Empowering Young Minds
"Chicas Poderosas" finishes their first year strong.
July 20, 2012 - Mexico
This year has been especially important at NPH Mexico for our young women as our women’s empowerment program, Chicas Poderosas, has had tremendous success! Our volunteer women’s empowerment coordinator meets with small groups of high school girls on a weekly basis to talk about issues important to their lives. One of our volunteers, Meghan Rowley, who coordinated the group, heard about a museum in Mexico City called the Museum of Memory and Tolerance. Thanks to a generous donation from long-time NPH supporter Therese Sechrist, we were able to take all of our high school girls on a field trip to the museum! While the day began with a chilly two hour bus ride to Mexico City, everyone arrived eager to see the museum.
The museum was divided into two sections. The Memory section provided a history of genocide, largely focusing on the Holocaust, provided information about genocides of the recent past, and those that are happening currently. It was an opportunity for our young women to learn about history, Darfur, and about genocides that have occurred in close places such as Guatemala.
Arriving at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City.
The Tolerance section focused on tolerance as the response humans should have towards occurrences of injustice and intolerance. Without memory, humanity will forget the atrocities of the past and risk repeating them in the future. Without tolerance, humanity will generate the same prejudices and discriminatory behaviors that lead to, in the worst cases, war, murder, and hate. The Tolerance section focused on nurturing the human ability to reason, accept differences, and make great changes in the world. There were lots of interactive activities about personal responsibility in the face of injustice. Rowley states, “This past year our girls have taken a few of their Saturdays to visit the elderly in nursing homes. Things like this help our girls to be more aware of the outside world, and begin to give them a new perspective.”
The museum was a great example of how one person can make a change by using critical thinking and tolerance. It was an amazing feeling to be discussing these issues, and how to make changes in the world with a group of over 60 young women. All of these young women were able to be there because NPH founder Fr. William Wasson practiced tolerance and compassion 58 years ago instead of accepting that the poverty that existed in Mexico was just the way things were. The museum challenged our young women to make changes in their country and society. How many times had they heard people using the term “Indian” to insult someone’s intelligence? What is being done in their country to preserve its Indigenous history, culture, and language? How many of them were used to hearing a mother or grandmother saying how pretty a baby is because it has light skin? How do these attitudes later lead to discriminatory beliefs or practices? Veronica, 18, states, “It was an extraordinary experience, we learned about a lot of things we had learned about in school, but this time we learned a more complete version. I think myself and everyone who went to the museum learned to think about things we had not thought about before especially about the attitudes of society and in our country. The images we saw were very powerful.”
We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to take our young women on such impactful field trip! It truly was a blessing and a chance for our young women to expand their world views, perspectives, and critical thinking skills. On the bus ride back, our young women continued having conversations about what they had seen and learned. We stopped at a rest area to have lunch and when it was time to take the group picture with the “Thank you” signs we made, everyone was eager to express their gratitude. It was a great day and a wonderful opportunity. We extend our heart-felt thanks to Therese Sechrist and the volunteers and house directors who worked hard to make the trip a success. It was a awesome way to finish the first year of Chicas Poderosas, and we look forward to another exciting year to come