New Program Supports Reciprocity Among Fellows
Chiapas is a state in southern Mexico that is rich in beautiful landscapes and natural resources. But it’s also one of the poorest areas in the nation. Now, a powerful new tool is helping the region draw more attention to cultural, economic, health and human rights issues, while empowering action in the community. The first Mink’a collaboration among Kellogg Fellows made it possible.
This form of exchange is rooted in South American indigenous circles, and relies heavily on the concept of reciprocity. In the Quechuan tradition, Mink’a represents the collective work done for and by the community. Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance (KFLA) launched the Mink’a Talent Exchange in Fall 2016 to encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration between Kellogg Fellows, explains Dr. Eva Moya, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of the College of Health Sciences at University of Texas El Paso.
“Mink’a is very powerful,” says Eva (KNFP-13). “I see it as a gift of offering talent and knowledge between Fellows and their respective communities. I think it has tremendous potential, because eventually we can all become Mink’a recipients and Mink’a facilitators. It’s a very effective and caring method of receiving knowledge and helping each other grow. Kellogg Fellows have also donated to a Travel Fund, which can cover the travel costs of eligible collaborators.”
Mink’a Comes to Mexico
In the case of KFLA’s first Mink’a project, Eva was invited by Kellogg Fellow Carmen Villa (KPFL-02) and Eduardo Flores of LigaLab in Chiapas to recommend ways the local community groups could allow their constituents to voice discontent with poverty, human right violations and lack of access to education, health services and police protection.
As Carmen explains, “LigaLab is a link between community groups, government institutions, media and others to bring together people to solve problems in their communities. We’ve been working for 4 to 5 years with these groups to help them make a difference for the people of Chiapas and elevate their lives.”
Eva suggested Photovoice, a methodology that she has been using for the past 10 years. Photovoice uses photos and story sharing to identify issues and take action on concerns. Carmen loved the idea and worked to bring Photovoice training to the region.
The result was a three-day Photovoice workshop in September 2016 for 11 community members in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, which was facilitated by Eva and Dr. Silvia Chavez-Baray, Post Doc of the Department of Social Work at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Four participants were Kellogg Fellows, Mariano, Ulsia, Rosa Maria and Ciro (all KPFL-02), and three of the Kellogg Fellows worked with indigenous populations.
Eva says, “I consider this first Photovoice Minka truly a gift — one that brought together a diverse cadre of leaders, advocates and dreamers around cultural, educational, political and gender topics. Along with other Fellows, there were leaders from the media, arts, culture, human rights and sexual diversity work. The actual transfer of the Photovoice methodology was inspirational and enriching for all.”
From Discontent to Organization
The methodology of Photovoice addresses many issues inherent in such poor communities, explains Carmen.
“This is an excellent tool for organizations dealing with lots of limitations in their communities,” she says. “For instance, some residents can’t read or write, so you can’t use written materials. Others aren’t comfortable with technology, so computers aren’t helpful. But smart phones are becoming popular, even in remote communities. Photovoice can be used by anyone with a camera in their phone to shed light on the problems they face. It allows people with varying communication skills to be brought into the conversation.”
All kinds of issues will be recorded. “A lot of voices during the workshop were about bringing light to neglected areas where the government could take action,” explains Carmen. “This included insufficient health services or neglected public spaces, like parks or public gardens, which were attracting criminals because they lacked proper lighting or security.”
Several participants were using Photovoice already, but not at its full capacity. “It was much more powerful than they thought,” adds Carmen. “They learned how to use Photovoice beyond just bringing issues to light, but also to mobilize people to solve problems. That was the most exciting and important part of the training.”
Eva hopes the tool will bring value to these community groups’ research, assessment, intervention and advocacy work.
“I was impressed by the level of humility and critical thinking of these young participants,” says Eva. “They could easily see how this tool could advance their communities, whether it was immigrant rights, health services or transgender issues. The joy was to see how this tool could be helpful for them in the future.”
The Photovoice workshop was made possible by a Mink’a travel grant funded by KFLA, according to Carmen. She agrees the future benefits are priceless.
“The first Mink’a set the bar very high,” says Carmen. “With the support of KFLA, we were able to bring a valuable tool into this community, which will potentially have an important impact for many years to come. We’re excited by the ideas we’ve heard already from the participants.”
Next Step? Photovoice Travels to Mexico City
In an upcoming Mink’a Talent Exchange, Eva is partnering with International Kellogg Fellow Norma Lara, (KILP-01), who received funding from Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (CONACyT), Mexico’s equivalent of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Norma Lara is bringing scholars, graduate students and other professionals together to receive Eva and Dr. Chavez-Baray’s Photovoice training. The participants will learn how to use Photovoice to support the ambitious “Healthy University Program” at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, which is tackling health issues including nutrition, sexual health, self care and drug free, non violent environments. The workshop will be held Sept. 2, 3 and 4 at the university.
Learn more about Mink’a and see how you can benefit as a Mink’a volunteer or Mink’a recipient with cultural offerings, intellectual contributions, social networking, spiritual support or vocational gifts.