Mexico

While America Closes Up Shop, Mexico Opens Its Arms To Syrian Students

Mexico has a long and historic tradition of welcoming refugees from all over the world and unlike its closest neighbor to the north, it is still living true to that tradition.

As a gesture of support to reinforce the international community’s confidence in Mexico’s advocacy for peace, the country welcomes Syrian refugee students through its “Project Habesha“.

Project Habesha is a humanitarian initiative with the main goal of welcoming 30 Syrian students to Mexico for the purpose of providing them with a college education.

Welcoming Syrian students also provides Mexico with the opportunity of promoting intercultural dialogue as an inspiration for development and creating an atmosphere of understanding and sympathy within Mexican society.

Habesha has already brought 10 students to Mexico.

With the support of private universities and organizations, these students will receive a full scholarship as well as medical insurance and a monthly allowance for their personal expenses.

Last week, after a long flight and a rigorous selection process, Silva Namo and Jackdar Mohammed arrived to Mexico City.

“Thanks to Habesha, we have hope again and something real for the future,” Mohammed said, two days after arriving to Mexico City. “Habesha has helped us and, just as Habesha has helped us, I want to help countries that are in war. There is nothing impossible.”

Since 2011, millions of people have fled from the country as a direct result of the conflict in Syria and its neighbouring regions.

This has led to the greatest humanitarian crisis in decades.

Namo, a 22 year old student from the Syrian province of Malikiyah, reflected in an interview with RISE NEWS how the war in her homeland has affected her life.

“In the beginning, it was really difficult to live in refugee camps,” Namo said. “We were forced into another way of life with people we didn´t know. You lose everything. You lose direction and you don’t know what you’re going to do with your future; you walk around without thinking or knowing what the next step is.”

Jackdar Mohammed (L) and Silva Namo (R) are two Syrian students a Mexican organization is helping go to college. Photo Credit: Jimena Pacheli/ RISE NEWS

In only two days after Namo and Mohammed’s arrival in Mexico, they said that they felt big and positive changes in their lives after experiencing Mexico’s culture.

“A big change for me is the food,” Mohammed said. “In two days I have eaten a lot of things. The food is really good and spicy. I like it.”

Before attending college in Mexico, Namo, Mohammed and the other Syrian students will spend six months studying Spanish in the state of Aguascalientes.

“This is our chance to learn and to do as much as we can to be stronger and provide something in the future,” Namo said.

Mohammed’s studies were interrupted due to the increasing violence and development of the war in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Today, he looks forward to starting his economy degree again.

“[The] Economy can help me and my country,” Mohammed about the field he is interested in pursuing. “It can have a great impact in Syria’s future. [The] Economy will be needed for rebuilding the country, creating factories and jobs and working on development.”

Namo’s goal is to make an impact not only in Mexican communities, but also in Syrian communities too.

To achieve this, she will study Business Administration.

“Everything is developing so quickly. Syria will need technology and development,” she told RISE NEWS.

For Namo and Mohammed, coming to Mexico is not only a personal achievement.

They plan to use their studies to aid Syria in its uncertain future.

“Syria needs us,” Mohammed said. “We are the generation that has a chance to complete their studies outside of the country. That’s the people Syria needs right now for its future. We, as students, are the hope for Syria’s future.”

It’s part of Mohammed and Namo’s goal to return to Syria.

Read More: Meet Daniela Núñez, The 23 Year Old Mexican Who Wants To Change The Way We Bury People

“This education is not just for me, it’s for all Syrians,” Mohammed said, “I want to learn and have new experiences so I can go back and transmit it to those who may not have a chance to complete their studies.”

Project Habesha is providing Syrian youth with an opportunity to receive a college education.

Mexico is providing these Syrians with a place to call home.

“It’s an amazing feeling to come into these people who are really nice and friendly,”  Namo said. “People have welcomed us and have let us know that this can be our home too. I’m away from my country but I feel safe and I feel at peace.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Meet Daniela Núñez, The 23 Year Old Mexican Who Wants To Change The Way We Bury People

“What would happen if there were no graveyards and, instead of graveyards, we built paradises?”

That’s the question 23 year-old Mexican college student, Daniela Núñez, asked herself.

This question would become the foundation of her biodegradable urns project and company: BioEternal.

“BioEternal literally started in one of my courses,” Núñez said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “After researching, she found several companies in Spain, Colombia and Argentina that work with biodegradable urns. That’s when she decided she could make a change by bringing the seldom used concept to Mexico.”

After validating the market in Mexico, Daniela noticed that people like BioEternal, not only because of the practice, but also because of the entire experience the product offers.

With the help of partners and guided by professors from her university, she started creating the foundations for her business.

A critical moment for Núñez and BioEternal happened during her fourth semester of college, where she signed up for an I semester.

The I semester is a unique business incubation offered by the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores Monterrey (ITESM).

“While I was there, BioEternal started moving forward really fast,” Núñez said. “I also faced my biggest challenges. People liked my idea but they kept asking me how I would work with Mexican culture.”

Núñez spoke about the Mexican culture as one of her biggest challenges.

“Mexicans have deep roots in their culture, especially when it comes to death,”
Núñez said. “It’s rare to see practices that differ from what we are used to, or from the typical funerary companies. That part was very complicated and we didn’t know if it would work here in Mexico.”

Daniela Núñez, the founder of BioEternal.

Another challenge Núñez faced while working on Bioeternal was the Catholic Church’s strong presence in Mexico.

“Ad Resurgendum Cum Christo,” a document released in August 2016 signed by Pope Francis states that the ashes of deceased people may not be kept in unholy or unblessed land.

“But after validating the market in Mexico, I realized that people no longer have a strong commitment with the Church,” Núñez said regarding the challenge.

Besides BioEternal, there are five companies that sell biodegradable urns too in her market.

Núñez spoke about Limbo as one of her strongest competitors in Mexico.

“A company that’s already selling and has very good sales is Limbo,” Núñez said. “Their product is something like a sand ball, but their concept and idea is about reintegrating with nature.”

Another company named Colibrí not only work with humans, but also work with animals.

“My plans are to start with humans and then make an approach to the animal market,” Núñez said. “If I started with the animal market, people are going to relate or interpret this practice as something exclusive for animals and that’s not a good idea.”

For Núñez, working with BioEternal has been more than just a way to help the environment.

“It’s very pretty to think about becoming a tree, but that idea is not enough, especially when you’re going through such a complicated stage in your life,” she said.

That’s the reason why Núñez decided to link together her company with the concept of green thanatology.

Without exploring the meaning of life and death, thanatology studies death.

Green thanatology, which is related to liberation, focuses on helping people go through someone’s death with the help of nature.

Companies like Limbo and Colibrí only focus on helping the environment, and this provided Daniela with an area of opportunity.

BioEternal’s focus on healing and its link with thanatology are its main strength and something that puts it beyond its competitors.

Death is not an easy subject to handle.

This is the reason why Daniela not only wants to change processes, but also wants to change experiences.

“It’s no longer an experience of burying a person, but of planting a life,” Núñez said. “Let’s make it beautiful. I want people to be able to keep these memories. That’s one reason why Bioeternal is named that way, because it’s an eternal memory.”

Setting up her company has not been easy and, currently, Núñez’s bigger challenge is money.

Producing a large number of biodegradable urns and signing up for this year’s national funerary convention are big and necessary expenses for her.

“I’m out of resources and I’m going to need help from crowdfunding,” Núñez said.

Núñez said that her long term goals are about making her own funerary company and a Bioeternal park.

“I don’t want families to go to a graveyard. I want this to be a friendly concept in which people visit a forest and visit their own tree because that’s much more attractive and pretty,” Núñez said.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Why Pope Francis Is About To Deliver A Radical Message In Mexico

Pope Francis will address the problems plaguing Mexico, from corruption to drug crime, during his six-day visit to the world’s second-largest Roman Catholic country. Vatican City (dpa) – Pope Francis, the first Latin American to lead the Catholic Church, is set for a six-day visit to Mexico during which he is expected to speak out against… Read More

Pope Francis Announces Visit to Mexico in Early February

Pope Francis has announced that he will make his first official visit to Mexico as the Pontiff in February of 2016.

Vatican officials have confirmed that the pope will arrive in Mexico for his eight-day trip on February 12th. Pope Francis had hoped to be able to visit Mexico earlier this year prior to visiting the United States, but was unable to due to scheduling conflicts.

While in Mexico, the pope is expected to address issues such as poverty, organized crime, violence, and discrimination against migrants trying to find a better a better life.

Official details of the papal visit have not yet been released.

Archbishop Norberto Carrera of the Archdiocese of Mexico City; however, has confirmed that the pope will be meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto and will visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

It has also been rumored that the Pope is considering visiting sites along the Mexican border with the US to see where some migrants cross illegally into the United States.

Mexican political leaders have been enthusiastic about Pope Francis’ visit since church officials first announced the trip earlier last month. Many politicians have invited the Pope to visit specific states, and address the National Congress.

Church officials have said it is unlikely that the pope will address the Congress, and have denounced the enthusiasm and the “decadence of the political class” who only wish to capitalize on Pope Francis’ popularity among the more than 80% of Mexican citizens who are Roman Catholic.

In addition to his visit to Mexico, Pope Francis has also expressed his desire to visit Argentina, Uruguay and Chile during 2016. The last papal visit to Mexico was taken by Pope Benedict XVI in March 2012.

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Cover Photo Credit: pml2008/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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