Expats in Mexico are opening hearts and wallets to help locals

Published:  22 May at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, Money
This is happening all across the world in expat hubs – humanity is getting together to do the right thing whilst the politicians play their games.

Expats in Mexico are the latest foreign community to open their hearts and wallets to help those struggling to survive following pandemic-linked job losses. As governments use xenophobia to blame strangers for the spread of the pandemic, expatriate groups band together to ensure their local neighbours have enough food and medical care. Self-quarantine, shutdowns and curfews make life uncomfortable for foreign residents but can have far more severe consequences in the local community.

Betsy McNair, an American expat living in the working-class Guanajuato district of Marfil, saw neighbours’ distress, mulled over what she could do to help and finally took action. Her background was in running restaurant kitchens and catering, so it wasn’t a hardship to start up a food bank. Friends donated $300 in one evening, and the fund soon grew to $2,000, with her Facebook post resulting in not just money but also help. Betsy had seen and been disturbed by the sight of neighbours rooting through a dumpster in the hope of finding food or an item to sell, and planned to have the local priest announce a free food distribution on Easter Sunday. The priest couldn’t be contacted, but an information poster put the good news around just as well.

She and her group had packed 50 bags of food and basics, all of which were gone during the first 30 minutes, leaving another 100 people in the line. One of Betsy’s friends and an employee in her business suggested providing tickets to the remaining line-up, thus giving them a guarantee they’d be gifted the following week. All in all, 150 tickets were handed out and 200 food packs were prepared in case they were needed. Even more people turned up and the 200 packs soon went, along with 175 tickets for the following week. The food bank has now taken off and is including deliveries to housebound locals as well as being allowed to use a local museum’s staff, space and resources as a more practical environment than Betsy’s living room.

As the events grew, local police, transit options, masks and hand sanitisers have all become part of the process, and the region’s state secretary has offered his support for the programme as well as ensuring he’s kept informed as to its progress. Funding to date has mainly come from Betsy’s friends in Mexico as well as the USA, with every cent being spent in the neighbourhood’s small local shops. Two more groups have contacted Betsy, telling her they’re now starting up similar projects in their local communities. The need, they say, is everywhere, and expat as well as local generosity and time given is now ensuring residents have enough to eat and are being cared for.
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