Our mission at Progreso Relief has always been to help feed as many families as possible with the resources we have available. We are entering our final week of distributing emergency food baskets, so we wanted to provide our donors and the local expat population with a summary of how your generous donations have helped our community.
Since we received our first donation on March 25, we have raised $222,097 pesos (the equivalent of more than $9,300 USD), donated by more than 100 donors from the US, Canada and Mexico. This money has enabled us to provide emergency food baskets (despensas) to 1,264 families living in neighborhoods (colonias) throughout Progreso and Chicxulub, including the far-flung communities of San Ignacio and Flamboyanes. Most of these families signed up for food baskets using WhatsApp or by sending us an email, but we also distributed baskets to families not on our lists, recognizing that the poorest families in our communities do not even have access to a cell phone. Names for our distribution list were solicited broadly throughout the community and we received names from the City of Progreso, the Progreso Rotary Club, the Progreso Apoyo Program, local churches, and many other individuals. Since most households here have at least three or four family members living in one home (often more), we estimate that over the past six weeks, we have helped feed over 5,000 people.
From the beginning of our efforts, we wanted to find a way to work with the local tiendas – the small stores that are located in every neighborhood. In collaboration with the City of Progreso, we located 8 different tiendas throughout the city and asked them if they would be willing to purchase items for our despensas as well as package them up for delivery. We only ordered 35 bags per tienda for each delivery, but did this with each tienda once or twice per week. In this way, these small stores were able to meet our demand for hundreds of despensas to be delivered each week. Working with these smaller stores means that 100% of the money raised by Progreso Relief was spent in our communities to benefit the smallest businesses in the city; that helped them keep people employed and stay open to continue to serve their neighborhoods.
A local business donated the use of its vans to be driven by van drivers who were responsible for the daily deliveries. These drivers were paid a small stipend for their services, since they too were unemployed. In this way, we were able to help them feed their families. The City of Progreso and its Mayor Julian Zacarias Curi paid to sanitize and initially fuel the vans. Retired nurse Sallie Again-Hirst provided instructions on how to make sure that the deliveries were done in a safe and sanitary manner, including sanitizing each despensa bag and making sure the drivers always wore masks. After the first week of deliveries, each despensa also included the delivery of face masks for the local families, paid for by additional donations received by Progreso Relief specifically to purchase masks.
We began delivering food baskets two weeks from when we received our first donation. During that first week we delivered 100 food baskets, but starting in Week Two of our program we were able to deliver 280 food baskets each week. Thus, over a six-week period of time, we were able to provide food baskets to all of the 1,075 families who signed up with Progreso Relief directly, along with an additional 189 families who received baskets without registering. Progreso residents Fabiola Fuentes Rodriguez and her husband Enrique Kazco Flores did an amazing job coordinating the many moving parts associated with this relief effort out of the offices of Expat Corner.
This week, Progreso Relief will finish spending all of the funds we received through our initial request for donations. In addition, we note that both the City of Progreso and the State of Yucatan are now providing food throughout the city. We believe that the economic impacts of COVID-19 will be with us for months to come. Therefore, Progreso Relief is taking a pause in our activities to wait and see what emergency efforts might be needed in the future. We are not going away – the individuals who are behind Progreso Relief are full-time expat and local residents committed to helping our friends and neighbors to the best of our ability. We feel very positive about the work we have done thus far to help feed over 5,000 people in our town, and we stand ready to reactivate our efforts in the future should the need arise. For now, we want to thank everyone who has donated funds, time, and energy into helping the most vulnerable members of our community —we could not have done this without your help!