It may be that whenever – and wherever – older, retired women get together and pool their creative talents, as well as their other considerable abilities and resources, good things happen in their communities and the surrounding areas of wherever they live. Like pebbles in a pond.
Perhaps this is universal, everywhere in the world. Maybe it’s even a cliché. But I am here now, as a recently retired older woman, living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; so I can only speak (and write) about my experience here as to what such women can do.
For example: In last week’s issue of our local, bilingual newspaper, Atención, I read about a fundraising luncheon to be given on Thursday, July 21st, by the all-volunteer, nonprofit organization Mujeres en Cambio (literally, women in change), which is dedicated to “providing scholarships to deserving underserved young women in and around the San Miguel area.”
The newspaper article continued: “We are currently supporting more than 160 young women in secondary school and university” and “97 percent of all funds raised goes toward scholarships.”
Scholarships. Where, I wondered as I read this, would I be if I hadn’t been given scholarships?
Out of high school I’d won a full scholarship to The Katherine Gibbs School in Montclair, New Jersey, where I learned a then-useful trade (shorthand, typing, telephone-answering, filing…), as well as ladylike comportment. Years later, when I was thirty, I won a full scholarship from the Helena Rubenstein Foundation to attend Columbia University in New York, where I learned how to read and write and think and question and strive to contribute to the common good as a responsible, intelligent citizen in this complicated world.
Without those scholarships and the education and exposure they afforded, I would not be who I am. I would not have written three books and taught at the university level. I would not be here. I would not be writing this blog. I would not have gone to the Mujeres en Cambio luncheon last Thursday.
But I did go, and I’m glad I did.
Sitting there in the packed dining room of the lovely Hacienda de las Flores, among what looked like close to one hundred white- and gray-haired women dedicated to helping younger women get ahead in the world, I felt proud. This is what women can do, I thought. This is what they (we!) can – and do! – do with our hearts and minds and time when circumstances free us up, when we’re no longer in the work force, no longer bearing or caring for small children, free to be “ladies who lunch” with a purpose.
The cost of this luncheon, billed as “An Italian Feast!” was only 300 pesos (or about $16 U.S.), the food was (as promised in the newspaper article) delicious, and a special draw was a floral-design demonstration by local artist and designer Wendy Sievert. The three arrangements she created – explaining her special secrets and techniques as she went – were raffled off to earn even more funds for this good cause.
Mujeres en Cambio’s efforts to help provide higher education for worthy young Mexican women reminded me, too, of a T-shirt my friend Youssef proudly wore in Gabon when I served in the Peace Corps there. It was a black cotton T-shirt with the profile of an African woman’s face outlined in white on the front. The T-shirt read in French, “Teach a woman and you teach a country.” The same, I thought at this luncheon, is true in Mexico – and everywhere else in the world.
Mujeres en Cambio is one of dozens of nonprofit organizations in San Miguel de Allende dedicated to helping the indigenous people of this community and the surrounding area. For further information about it, please go to: mujeresencambio.org.