would offer. We train and hire local women as cooks, train them as teachers and aids and provide a healthy meal, and offer after-school classes. As attendance increased at our earliest centers the children’s mothers and other women would also show up. So we started to offer workshops on crafts, home skills and other topics for adults. We added medical, dental and psychological services as well. Computer and music classes came along next. Now we have almost 1000 people a day attending our community centers and have trained and hired more than 100 people since we started. And all of this has been made possible through donations from individuals, churches and foundations. No one is ever charged for any of the services that VAMOS! provides.