Work Being Done By Mexican NGO, Grupedsac – A First Hand Account

by Regina Burdett

Mexico is a country with enormous wealth in natural resources yet it has a staggering number of inhabitants that live below the poverty line…an estimated 60 million, or 51.3% of the entire population of close to 117 million.

Just west of Mexico’s sprawling capital lies the State of Mexico, where the non-governmental organization Grupedsac (Grupo para Promover la Educación y el Desarrollo Sustentable A.C.) which, translated into English, stands for Group to Promote Education and Sustainable Development, is based.

From its beginnings in 1987 to the present day, the impact it has had, not only locally and nationally, but also throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, is truly remarkable.

I Was There

How do I know this? Well, I was there. I know the founder, the board members, the working committee, the educators, the consultants, the teachers, the children, the sponsors and the local government officials that commend their efforts and achievements. It was a pleasure to handle their media relations for four years.

This article is the first in a series that aims to tell Grupedsac’s story, its programs, how it is assisting communities that need help so desperately. There will be exclusive interviews and updates, as well as a brief overview of life in Mexico today, its successes and its failures, as it affects some of the most vulnerable members of its society.

How Grupedsac Came About

Grupedsac’s founder, Margarita Barney Almeida, was born in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua where she first went to school. She later attended senior high in Denver, CO, and subsequently the University of Colorado.

After marrying lawyer Rodolfo Cruz, she moved to Mexico City and in 1987 got her degree in Population, Development and Environment from the Iberoamerican University.

This experience motivated her to promote ecological awareness and create as well as implement programs that would help reduce Mexico’s environmental problems, such as, poor air quality, mountains of garbage and serious pollution. So, in order to fulfill her vision, she founded Grupedsac.

The Greening Process Begins

The very first undertakings of this group were to plant 18,000 trees (achieved over a period of two years) and clean up all of the empty lots in the Lomas de Tecamachalco neighborhood where Barney lived, on the fringe of Mexico City but actually located in the State of Mexico.

She and her group of nine very determined ladies were also able to turn a number of eyesore lots occupied by the Federal Electric Company into beautified green areas.

Impressed with the work they were doing, the government of the State of Mexico started contributing financially by matching the amount in funds that Grupedsac was able to raise on its own. Later on, the State gave them a fixed sum annually so that they could expand their efforts.

Mandatory Separation of Solid Waste

In 1998, the municipality of Huixquilucan, Hacienda de las Palmas, Bosques de la Herradura and Tecamachalco, in the State of Mexico, joined forces with Grupedsac and various neighborhood associations to put into effect mandatory separation of solid waste to be collected on specific days of the week according to a set calendar.

Families were notified in advance and given orientation concerning how to separate their garbage and trash and how this would be beneficial to their community to do so. Initially around 70% of the 15,000 households in Huixquilucan cooperated and that number increased steadily as time went by.

By educating the public not to be wasteful and not to consume unnecessary items, everyone benefits. Reusing and recycling makes it possible to reduce levels of pollution, conserve energy and natural resources, and generate jobs.

Our Next Article

Next time I look forward to sharing extracts from various interviews given by Carlos Padilla Massieu who developed a lifestyle most people would deem impossible. In 11 years he had not generated any trash or garbage that required collecting and hauling away. In other words, what most would throw away, he would reuse and recycle.

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