© 2018 and 2019 by  "Poco a Poco" San Pedro Itzican

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The "Brigada" Program

The Brigada program is supported by Poco a Poco San Pedro, because we believe that through these young people, change can happen.
Three years ago, the General Director of the Jalisco Firefighters and Civil Protection, Señor J. Trinidad Lopez Rivas, set up a "Brigada" Program (“Brigada Estatal de Proteccion Civil y Bomberos J. Trinidad Lopez Rivas, A.C.”), initially for the town of San Pedro Itzicán.  The area covered by the Brigada now includes Mezcala, San Juan Tecomatlán, and the small villages of La Peña, Agua Caliente, La Cuesta, San Sebastián, Chalpicote, La Zapotera and Santa María de la Joya.  
The local volunteer "brigada" leader/coordinator is Anita Torres Guerrero, coordinates all the Brigada projects and teaches the "Brigada" leaders, with help from the State Firefighter groups from Guadalajara.
The "Brigada" members who are selected as youth leaders, must volunteer to help their community and coordinate other, younger youth.  They all learn basic fire-fighting techniques, first aid, rescue, and learn other new skills.
 
Being a "Brigada member" means that they must spend time prior to going to, or after school, or at weekends, performing volunteer work for the Brigada, including visiting and helping in their community. They Brigada members range in age from 13 to 25 years of age, and there are currently around 40 "Brigadista leaders" enrolled in the program from San Pedro Itizcán and the outlying villages. 
 
The "brigada" leaders, both young men and women are trained as local, back-up firefighters - because the local fire brigade would take a long time reaching the town in an emergency.  These young trainees get training in Guadalajara on how to prevent, as well as fight fires. 
The benefits to the Brigada members is that they get special training (fire-fighting and first aid), help their community, learn leadership skills, take part in community projects, and many other local events. They are so proud to wear their uniforms and enjoy the respect and prestige they earn from their volunteer work.

The Brigada leaders train the youth in their areas, and in their neighborhoods.  There are over 40 families enrolled in the FoodShare program.  So the women from that program take part in programs provided by the Brigada.  When events are held in the villages, those people are all involved.  It might be a clean up program (collecting garbage), or a community event involving a government agency.  And the brigada leaders also run summer day camps in their villages.

You can read more about them on their Facebook page.  And do check this Youtube video link.

The Brigada leaders enroll other children in their community into the Brigada program, to encourage them to follow in their footsteps. These children must also help in their community and stay in school.  Those that are the most vulnerable to quit school because of extreme poverty or because of difficult family circumstances, are particiularly encouraged to join the program.
 
The current program includes over 60 leaders and 2,000 girls and boys, aged 6 to 19 - from San Pedro Itzicán and the other local villages. 
How do Poco a Poco and the Brigada work together?
 
Anita, the Brigada leader, asks Poco a Poco leaders for assistance with a project or request that has come from the community, and Poco a Poco volunteers try to assist.
Also Poco a Poco volunteers look for opportunities that might help the Brigada and involve the youth in experiences they otherwise might not have.
The "Brigada" are key representatives of their community and are well respected.  They visit families in their community to explain the danger of fires in their homes (most use wood fires to cook), explain about the need to drink clean water, how to clean their food to prevent illness, etc.  
 
Because of this they also get to know the people in their community and recognize those in most need of assistance.  They pass this information on to the Brigada leader, Anita, so that she can assist those families in other ways (with food, when its donated, or providing them with donated clothes or household goods).
The brigada also assist with community projects, i.e., with the Medical Assistance visit in November 2016 and January 2018, by the Stratford Ontario Rotary Club, Canada, where the brigadistas helped with registration and organization of the over 220 families that registered for assistance.  In 2017, 2018 and 2019, they organized a reforestation project and planted over 3,000 young trees.
 
All these young people are unpaid and they have to continue their studies and keep up their school marks.
 
Being a Brigada member also means they travel outside their small community and see more of the world, and they have more of a chance to understand the opportunities that might exist for them if they keep up their studies.
These young Brigada members really want to do something with their lives.  
 
Two of these students are facing major renal problems.  One has had a kidney transplant and the other is under dialysis twice a week.  They face problems young people should not have to deal with.  But they all want to be educated.
 
 
But going to high school, after finishing their local school, is difficult for some of these youth.  Apart from the cost, public bus service does not exist except from San Pedro Itzican, and few families have cars.  It's a long walk from the villages further afield, to the High School in San Pedro....  so many youth do not go to high school.

If you are interested in helping a young person get an education, no matter what grade, please contact us.  We have many, many students who just cannot afford to go to school.  Read more about the education needs under "Education" at this link.

Poco a Poco volunteers try to organize visits from community members who might have advise, ideas, and who can assist these young people.
One visitor who met the Brigada in 2017 and in 2018, was Alfredo Bentivoglio.  He talked to them about the students importance of staying in school, and getting good grades, so that they can apply for further education.  He was also honest with them by reviewing some of their grades and telling them whether they would be able to get into university or not.  Sadly few will qualify, so they have to look for alternative education or else find work.  But the students were very interested and they are beginning to realize just how important education is to their future.
Another volunteer, Ginger Gonzales, visited the secondary school in San Pedro Itzican in 2019, to encourage the students to think ahead to what kind of career they would like.  She had good suggestions on getting experience in their hoped for field, so that they find a career that they will enjoy.  
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