Rotaract member sees peace through parks
Looking around her hometown of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Yesenia Uribe, a member of the Rotaract Club of Juárez Integra, saw parks that were in disrepair, abandoned, and vandalized. Uribe, who is 29, thought these unloved spaces and the surrounding community deserved better. And she wondered if better public spaces might help address the city’s high crime rate and violence. “I’ve always had the desire to carry out projects that leave something concrete for the world,” she says.
After participating in a training program for young community leaders called “A Stronger Mexico: Pillars of Positive Peace,” which was supported by a Rotary global grant, Uribe got her club involved in reclaiming those spaces and creating murals dedicated to the theme of peace.
Q: How did this project get started?
A: I have always been worried about violence in my community. Ciudad Juárez [which is across the border from El Paso, Texas] is sadly known for its high crime rate. There is a serious problem with drug trafficking, and this has generated an atmosphere of insecurity. I wanted to learn how I could implement peace in my community, so I applied to participate in “A Stronger Mexico: Pillars of Positive Peace” (“Un México Más Fuerte: Pilares de Paz Positiva”), which is designed to provide tools and knowledge related to peace.
Ciudad Juárez has many parks in poor condition, abandoned, and vandalized. We needed to recover public spaces so that the community had places to meet. We wanted to provide parks that were attractive. That started with rehabilitation work in the parks. Then we painted murals dedicated to the idea of peace. The project was a way to unite the community through art and improvement activities. It took us almost a year to paint 10 murals. Each mural has a different design, but all are focused on the theme of peace and convey a positive message.
Q: What challenges did you face working on the project?
A: At the beginning, only members of the Rotaract Club of Juárez Integra worked to fix up the parks and paint the murals. Then the neighbors joined us, and other organizations and local artists offered to paint some murals.
The biggest obstacle was apathy. Getting an apathetic community involved is always complicated. Many people do not help because they do not get anything in return. To change that mindset, we have to set an example, and little by little more participants will join in.
Q: What has been the reaction to the mural project?
A: Places that looked totally abandoned and vandalized have become meeting spaces for the community. The project has also had a great impact on the members of my Rotaract club. Performing these artistic activities and seeing such great progress toward our goals helps us to stay enthusiastic about our community work.
Q: What did you personally learn from this experience?
A: Carrying out projects that make lasting changes does not take much — only the firm conviction to achieve it, clear objectives, and a good team. In the positive peace training program, they asked us to write a letter to our future self, saying what we hoped to do with what we had learned. At that time, I did not know what projects I was going to undertake. But now when I read the letter I wrote, I feel that I achieved all the goals I wrote about.
— Claudia Urbano
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