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The "Brigada" Program
The Brigada program was supported by Poco a Poco San Pedro since 2017, because we believe that through these young people, change can happen.
In 2016 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 and the surrounding villages.
The local volunteer "brigada" leader/coordinator was Anita Torres Guerrero, and she coordinated all the Brigada projects and taught the "Brigada" leaders. The youth leaders were trained to help their community and work and help younger youth. They learned basic fire-fighting techniques, first aid, rescue, and other new skills.
Being a "Brigada member" meant they had to volunteer to time, including visiting and helping others in their community. Some adults also began to be involved in the program. They were trained as local, back-up firefighters - because the local fire brigade would take a long time reaching the town in an emergency.
However, in 2022, Sr. Trinidad decided to close the Brigada organization due to health issues. But the Poco a Poco team still support the work that Anita Torres started. Many more organizations are now helping in the area, and working together we can all make a huge difference.
Being a Brigada member meant learning leadership skills, taking part in community projects, helping at local events, and helping their community when needed. They helped their community when Covid hit these vulnerable areas.
The youth were proud to wear their uniforms and enjoyed the respect and prestige they earned from their volunteer work. The Brigada leaders also trained the youth in their neighborhoods. All the Brigade youth members also had to attend school. Some were older, had stopped going to school, and then had to take on-line courses. (Many of the children in these areas quit school because of extreme poverty or because of difficult family circumstances, and those children were particularly encouraged to join the Brigada youth team.)
There were also some women and men involved in the Brigada program. They took part in events or programs, and helped in planting trees and clean up programs (collecting garbage), in their community.
How did Poco a Poco and the Brigada work together?
Anita Torres, the Brigada leader, asked the Poco a Poco leaders for assistance with a project or request that has come from the community, and Poco a Poco volunteers tried to assist.
Also Poco a Poco volunteers looked for opportunities that might help the Brigada and involved the youth in experiences they otherwise might not have.
The Brigada youth were key representatives in their community and well respected. They were amazing workers during Covid, including unloading large bags of food from the trucks that were funded by donors of Poco a Poco, and later on FoodBank Lakeside), to feed over 2,000 families in need - for 5 days a week during the shut down of factories at the beginning of Covid from April to August 2020. Overnight, families had no food and were desperate.
The Brigada medical team (one paramedic and one trainee), visited homes where people were sick, checked them, educated them about Covid, and provided basic medicines to them. (There are few medical services in town, and people do not have money to go to the doctor.)
The Brigada teams also visited 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, the importance of Covid prevention, etc. They also helped clean the homes of kidney patients as sanitary conditions are very important for those people.
So Anita Torres, the Brigada leader, got to know the people in the community and recognize those in most need of assistance. She helps these families, and encourages their children to enroll in the Kids' Kitchens and get regular, healthy food.
The Brigada youth team assisted with many community projects. The first time with an international group providing medical assistance, was in November 2016, by the Stratford Ontario Rotary Club, Canada. The Brigada team helped organize over 220 families that registered for assistance during a one day visit. They organized regular town clean-ups as garbage collection is limited to a few areas only. For five years they organized the reforestation projects and planted over 6,000 young trees.
Being a Brigada member also meant they had the opportunity to 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 kept up their studies. (The majority of the people in San Pedro for instance, have never been outside their town.)
These young people really want to do something with their lives.
Some of these students are facing major health problems (kidney disease) - problems young people should not have to deal with. So trying to get education when you are dealing with that, or losing family members to kidney disease, is hard.
Going to high school, after finishing their Secondaria (middle) school, is difficult for some of these youth. Apart from the cost, the bus service only services San Pedro Itzicán and not the villages further along the lake, and few families have cars. It's a long walk from these villages to the High School in San Pedro.... so few youth 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.
If you have ideas on talks or workshops that might be useful, please let us know your ideas.
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