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AXIS - Urban Courage
Mexico

Keyword: Poverty Eradication


Background

"AXIS" is an easily replicated, low cost, action based METHODOLOGY, PROGRAM AND NETWORK created by and for inner city youth from Mexico. A space promoting improvement and employment. It's an attitude, intent on fostering creativity, opportunities, social participation, as well as a free and respectful manifestation of ideas. "AXIS" functions on street corners, in parks, shared spaces or centers. It combines a practical formula with multidisciplinary programs and activities based on non-Formal education specifically designed to promote self sufficiency and inspire community involvement. "AXIS" is a flexible system that is alive, growing into a world network, and permanently adjusting to real needs; it includes projects of prevention, attention and appropriate referrals.


Narrative

At the beginning of the decade of the 80's in Mexico City the growing youth population was at a breaking point due to a severe scarcity of real alternatives in the areas of education, employment, sports, and spaces for healthy recreation. Families breaking down, lack of community support and governmental programs that could attend to their basic needs generated the appearance of youth gangs (groups or bands of disenfranchised youth) unleashing a climate of generalized despair, violence, drug addiction, deliquency and death.

The State responded by violently repressing the youth, mass media denigrated them, satanized them; studies stereotyped them as delinquents and civil society disqualified and repudiated them.

In the overpopulated cliff settlements of Santa Fe in Mexico City, thousands of youngsters fell under the bullets of the police, drugs, and multiplying irrational violence. The youth, feeling cornered by family disintegration, police brutality and State apathy, gathered as a survival mechanism in groups, packs or bands which were an alternative to or parallel to the family and school.

Hostile groups, who according to sociologists are disfunctional, responding in their essence to the same conditions that created their appearance: hunger, misery and violence. This condition has now manifested in youth worldwide.

In the 90's the same conditions exist in the uncountable "barrios", rapidly expanding marginal settlements and poverty belts like Santa Fe, Mexico, Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, and the urbanized rural zones of Oaxaca, where the problems of overcrowding and poverty have become aggravated in a population that is impressively young and lacking in basic services and a real response to their needs.

World projections indicate that by the year 2000 well over half of the planet's population will be under 25 years old and living in urban settlements, it is estimated that by the end of this millenium millions of jobs need to be created, but the true capacity to generate these positions will lessen, without taking into account the backlog of unemployment that has been accumulating since the 60's. Therefore, we the inner city youth, caught between eras, are experiencing the decay of the industrial age and are not prepared to step into the age of information that is upon us.

Government administrations claim there is no budget availabe for community youth programs, yet they embark on outrageously expensive and chronic, youth repression and criminilization campaigns generating a degradation of community and human values.

Presently, most overcrowded settlements have not provided effective SPACE, nor the GOOD WILL to administer programs dedicated to the attention and empowerment of urban youth.

PROJECT IDENTIFICATION

IT IS A MATTER OF SURVIVAL THAT WE THE YOUTH CREATE SPACES AND ACTION BASED STRATEGIES INVOLVING OUR COMMUNITIES, GOVERNMENT AND THE PUBLIC SECTOR.

We, the founders of "AXIS" have created a New Culture of Collective Well Being and shared responsibilities. Where the truces amongst gangs are a reality. The agreements reached with the government and the police make respect for human rights possible. The qualitative participation of youth in the well being programs is tangible. This has propitiated a change in consciousness of the authorities as well as a positive feedback in the local response and social politics of the 18 states of Mexico where youth are now organized to improve the living conditions of their communities. All this, not withstanding the participant's ideology, political affiliation, ethnic background, personal interests or religion.

Many steps had to be taken from the moment in which several youths had the courage to overcome their social conditions and utilize the street corner as a means of creating and improving everything that surrounds them. That is how the spirit of this group was born, and the repercussions of this force are now unbreakable, reproducing itself in other communities, establishing centers, generating lines of positive action and thus expanding the field of global influence. Growth, expansion, the forming of new international chapters, this is constant proof of the sustainability of the URBAN COURAGE "AXIS".

The transformation of normally misunderstood acts of rebellion and appropriate questioning of authorities into initiatives, proposals and ideas conceived by the youth themselves is profoundly empowering.

"We are no longer looking for the guilty but for the solutions" say the CPJ from NEZA. The process of the "AXIS" is one of constantly renewing through self analysis, conscious goal setting, collaboration and participation as agents of change, as well as a deep commitment to expand and share the processes with other youth and specially the younger children, our future, to whom we have a responsibility. Our methodology is based on a COUNCIL of youth supported by adult partners and organizations, a circle where everyone is important.

Self perpetuating sustainability is evidenced in our model of real interaction which has given very good results in the HUNDREDS of different centers and street corner "AXIS" that continue to spring up all over Mexico. When networking their policies and ideals, the young people discovered that the syndromes urban youth face are similar worldwide, and their very own solutions are very practical, based on true life's experiences, not academic theories that take years to reach the streets.

The PEACE AND JUSTICE CENTER in Los Angeles, ca., is an example of how this movement is growing simultaneously in different parts of the world. It is no coincidence that many of the volunteers at the center are also Earth crew members, young muralists who for years , through the sponsorship of Earth Celebrations 2000 have participated in cultural exchanges in Mexico, Brazil and Canada.

Young people worldwide are sharing their ideas and encouraging each other into actions very much like those of the urban youth from Mexico, yet so far, we have not discovered any group, organization or government authority that has managed to establish a methodology so exciting and effective with the youth as the "AXIS" centers and network.

At the beginning it was believed that the youth's participation in the resolution of their own needs would be a temporary one. Thanks to their understanding and concern for other young people, an because of experiencing the same living conditions, powerful, loyal and commited collaborations have emerged with other youth groups and communities. This has produced alternatives and human resources that go well beyond the scope of the "AXIS". A few examples are; the cultural exchange that has commenced with the Banana Kelly Project in The Bronx, N.Y,. As well as ongoing ones such as Kids for Kids, Colors United, Coalition for Children of the Earth, and several schools is USA and England. These are long term ralationships that form a self perpetuating sustainable world support system.

Since 1987, the "AXIS" founders have mantained the center active because it is able to adjust to the social circumstances of different places and moments. When the center was created in Santa Fe it addressed the needs the community faced in that precise moment. When the "Axis" started in the "El Pocito" barrio, it was adapted to it's precise scarcities, focusing at the same time on the objetives of bringing about and developing a plan with freedom of interaction.

To reach this point, many steps had to be taken, many doors, minds and hearts had to be opened. Perhaps the most impressive action to affect Social Policies related to youth in the largest city in the world, is the partnership of local government with the "Axis" group and other urban youth, which was celebrated officially in january 1995 with the opening of youth centers that will soon expand to the 16 buroughs of Mexico city.

In early 1995, because of the increased exposure through the media, special events, conferences and youth sponsored forums, the Mexican "Chavos Banda" (street corner societies, youth bands or gangs) reached out to local authorities trying to establish partnerships in creating better chances for survival for the most ignored constituency, children and youth.

Mayor Oscar Espinoza Villarreal responded to the plea and suggestions of urban youth groups such as SOCIEDAD 21 and the Government of Mexico City is establishing a YOUTH COUNCIL in every delegation as part of the Federal District's integrated program of attention to the youth, which was elaborated stemming from the aspirations and suggestions of the youth themselves.

This Goverment program which includes the youth's participation in the decision making process as part of the developmental policies, IS A PIONEER LANDMARK DIRECTIVE THAT COULD VERY WELL BE A MODEL FOR OTHER MAJOR URBAN CENTERS WORLDWIDE.

These councils which function with the concensus of youth, are an instrument of social development and create a possibility of developing the true creative and transforming potential inherent in all youth.

Much of this action was based on what had been learned in international events the "Axis" youth participated in such as: The Earth Summit, SID Conference in Mexico, the Children's World Congress, the World Summit or Children, Heart's Bend International Leadeship Trainings, Turtle Island Biorregional Conferences, the UN 50th, many events with UNICEF and visits to the UN.

Eleven members from 8 states of the CONSEJO POPULAR JUVENIL NACIONAL (National CPJ) participated in the Global Forum conference on cities in Manchester. This included three from the Consejo Popular Juvenil Oaxaca (Oaxaca CPJ), who have a most comprehensive human rights and ecological program, including an efficient recycling center. In Manchester they were inspired by members of the HABITAT II planing committee and also participated in the final plenary sessions. At the UN 50th event, Pablo Ordo Ez who is the 19 year old president of CPJ NEZA, spoke with Mr. Wally N'Dow and Archbishop Desmund Tutu who also found our project very interesting and encouraged us to let the world know about it.

The local, national and international events we create or represent our coalition in widen our scope of participation and improve the potential for creating a web of efficient support and information to be utilized as a tool to move from survival to sustainability.

To keep this developmental alternative active in several places, we prepare ouselves with a wide range of knowledge of the various social needs. This means we have an informed voice and have a right to be heard in decisions that affect the youth.

Thanks to our constant promotion of small business workshops and training couses, we have been accepted as part of the Committee on Economic Growth of the Alvaro Obregon Delegation. This is an acknowledgement from the government in this locality of the advances we have made related to our creation of places which hire and train youngsters.

IMPORTANT DATES:

03/80 the formation of the Youth Group Santa Fe, stemming from fights between neighborhoods & gangs.

01/81 Innovation of the comunication means and spaces that had been denied to the youth: press, radio, t.v. ,tranformation of ways of comunication between gangs.

06/82 Structural changes due to the growth of the organization.

11/82 Name change to the Popular Youth Council, (CPJ). Rock as a means of communications, struggling to obtain a space of their own.
State oppression of the youth due to their uniting, advancing and demanding opportunities to become self sufficient.

11/83 An alliance with the UNAM (Nacional Autonomous University of M xico) in the People's struggle, as a response, new youth projects were generated with the "Crea" goverment youth comission.

03/84 Finnancing of the first cooperative rabbit farm. Support of the victims injured by the San Juanico gas explosion, State of Mexico.

01/85 International Year of the Youth, recognition at a nacional level.

07/85 Founding of the CONSEJO POPULAR JUVENIL creation of the "Ricardo Flores Mag˛n" brigade.

09/85 Help for the injured due to the earthquake, in Mexico D.F.

02/86 Investigation about the gangs members of the Alvaro obreg˛n Munisipium (in Mexico City).

08/86 Opening of the COPFAP youth center in "Santa Fe" Mexico City.

07/87 Expansion working project called "Cultural Forum ("The recreation of Jabali"). All about the capacitation skill , sports,education and political participation center at (COFAP-SANTA FE).

03/88 The begining of the sociological theatrical drama "Let the gangs speak" Credits for all the working spaces. CPJ-NEZA host the FIRST NATIONAL CONGRESS FOR URBAN GANGS.

07/88 Participation of CPJ-NEZA in the ecology encounter of Huehuecoyotl, Morelos. Mexico.

07/93 Participation in the seminar "Healing Ourselfs & Mother Earth" in the University of Lethbridge, Canada.

10/93 participation in the Children of the Earth leadership training in Vermont and N.Y.

06/94 Participation in the "SID" Conference in Mexico City. C.PJ-NEZA joined the networks of bioregionalism in Mexico. Participation of CPJ-NEZA in the Global forum in Manchester, England.

05/94 Dialogue with the presidential candidate in Mexico with the urban youth.

02/95 FORMING OF THE "AXIS" URBAN COURAGE COALITION


Impact

CPJ YOUTH COUNCILS IN 18 STATES.

SOCIEDAD 21:
TEN'S OF THOUSANDS OF KIDS AFFECTED MONTHLY BY CONTACT WITH "AXIS" MEMBERS AT A NATIONAL LEVEL.
SOME LOCAL EXAMPLES:

CONSEJO POPULAR JUVENIL NEZA:
OVER 700 TRAINED IN SILKSCREEN
8 BUSINESSES

CONSEJO POPULAR JUVENIL OAXACA:
13 GENERAL COORDINATIONS
13 COMMUNITIES
3 ORGANIZATIONS
SERVING 10 MUNICIPALITIES
5 NEW ORG. FORMED IN 1995
80 EMPLOYEES TO DATE
303 EMPL. CONTEMPLATED FOR 1996
10,000 ATTEND ACTIVITIES PER MO.


Sustainability

The ideas and efforts of a few courageous inner city youth from Mexico City have grown exponentially over the last ten years to become the operational formula for thousands of youth who serve not only young people but tens of thousands of members of their communities.

Proof of their ability of sustaining and expanding is in their projects, which have grown into a national movement with multiplying councils in 18 states of Mexico, with links to USA , Canada and cultural exchanges with young people from over 80 countries. This speaks loudly for the replication capacity of their "life s work" as they call it.

The "AXIS" URBAN COURAGE project demonstrates its sustainability in the steady contribution of the youth in their search for new possibilities for growth. Suggesting to young people that their life condition will improve if: they unite, explore their needs, create or obtain a space/place and adapt it without transgressing the interests of other people, infuses them with a feeling of freedom which is directed towards the improvement of their social surroundings.

An indicator of success in our project has been the INCORPORATION OF SOME OF OUR STRATEGIES IN THE 1988-1994 NATIONAL PLAN OF DEVELOPMENT OF THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT.

Self perpetuating sustainability is evidenced in the integrated development of the applied methodology in the programs that converge in an "AXIS". As an example, we have counted on the colaboration of many sources and points of view. EARTH CELEBTARIONS 2000 has been a constant partner since 1989 and a source of much of our development in the international arena and matters of ecology. We have also been guided and supported by international foundations such as TERRA CHRISTA and COALITION FOR CHILDREN OF THE EARTH. Universities such as the UNAM and IBERO AMERICANO have helped through their social service programs and academic assistance.We have had an ongoing relationship with many public institutions that support youth related projects such as; SOCICULTUR, SEDESOL, THE D.D.F., FAC, PRONASOL, CONACULTA , JOVENES EN SOLARIDAD, and DIF who have colaborated with certain types of support and in kind services. Foundations such as EC2000 and DEMOS have funded the paper recycling micro-industry of CPJ NEZA.

The wholesome progress which has been made is also due to private assistance institutions and private enterprises such as BODY SHOP MEXICO, The El Globo Bakery as well as community based groups, and interested individuals with a wide range of skills and talents who have offered their services altruistically ,such as, psychologists, sociologists, entrepeneurs, social anthopologists, bycicle repair specialists, little grandmas that cook, seamstresses, health education promotetrs etc. This army of proffessional volunteers has enriched the lives of tens of thousands of youth simply because a space has been created to do so and the youth have reached out for their help.

The relationship with the Office of the Mayor of Mexico City Lic. Oscar Espinosa Villarreal mentioned in question number 13 has produced a long term plan for youth centers in every neighborhood.

Such interactions with government, community and private sector are a strong guarantee, that at least concerning the local authorities' aspect, youth centers have a greater chance of survival, sustainability and a wider scope of application of the "AXIS" type projects in Mexico and other counties. As far as the community it will always the active with paticipation in new projects.

In order to imprint these changes in the social consciousness, we constantly send messages through the mass media, in whatever opportunities we may find, in interviews, coverages or conferences.

To keep this developmental alternative active in several places, we prepare ourselves with a wide range of knowledge of the various social needs, local and international. This means we have an informed voice and have the right to be heard in decissions that affect the youth.

Thanks to our constant promotion of small business workshops and training courses, we have been accepted as part of the Committee on Economic Growth of the Alvaro Obregon Delegation. This is acknowledgment from the government in this locality of the advances related to our creation of places which hire and train youngsters.


Contact

    Juan M. Arriaga Soria
    Paso de la Laja # 37
    Ciudad de Mexico
    Distrito Federal
    Mexico
    C.P. 01260
    (52-5) 570-0618
    CPJNEZA@LANETA.APC.ORG

Sponsor

    Earth Celebrations 2000 ( EC2000-MEXICO)
    Helen Samuels (Intl. Dir)
    1717 Stewart St.
    Santa Monica
    California
    USA
    90404
    310-453-7007
    CPJNEZA@LANETA.APC.ORG

Partners

    Sociedad 21 A.C. (Santa Fe, Mexico)
    Pablo Ordo Ez Pe A
    Av. Bordo de Zociaca S/N Esq. Av. Lopez
    Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl
    ESTADO DE MEXICO
    Mexico
    C.P 57310
    (52-5) 797-6421
    CPJNEZA@LANETA.APC.ORG

    Consejo Popular Juvenil Neza A.C.
    Victor Manual Cortes Gonzalez/CPJ OAX
    Calle 4 Lote 312, Unidad Fovisste
    San Sebastian Tutla
    Oaxaca
    Mexico
    C.P. 68150
    (52-951) 5-39-89
    CPJNEZA@LANETA.APC.ORG

    Consejo Popular Juvenil Oaxaca A.C.
    LIC. M.E. RAMOS FRANCIA /SOCICULTUR
    AV. RIBERA DE SAN COSME # 76
    Ciudad de Mexico
    Distrito Federal
    Mexico
    C.P. 06400
    (52-5) 535-7483


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