With his eyes on ours
The khanikah in San Miguel de Allende, and particularly the social work performed in this beautiful Mexican town, may well be regarded as the golden finale for the legacy of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, former master of the Nimatullahi Order – a further step in a lasting, fascinating life devoted to love, service of others and the spread of those noble values attached to classical, amorous Persian Sufism.
In the months preceding the time of his death, and despite the severity of the illness he was enduring, the project of San Miguel was intensely alive in his heart and mind, clearly visible to those of us lucky enough to share with him his last days. Once in intensive care, he tried to make sure that we would carry out this endeavor with no delay, offering a small donation as a first step to future contributions from the other centers. It was as if sometimes some image or thought woke him up; then, with his eyes on ours, he repeated: do not forget about Mexico. He constantly gave evidence that it was a goal deserving his whole inner attention, even under extreme circumstances.
With this brief article we should like to pay tribute to the memory of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, and to the effort and commitment of all those companions that keep alive and in progress the labor that started in such a loving way.
San Miguel de Allende, a city in Guanajuato state, enjoys a wealth of historic architecture which in 2008 deserved to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage site. Close to the Federal Capital, with mild weather and rich thermal waters, it is a pleasant tourist destination and home for an active foreigner community, without standing on the sidelines of the specific socio-economic Mexican circumstances, with all its particularities and contradictions.
It is in this context that the opportunity aroused to link the setting up of a khaniqah in San Miguel with any kind of service to the most deprived ones, in accordance with the bases of our Order. First ideas were aimed at either using part of the khaniqah itself to provide a medical support service, or finding a suitable location to open a home for the elderly.
To this end, we established contacts with every institution, official bodies and local actors involved in charity activities and social improvement initiatives, in an attempt to make a united effort to a common aim, always showing our interest in fully participating in the local community life. As a result, the City Council invited us to carry out Casa Esperanza – a project promoted by the Council itself and the DIF (Municipal Service for the Comprehensive Development of the Family), as the public office in charge of governmental policies on social assistance.
Casa Esperanza was born as a day child care center for children and adolescents in the context of what is technically known as “street situation”; that is, under-eighteens who fight for family subsistence on the city streets, out of school and home protection. This is a population lacking of any educational aid and a victim of poverty and family breakdown, suffering frequent sexual and physical violence and enormous hygiene and nutritional deficiencies directly affecting their health conditions.
Therefore, Casa Esperanza aims to represent an alternative proposal to this dramatic scenario as a place to host and carry out social improvement actions in three complementary ways: providing educational and employment training for children and teenagers, strengthening their adequate food and physical condition, and promoting family reunification by means of integrating parents in the activities.
The main working tool is workshops, which are scheduled from Monday to Saturday in different times between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. They cover a wide range of topics, according to the objectives proposed: English, Arts, reading or computer classes; lectures and talks for parents or adolescents; sports, yoga, games and physical stimulation sessions; sewing and knitting workshops for mothers…
It is by no means an easy task. Those sheltered at Casa Esperanza come with multiple physical, psychological, material and educational deprivations, in a huge number and with a huge variety of needs and ages. A striking example of this may well be found in the group of about 20 teenage girls victims of rape and abuse, most of them either pregnant or already mothers who get to the home with their babies, all seeking refuge and assistance. A recurring event that perpetuates future situations of violence, poverty and exclusion, in a vicious circle which initiatives such as Casa Esperanza fight to break, despite all difficulties and the limited resources at disposal to achieve this goal.
At the end of 2011, and after numerous contacts and discussions, we eventually reached the signing of the cooperation agreement between the municipality, San Miguel DIF and Nur Foundation. Initially, our contribution would consist of ensuring payment and maintenance expenses for a considerably larger building than the one provided by the local DIF. As a first consequence, the number of workshops and ongoing programs increased five-fold, going from benefiting 30 children and youngsters to 140, plus numerous parents now taking part in the activities. Giving the growing demand, several companions at the khaniqah started to work as volunteers supporting the educational and administrative staff appointed by the DIF, in management work and running workshops and talks as well.
This way, and thanks to the enthusiastic response of volunteers (whether linked or not to the Nimatollahi Order) and Nur Foundation, the initial project of Casa Esperanza has been considerably expanded on all fronts. There are welcoming initiatives trying to respond to the needs of those to be cared for at the home, opening new possibilities and action lines. This has been the case of the sewing workshop, born as a way to involve adult mothers in the training of the young ones, teaching them how to make clothing for their babies. The work has given rise to the opportunity of selling hand-embroidered towels and napkins in Canada and the USA, as a potential source of income for these mothers and their families. At the same time, charity organizations from these countries would contribute to the purchase of the material needed, contributing in this way to the cause of Casa Esperanza. The aim in not only raising donation to secure the rent and maintenance of the home, but also finding own sources of finance through the joint efforts of both the sheltered ones and the volunteers, to set new workshops, services and forms of aid for the children and their families.
In this regard, and as an essential part of the charity work, Nur Foundation devotes a great deal of its efforts to provide the home with all the required services to ensure the progress of the project. That includes the procurement of terminals for the computer classes, paintings for the art workshops, or food for the increasing number of breakfasts and lunches served at the home. The very success of Casa Esperanza means greater financing needs, always in an environment of severe limitations. This is a constant challenge for our companions there, who experience both the joy for the response of those benefiting from the home, and the inevitable desire to ease their suffering and deprivations in the best manner possible.
After these three years rich in revealing experiences, from the first collaborations with orphanages to the present labor at Casa Esperanza, Nur Foundation faces its coming social and charity action in San Miguel de Allende with the utmost enthusiasm. We are as aware of the difficulties to overcome as confident in the learning achieved, eager to continue the development of a task firmly rooted in the most basic principles of the Order.
To us, it is absolutely clear that the present collaboration with the local authorities and institutions serves as a first step to a comprehensive action overcoming the limitations of a day home such as Casa Esperanza. It is our objective to fully develop all the possibilities in the route we have taken, by means of opening a school large enough to host the highest possible number of children in need, and finding the necessary resources to provide it with the essential facilities. These would include a children’s medical centre and dormitories, so as to offer a full board service for those pupils specially exposed to a situation of abandonment and street survival.
A dreamed goal, no doubt, as firmly rooted in our aim as challenging in its demands. In this quest we are encouraged by those who find comfort and relief through our service, and by those who devote time and enthusiasm to this service. Both parts obtain mutual reward: there lies the particular sense of beauty beneath our project. And, at the very core of it, as a hidden spring feeding a young river, remains the presence of a gaze. It is the intimate and attentive look of a man at the time he is approaching the end of his days, catering for light and inspiration, as he always did. And then we feel that it was all this forthcoming labor what master Nurbakhsh could possibly see while, in his hospital bed, surrounded by the ones who loved him so much, opened his eyes, regained breath and insisted: do not forget. Do it.
We cling on this memory to, with everybody’s help, make the dream come true.
This is a truly altruistic, independent task. Therefore, we give a warm-hearted, deeply grateful welcome to every collaborative proposal, assistance or donation by all those interested in contributing to the project in a selfless manner. Should you wish so, please contact at email@example.com
We would like to express our gratitude to all the authorities and public representatives of the Mexican Republic, the State of Guanajuato and the Municipality of San Miguel de Allende for their supporting Nur Foundation in this time. Particularly, thanks to Ms Luz María Núñez, Council President; Mr. Javier Zavala Zavala, Director of San Miguel DIF, and lic. Irma L. Rosado Soto, Director of NGOs Support Department of the Municipality, in the name of all those who have found refuge in Casa Esperanza so far.
For any further information on the activities hosted by Nur Foundation in San Miguel de Allende, we gladly invite you to have a look at the webpage run by our companions at facebook Fundation Nur Mexico, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org