Hello, Friend of the Franklin County CDC

Happy spring!

Last month I had the honor of spending a week in Mexico with Eduardo and a week in Guatemala with Paola learning about their work with entrepreneurs. These two smart and motivated young Professional Fellows visited the Franklin County CDC for a month last fall, and this was the exchange part of the program: my chance to visit them!

Eduardo connects young people with older artisans and craftspeople to ensure the traditional ways are not forgotten. I was invited to give a presentation at his Entrepreneurial Bootcamp in Oaxaca. Learn more about Eduardo’s project, Hacer Commun.

Paola helped start a shared-use commercial kitchen in her city of Quetzaltenango. I was thrilled to be there for her grand opening celebration and honored that she asked me to give a presentation about our 22-year-old shared-use food processing center. Read about Paola’s Project, Grupo Enlace.

I was reminded of how many similarities and challenges there are for entrepreneurs around the world. And like the Franklin County CDC does in this region, Eduardo and Paola are helping to provide the training, resources, and support necessary so more entrepreneurs will be successful.

This educational and cultural exchange program, funded by the U.S. State Department and administered by Amherst based Institute for Training and Development, is also a way to learn more about migration issues. I met many people whose relatives had come to the U.S. Many had stories about leaving because they were harassed and threatened by drug cartels or political opponents. Others had accumulated high levels of debt because of interest rates as high as 100% per year. Disreputable lenders, often connected to the cartels, threaten these people who often feel they have no choice but to flee and try to earn more money in the U.S. to get out of debt. Most people would have preferred to stay in their home countries and make a good life for themselves and their families, but only came to the U.S. out of fear for lives.
All of this made me question U.S. migration policies. We need workers here in the States and our hard-working southern neighbors need decent paying jobs. Surely we can figure out a win-win situation, especially since the U.S. appetite for drugs is the main reason the drug cartels have the power to destabilize the region. It is my hope that by continuing relationships with people in other countries, and sharing the outcomes with you, we can begin a conversation that will help the situation.

For more information about my trip and the other U.S. Fellows, please visit the blog at ITD’s website.

In Community,
Executive Director