Girls from Mesti go running!

6 days before the 5k marathon I am freaking out because after a couple of months of organizing to bring 13 people with me, 5 have just dropped out and I have a feeling that a couple more may follow. Money has been donated and cashed, bus tickets have been purchased, marathon tickets have been purchased and hotel reservations made that can’t be cancelled.

It all started back in 2014 when as a new Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Mexico, I learned about the program called Mariposas: Mujeres Cambiando el Mundo (Mariposa means “butterfly” in Spanish, and mujeres cambiando el mundo means “women changing the world”). Mariposas is a non-profit organization to help girls from rural communities in Puebla, Mexico, pursue their professional dreams by going to college. The organization was started by a former PCV, Tessa Eckholm. Each year there is a week-long camp where girls from different communities attend at no cost of their own, and learn about topics such as mental and physical health, environmental stewardship and professional development. It’s a space for them to network with girls from other communities, share ideas and dreams, and learn something that they can take back with them to their community. The girls that attend this camp are offered the opportunity to apply for scholarships to attend college.

Former PCV, Jesi Friedly, was in charge of organizing the camp during my first year as a volunteer. She asked me if I would be able to help and give an Indian dance class. I happily agreed. During that week I met so many wonderful girls and my admiration for the Mariposas organization began.

zumba camp mariposa

This year, another former PCV, Elena Neibaur, organized a 5K marathon, followed by an eco-fair in Puebla, to raise money for the Mariposas organization, and invited me to bring people from my community, Metztitlán, Hidalgo. I work a lot with women and thought that this was the perfect opportunity to support an organization with a mission I feel strongly about, reconnect with some of the girls I met during Camp Mariposa, and promote healthy activities among the women in my community. Since I am an environmental educator, I also decided to bring women from my office to give a recycling workshop in the eco-fair.


Since the expenses would be paid for by donors, it was an opportunity for women in my community to travel to another state, see new things and experience something different, something positive, with no major cost to them. The easiest part of it all was raising money, and I thank all off my friends and family who donated to give these women such an experience. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, I did find 5 people for the empty spots!


Me and the girls (and Goyo) up early in the morning ready for the marathon.


New stretching/warm-up moves to add to the book!


These girls are in the Mariposas program. I met them two years ago at Camp Mariposa.

my mom joins us from India

My mom and I, representing the Gator Nation 🙂


post run

We did it!!

ecofair 4

After the marathon my coworkers give a workshop on creating picture frames out of used magazine paper.

eco-fair 6

Mariposa girls teach the public about composting.

with mariposas

Group photo with the Mariposas.

Social Service in Mexico and Environmental Education

In Mexico’s universities, each graduating student is required to complete a 3-month period of social service with an institution of their choice. There are benefits for each party-the students get real life experience which can help them in landing a full-time job, they develop professional skills, gain insight into how things really work outside of a classroom, and have an opportunity to contribute their knowledge and skills. For the participating institution it’s basically free labor. In the office that I work in (CONANP, Mexican equivalent to US National Park Service) we’ve had some students come through and do some interesting projects. Depending on the topic of their project I sometimes work closely with them.

Monse came to us in the beginning of the year and proposed a plan to work on environmental education. Like all plans of young, energetic people, it was rather ambitious. My colleagues and I worked with her to bring her ideas to life, and her final project ended up being a series of educational activities designed around teaching primary school children about local biodiversity.

In the beginning of the year our office got a letter from an elementary school teacher, asking us to visit them so that their students could interview us and learn more about local conservation efforts.  We did that interview and from that day were requested to do educational workshops/lectures with the school’s teachers. Since my colleagues and I were busy with other ongoing projects, we proposed to Monse that with our support, she could take responsibility of fulfilling this request. Below are photos from Monse’s project.

Thanks Monse for all your hard work, and to the participating elementary school in Tlatepexe, Metztitlan, Hidalgo for their interest. Thanks also to my colleagues Pablo and Daniel who helped in the implementation of the activities.


The protected region we work in, The Metztitlan Canyon Reserve, is home to more than 300 species of birds. Monse gave a presentation to students on the topic and then had the students create drawings of birds they have seen themselves in the area.  


Elementary school children are my favorite age group to work with. Them and women 60+.



Hanging up bird feeders in the school.






Taking to students about the environment and the 60+ cacti you can find in the region. 


Students observe up-close endemic species of cacti. 

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.