How this Islander was inspired by youth in Mexico to help those in need during COVID-19

While some Islanders have endured the grips of COVID-19 far from home, it hasn't managed to stifle their urge to lend a helping hand. 

For Fallon Mawhinney, native to Ebeneezer, P.E.I., that meant becoming involved with De Familia a Familia, based in Colima, Mexico.

Translated from Spanish to English, it means From Family to Family, and is a new non-profit organization. 

The group came together in the past several weeks to help the city's most vulnerable access food and essential supplies during the pandemic. The initiative is led by a group of youth in the area, primarily in their early to mid 20s. 

"I was just so inspired to join. Just watching people who are my age take this on, no government funding, no parent organization and just seeing a need." 

Submitted by Fallon Mawhinney

Mawhinney arrived in Mexico in January 2019 on an exchange program between Colima University and UPEI. Once she completed the program and polished off her degree, she said she felt the pull to go back last  August. 

Now she works as an English teacher in Colima, even as the job has shifted to an online format because of COVID-19.

Springing into action

The 25-year-old hasn't looked back since, but said remaining in Colima during the pandemic meant she needed to spring to action and volunteering to help. 

De Familia a Familia distributes COVID-19-kits which include food like eggs, fruit and vegetables, bags of rice and pasta, in addition to things like soap and feminine hygiene products, to those who have a reduced income, or have lost their jobs entirely as a result of the pandemic. 

"We aim to have enough food to keep a small family going for about a week," Mawhinney said. 

For the past month, Mawhinney along with other members of the organization, have been assembling the COVID-19 kits each Saturday. On Sundays, before the afternoon heat becomes overwhelming, they distribute them to families in need.

So far, the group has managed to deliver kits to 140 families, but there are still some families waiting for relief.

It was kind of an invitation to action. —Luis Jiminez, co-founder

"Here in Mexico, our labour reality, our economic reality has forced people to get on the streets and try to get some money or some food," said Luis Jimenez, who is from Colima and is one of the co-founders of the organization. 

As a nation, Mexico has had 56,594 cases and 6,090 deaths. Colima, a city of about 400,000 people, Jimenez said, hasn't been hit as hard as some parts of the country but is currently reeling from the economic toll of the health crisis. 

'To help our people'

Jimenez, 24, said he was encouraged to start the initiative by his teachers, friends and members of the community who were advocating that there was a need.

"We were in this quarantine and we were thinking about what else we could do, I don't know, to help our people," he said.   

"It was kind of an invitation to action. It took us two days to start the whole thing," he said. 

Submitted by Fallon Mawhinney

Only weeks ago, the organization had just five members but that number has quickly swelled to 20. But Jimenez notes that as the number of volunteers has grown, so has the number of those registering for the service.

Mawhinney and Jiminez said the group, which relies solely on donations, will continue to deliver their kits for the foreseeable future, even as COVID-19 health restrictions are poised to be loosened in Colima, come June 1. 

"We don't see this going back to normal overnight," Mawhinney said. 

More from CBC P.E.I.