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A Spring Break Site Visit with SEIINAC

Last month, Board members Karin Friederic and Brian Burke spent their spring break on a site visit with our newest partner, SEIINAC, in Hidalgo, Mexico. “It was a whirlwind, but a really exciting one,” Brian says, with a packed itinerary that included long car rides, impromptu presentations, and many stimulating conversations. 

SEIINAC (Servicios de Inclusión Integral y Derechos Humanos A.C.) is a youth-led organization that works for the rights of children, adolescents, women, people of gender diversity, and people living with HIV in the state of Hidalgo, about two hours north of Mexico City. Since 2008, SEIINAC’s success combining popular education, community empowerment, and political mobilization has made them a valued partner for government outreach and collaboration. 

The trip was a crucial step in shaping Minga’s relationship with SEIINAC as they work to expand access to safe abortion in Indigenous communities. “This organization has a lot of know-how, capacity, and passion,” Karin observed from the start. “They are very savvy with political advocacy and have a lot of volunteer support in the community.”

At first, Brian and Karin sensed some hesitancy to connect with Minga, which they attributed to SEIINAC’s focus on resisting colonial approaches to public health work. They recently completed a USAID-funded project with onerous reporting requirements, an example of the burdens often attached to accepting grant funding.

“We took a lot of care not to intervene,” Karin says, allowing ample space and time to communicate how Minga works to authentically support our partners on their terms. Brian and Karin attended a sex-ed and reproductive rights workshops with Indigenous students, visited villages, sat for a panel discussion, and “slowly,” Karin says, “I could feel those relationships shift.”

One especially fruitful lunch took place at a long, festive table in the SEIINAC offices, a house that they rent in an old neighborhood downtown. During the meal, Brian says, “[Their team] came to really appreciate that we work differently than other organizations. We are not just there to fund them. We’re not just visiting to check their accounts. We actually want to get to know them and the villages where they work. At the end of that lunch, they were asking, ‘What are the ways you could be useful to us?’ This seemed like a really productive shift from resistance to ‘aid’ to genuine excitement about collaboration.”

Most of SEIINAC’s staff and volunteers come from the city, many of them university-trained psychologists and social psychologists, well-versed in resistance, inclusion, and the remaking of language. But they face a challenge: how do they bring these ideas into rural, Indigenous communities with very different cultural and material realities? This is one area where Minga can bolster SEIINAC’s efforts, by advancing intercultural communication that respects both SEIINAC’s and Indigenous residents’ experiences and points of view. 

There was also interest in collaborating with board member Dr. Erin Lund to develop clinician-facing training focused on the ethics and practice of abortion as a health and safety issue. In observing the sex-ed workshops, Karin also saw opportunities to share and develop pedagogical methods.

Though it wasn’t the most relaxing of spring breaks, in the end, Karin and Brian returned home feeling affirmed that the energy Minga expends to forge real-life relationships and imagine novel approaches to partnership are, in short, what it’s all about.

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