By Moonyeen King
President of the Board for Tepehua
Defining Tepehua Centro Comunitario’s Mission
The Tepehua Community Center AC, started with the concern the children of Tepehua barrio were not getting anything nutritional to eat. Once-a- week hot meals for them was essentially the aim. We discovered, under the hostility of the mothers, a deep frustration at being powerless to change that which seemed to be their (and their children’s) destiny. Their hostility came from suspicion and distrust, not just of strangers, but of themselves.
They needed an opportunity to experience all the basic human rights, starting with education. Our Center’s by-laws state very clearly that we should not be involved with politics or religion. We are not there to install a ‘foreign religion’, nor to change a beautiful culture. We are looking for potential in the victims of poverty.
Empowering women is a way to make the social and family structure stronger. The exclusion of women from the work force means losing 50% of the work power. Empowering women not only gives them education, self appreciation and knowledge of their rights, it also gives them the right to choose what they can achieve and how many children to have according to their economic status.
The Center believes in family planning, which prevents unwanted pregnancies and the need for abortions. I repeat...the need for abortions. We are there to save lives and help them to maintain a quality life. It also breaks the cycle of poverty as each family makes educated decisions. Smaller families are less of a burden on the woman, less frustration for the man and society in general.
Regardless of what the individual volunteers or officers at the Center believe concerning abortion issues, or what we believe about the right of choice for everyone, we are there as teachers and to ensure their right to education, empowerment and fulfillment and to reach their potential. We make it perfectly clear that our Maternity Unit is not and never will be involved with abortions...but neither will we tell a woman it is not her right to choose.
Empowering a woman to take responsibility for herself and at the same time taking away her power of personal choice does not make sense.
Women first fought for that right in the 1800’s, and today in the United States and all over the world they are still fighting for their rights in every field. Especially the right of choice. This is not the choice of politicians or Church.
Many men agree with this and would like to see the burden of raising a family shared. The men in Tepehua would like to see their women in the work place...which of course is limited to them because of lack of education. Construction workers, gardeners, house maids and kitchen staff is all to which they can aspire. This can be changed with education and opportunity.
The Center this year has given out diplomas for the women who have taken a course to become Auxiliary aids, Dental assistants, and an on-going course for Micro-business. The baking class graduates sell their wares in the local market as does the sewing class. Over 400 children have been put in the school system, and many sent to Universities. The volunteers of Tepehua have the bragging rights, they have indeed helped a village to help itself, and will continue to do so, passing the legacy on to the generations that follow. It takes community effort and equality for all.
Once our vision of a Maternity Unit is complete, in our wish to stop the high mortality rate of women and children in lakeside barrios, we will be able to determine the future financial status and budget.
Then the vision will change - the aim will be to achieve sustainability in every program. There is now a trained local woman in every program who can take over when the time for change is presented. We are not sustainable yet, but we are getting closer. As with most non-profit organizations, we will always need the fundraisers and sponsors.