Providing scholarship assistance to female students from poor rural villages around San Miguel de Allende sufficient to keep them in school.
Empowering girls and young women in rural Mexico through education
Key volunteers and Board Members
- Donald Caldwell – President of the Board
- Pakina Langenscheidt Fernandez – Vice President, Founder, and Board Member
- Daniel Medina Siller – Treasurer and Board Member
- Violeta Rangel – Auditor and Board Member
- Nancy Row – Secretary and Board Member
- Claudia Anayal – Secretary elect
- Christine Yannitelli – Event Chair and Board Member
- Jo Cartwright – Co-Event Chair
- Barbara Salazar – Scholarship Chair and Board Member
- Stephen Bresolin – Amistad Canada Project Chair and Board Member
- Marie Toler Raney – Webmaster
- Dale Eby – Technical Advisor
- Zunaxi C. Nilson – Fundraising Mexico
From the President
I am again immensely proud to have played a part in promoting the mission of Mujeres en Cambio in 2023. Our very hard-working all-volunteer team have, as always, stepped up to the important challenge of delivering the many elements necessary to continue our scholarship program. I am delighted to briefly share their accomplishments.
We finally obtained CLUNI approval along with confirmation as a charity under new rules of the Mexican authorities. We have been working on this for more than 2 years. This allows us to offer tax deduction receipts for Mexican donors and, we hope, opens new fundraising opportunities. With this authority we have put in place revised by-laws, which update our governance and clarify how we will operate in the future. We have had these on hold pending these decisions by the Mexican authorities, so we are happy to have this behind us.
We welcomed our first “Ambassador for Mujeres en Cambio” in 2023. Recall that any supporter can earn recognition as an “Ambassador” by making a commitment to donate $1300 USD annually for 3 years running, (equivalent to annual scholarship support for 4 grade school students or one university student). To earn “Ambassador Plenipotentiary” status for the Mujeres en Cambio scholarship program, supporters must make a commitment to donate $2500 USD annually for five years running.
Another welcome accomplishment this year has been the launch of our new website: mujeresencambio.org. I am pleased to also report that the volunteer designer has generously agreed to stay on as our webmaster.
Our database upgrade project is on track to be completed early in the new year. We are very excited to see this come to fruition because it holds the promise of more automation of administrative tasks and better distribution of the associated workload for our volunteers. Related to that, I wish to recognize the Queretaro firm, Ventagium, who are designing the new systems, and have very generously and substantially discounted their professional fees for our benefit.
Our fundraising efforts in 2023 have returned good results from our regular supporters as well as from successful fundraising events organized by our team. This is very welcome given the extraordinary expenses associated with legal fees for obtaining CLUNI and Donataria Autorisada approval, our databases upgrade project, and reduced revenue from one of our important grantors.
For the 2023/24 school year we are assisting 169 girls and young women. We anticipated that meeting our budget requirements would be difficult in 2023 due to lost grant revenue and higher overhead expenses. Accordingly, we made the unwelcome decision to reduce our student intake as well as the amount of scholarship assistance we offer our girls. We will re-examine the situation early in the new year with the hope that with improved 2023 income and reduced overhead we can afford to get back to normal scholarship and intake levels in the coming year.
Finding replacement funding for the grant support we will be losing is a continuing struggle. Grantors in the US, Canada, and Europe are rarely open to supporting Mexico-based charities such as ours. We have found a couple that may be, and we are working at seeking their assistance. We also hope to attract some Mexican-based grantors to our program now that we have our Donataria Autoisada status confirmed.
That summarizes our main accomplishments in 2023. Support from our cherished volunteers, donors, and grantors has been essential to these accomplishments. We are enormously grateful for their continuing support.
Mujeres en Cambio is firmly focused on our mission of helping rural girls and young women overcome economic and cultural barriers to stay in school. We strive for long term financial sustainability for our organization to continue that mission. In the 2023 year just passed we count the following among our most important benchmarks on the financial front.
Due to anticipated increases in our overhead expenses in 2023, we reduced the number of girls we took into our program at the grade 8 equivalent level (secundaria 2) from 24 to 18 for the 2023/24 school year. This reduced intake combined with reduced amounts of scholarship assistance, particularly for our university girls, was designed to bring our expected revenue for 2023 into line with expected expenditures. With improved revenue and an expected reduction in overhead expenses in the coming year, we are hopeful that we can return to more ambitious growth operations in 2024.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of SMA continues to be one of our longest running grantors providing funding for 15 to 20 girls annually. The Lacewing Foundation, another longstanding grantor, tapered off their support again in 2023 due to a corporate decision to pursue other priorities. However, we were pleased that the Rapidan Foundation, after several years absence, awarded us a grant in 2022 which they have repeated in 2023. We are applying to a few more international organizations, but the outcome is of course uncertain. We are looking forward to pursuing funding sources from Mexican based institutions now that we have CLUNI tax relief for Mexican donations. As testament to that, we received our first ever large donation from a Mexican corporate entity (121,000 Mx pesos) at the close of 2023.
We added students from an additional Community school last year, bringing to 8 the number of Community schools from which we select students for scholarship assistance. We continued to draw girls from this additional school in 2023 but not at the level we would have preferred.
Mujeres en Cambio granted scholarships in the amount of 1,138,847 pesos delivered into these rural villages. This helped 44 students at the Secundaria (junior high) level; 60 at the preparatoria level (high school); and 65 at university continue their studies.
We began offering donors the opportunity to support and follow specific girls as they pursue their educational dreams and move through our 10-year assistance program. This is something numerous donors had requested in recent years, and we believe it will appeal to existing and new donors alike. In the year 2023 we had our first donor take advantage of this new opportunity.
On the fundraising events side, we held a major luncheon in March which returned over $7000 USD. In addition, we sponsored a comedy act and sold legacy donations of clothing and jewelry which together netted almost $2000.
Our partnership with Amistad Canada continued to bear fruit with an expanded donor base in Canada. We provided on-going progress reports to Amistad to satisfy our renewed partnership agreement with them. In 2023 our Canadian donations through Amistad amounted to 122,976 Mexican pesos equivalent.
We pride ourselves since our inception in 1995 as an all-volunteer charity. Without our dedicated volunteers, Mujeres en Cambio simply can’t exist. We have a great team currently working on behalf of these girls and young women. Not only do these people very generously give their time and treasure but they bring enormous talent and expertise to our organization. Two of our founding members are still with us after 27 years. We are very lucky to have these fine people working on behalf of our donors and students alike.
Our success in 2023 would not have been possible without the help from numerous people and organizations. Firstly, our cherished individual donors who have stayed with us since the beginning– thank you! And our grantors – Lacewing, Rapidan, and UUFSMA – thank you for putting your trust in us. And, of course, the designers of our new database management systems, Vantagiem, who are generously offering us significant fee discount for their professional services.
Throughout the year our Board members and numerous executive volunteers gave generously of their time and assistance. To all these helpful individuals – thank you!
We, of course, have other volunteers that provide help for special events and fundraising projects, and we always appreciate their help.
A Call to Action
In the new year, we will be working to recruit people for key executive positions. Most importantly we need a Communications Director. This position will be a Board Member.
Working as a volunteer with Mujeres en Cambio can be enormously fulfilling. It need not take all a person’s time. It allows one to see these young 14-year-old girls, most of them very shy and uncertain, grow into confident young women empowered through education. It sets them on a radically different life path from that of their parents and others in their villages. Also, working with Mujeres en Cambio allows one to get directly involved in organizing community events and activities. And it provides a good opportunity to meet a wide range of people in and around SMA and abroad while participating with some truly wonderful fellow volunteers in all aspects of Mujeres en Cambio work, both raising money and delivering it in the form of scholarships in the rural communities we serve.
We at Mujeres en Cambio know we are making a difference in the more than fifty poor rural villages we serve around San Miguel de Allende. We are following our university graduates as they enter the work force in administration, business, health, engineering, education, architecture and even robotics among other fields. We know from their testimonials how much they have appreciated the assistance you, our cherished donors, grantors, and volunteers, have afforded them. What a different and wonderful life awaits them going forward. Most have parents with less than high school education who work in menial or labor-intensive jobs.
Our ability to assist these bright young women is limited entirely by the amount of money we can raise. Please help us keep their dreams alive.