Living in Thunder Bay, lawyer Richard Buset and social justice advocate Elizabeth McWeeny CM founded Compassionet Impact Development Canada in 2008.
“We spent many happy times on family vacations in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico before we started to explore some of the areas off the tourist maps in the poor Colonias (neighbourhoods) on the perimeter of the city. We were shocked to find the terrible conditions in which many of the working poor are forced to live.
Many of the Mexicans working in the resorts serving us our meals, cleaning our rooms and trimming the gardens are paid between $10 to $20 dollars per day. Labourers in hotel construction make about $30 dollars per day. But if you check out the supermarkets you’ll see that basic food costs almost as much as it does in Canada and the US.”
Tourist development has driven up land prices even outside the resort areas. For example, a plot of land 40 feet by 24 feet with no services costs between $12,000 and $15,000 Canadian dollars, making the land difficult to afford for the working poor from the outset. From there, interest rates for housing loans are often 20% or more. Many people squat on their land as they make payments for years before they become owners and begin to build a proper home. In the meantime, they survive in wood and tarpaper shacks, and lean-to shelters that are hot in summer, wet in the rainy season and a haven for scorpions and bugs.
Liz says, “Cocktails overlooking beautiful Banderas Bay didn’t seem right anymore, so we decided to ‘do something’. We founded Compassionet Impact Development Canada in 2008 and began working with local partners including Compassionet Impact Mexico, New Beginnings, Arroyo de Esperanza and La Vina. In 2009, we started to recruit volunteers, solicit donations and activate a response to the overwhelming poverty in the Colonias.”
Since then, CIDC donors and volunteers have:
- given newly constructed concrete homes to families living in tarpaper shacks
- taught English as a Second Language to children and adults
- financed hook-ups for sewer services
- given interest-free loans for home building and home improvements
- extended interest free loans for land purchase for homes and microloans