When a coalition was formed to respond to medical shortages and food needs in Baja California Sur, Mexico, the CSU Todos Santos Center team stood alongside their community.
The Center joined the Alianza Comunitaria (Community Alliance) of Baja California Sur, which brought together more than 200 nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, and businesses to meet community needs during the pandemic.
“One of the primary economic activities of the rural community of Todos Santos is tourism,” said Kim Kita, director of the CSU Todos Santos Center, who also explained that while some food is locally produced, many products come from mainland Mexico.
“COVID-19 disrupted supply chains all over the globe, including in Todos Santos and Baja California Sur. As the pandemic set in, food prices increased, and supply decreased. At the same time, families working in tourism sectors like restaurants, hotels, retail, and ecotourism experienced a sudden interruption to their livelihoods,” Kita said.
The Center joined the larger statewide effort, and the staff took on a role of leveraging existing relationships and joining together with Alianza Comunitaria volunteers, which ensured Todos Santos residents received food and supplies when they needed it.
“If I were to define our participation in this project with just one word, it would be ‘bridge.’ We were the bridge,” said Idalia Paz y Puente. “The value of the CSU Todos Santos Center is that we are always open — not only our minds, but our hearts. Every single program that comes to the Center, every single project that we start or join in the town — we always have that philosophy.”
As the Center joined forces with the regional effort to secure food and other goods to deliver to families in need, its years of engagement with the community and surrounding businesses and organizations expedited its ability to support the effort.
In Baja California Sur, and especially in Todos Santos, finding one’s way to a given location can take some extra time as well as a heightened spatial and directional awareness.
The town of Todos Santos only uses one zip code, and none of the streets are officially named, so the Center’s staff and volunteers had to call every household or contact them via text message, WhatsApp, or other communications to try and collect the information needed to deliver each package. Some residents don’t have phones, so contacting each family was no small feat.
“Local people trust us,” said Paz y Puente. “We were able to communicate with them, and we were able to create that map that [the volunteers] followed. If we don’t do that call, the people don’t receive the food. We had a very strong commitment with that, and a lot of responsibility. Even when you’re tired and feel like you can’t continue working, then you remember that if you don’t, that family is not going to have food for the next week.”
Jenny Sutton, a data analyst who moved to Todos Santos from the United Kingdom, volunteered to help manage the BCSCA’s database of dispensas, the alliance’s packages of provisions and housewares to help sustain families through the pandemic.
“I am very grateful for the chance to work with BCSCA, the Todos Santos community, and in particular the volunteers from CSU,” said Sutton. “We definitely could not have reached all of the families without them.”
And Kita stressed that the partnership is part of the larger mission of CSU.
“CSU is proud to partner with so many committed volunteers and organizations to extend its long tradition of food security efforts, such as Cans around the Oval, to Todos Santos.”
Cyrus Martin contributed to this story.
About the CSU Todos Santos Center
Located in Baja California Sur, Mexico, CSU Todos Santos Center serves as the University’s international hub, providing research and educational opportunities in alignment with existing University curricula. Advancing CSU’s mission of teaching, research, service, and outreach, the Center collaborates with Mexican universities and organizations, and provides workshops and programs for visitors and local residents.
CSU’s vision in Todos Santos is to cultivate generations of global citizens and to partner in the creation of thriving communities through experiential learning and the exchange of knowledge. For additional information, visit todossantos.colostate.edu.