By: Sophie Green
Sophie is from Cambridge, Massachusetts and is a recent graduate of Bard College. She is currently serving as a communications intern for En Vía.
On Mica’s last full day of work, I got a chance to sit down with both her and Viviana to talk about their transitions in and out of working at En Vía. Mica has held the interim manager position for six months, but she has been with En Vía for three years and has many stories to share. Viviana is just starting out at En Vía, but is from Mexico City and has worked extensively in community organization in the communities in and around Oaxaca, and thus also has a wealth of knowledge about the area and about community development. Mica mentioned that Viviana’s work experience is a big part of what makes her such an asset to the team. Now that they have been working together for a month, Mica can see how ideal Viviana is for the position. Because of her background and her familiarity with Mexico’s political and economic systems (Viviana is the first person in this position to be from Mexico!) Viviana is already bringing a great deal to En Vía. Mica says that she has also observed Viviana’s skill in working with community members and her way of encouraging their ideas and promoting the agency of the women in En Vía’s program.
En Vía is like a circle
I asked them both what first drew them to En Vía. Mica remembered encountering En Vía when she came on a tour eight years ago, and completely fell in love with the mission and the work. She loved the experience of meeting the women and hearing them talk about their businesses, and this special relationship with the women in the program has continued to be an extremely important part of her work here. In answer to the same question, Viviana talked about the cyclical nature of En Vía, how the project is “like a circle” in that the different programs all work together to make a cohesive and effective whole. Our loan program is the heart of En Vía, and providing interest free loans to women business owners in the Tlacolula Valley is our central mission. However, in order to do this, we rely on our responsible tourism program to secure funds for the loans and to cultivate a community of people around the world who are interested in our work and want to support us.
We thrive where the women take it up and make it their passion.
Similarly, our Education Program is essential – not only in the way that it supports another aspect of the communities that we work with by teaching valuable skills to the women in our program and their families, but also as it brings in so many wonderful volunteers. As Mica pointed out, En Vía’s wide volunteer network is a vital part of the organization, and one that is not immediately apparent to those who do not know the organization well. Equally important are the “natural leaders” within the communities, the women who speak on behalf of En Vía and who welcome in their friends and neighbors and spread the word about the work. These women “spearhead community programs” and help integrate En Vía into their community. Mica emphasized, “we thrive where the women take it up and make it their passion.” En Vía’s goal is to work with the communities and support them in ways that the communities truly need. Because of this, it is very important to get to know the women and collaborate with them to really address their wants and needs from our organization. Viviana added that trust is hugely important here, and that it is clear when the women trust En Vía and want it to be successful, because you can see it in the extra work that they do to promote En Vía and to welcome us.
I asked Mica what she is most proud of about her work at En Vía over the last few years, and what she will take away from her experiences here and bring with her to her future work. Mica says that right now, she is extremely proud to be handing the reins over to Viviana with a plan in place for next steps for the organization. Over the summer, Mica and each of the program managers sat down to discuss ways of growing their programs. By gathering a report from each aspect of the program, a plan has been put in place both to further develop the organization and to support Viviana as she takes over management. Mica says she is also very proud of En Vía’s new fiscal sponsorship relationship with Omprakash, which makes it possible for donors to make tax-deductible donations. This is an important aspect of our current crowdfunding initiative! Viviana says she is also very excited about this plan and all the work that has been done, and is looking forward to continuing this and going further. Viviana plans to keep strengthening the structure of the program, and to connect with more allies. She wants to promote partnerships with other organizations whose ideals and goals align with ours, and to share ideas with them. Viviana has many plans and ideas for En Vía and is excited to be starting this new chapter!
Mica hopes to take this special community with her as she goes, to continue to cultivate close relationships and to keep the En Vía spirit alive.
On a more personal note, Mica says that at En Vía, she feels that she has found the community that she has been looking for all her life and that it will be very hard to leave such a special group of people. She feels this closeness both in the communities that we work in with the women and with the En Vía staff and volunteers. In the towns like Teotitlán del Valle, communities have been in place for generations, connections kept alive by children and grandchildren. The relationships formed by working at En Vía are reversely somewhat transitory by nature, as so many volunteers are only in Oaxaca for a short time. However, Mica has found that both bonds are very strong and that she feels a special relationship both with residents of the towns that she has worked in every week for the past three years, and with the volunteers who she only worked closely with for a few months. Mica hopes to take this special community with her as she goes, to continue to cultivate close relationships and to keep the En Vía spirit alive in her next community.
Thank you so much to Mica for all your hard work and dedication to En Vía, and welcome to Viviana and to an exciting new chapter for our organization!