The work you do is really admirable, and I wonder how your childhood had an influence on what you do today. What was your childhood like?
Elizabeth: I was born in the city of Queretaro in Mexico. I have been a nun for 27 years and as part of the ministry, my work has been to be in contact with vulnerable people. Being the third of eleven siblings, I had to support my mother. My responsibilities were to take care of the children, to do the laundry, to wash the dishes and so on. My childhood was all about learning how to be responsible and how to take care of others. I grew up in a family full of love. My mom is a very creative woman and she has a huge interest in people.
Jessika: I was born in Colombia. My dad was involved in trade all over the world, so my biggest rolemodel was my grandmother. My grandmother's house was a refuge for children, grandchildren and Friends. From her I learned a lot about life on the streets. She has the character of a merchant. I walked many hours with her on the streets while she was selling all kinds of stuff. There I began to discover how life is out there on the streets.
For everyone, the street has its own meaning. How do you look at the street?
Elizabeth: The street is more than just people passing by. Thanks to my work with the mobile school I can see the different possibilities and the richness of the people living there. The work has totally changed my perspective on what the street actually is. My family told me that I am crazy for believing in street-connected people, for seeing the opportunities rather than the risks.
Jessika: You don't go out to the street, you ‘enter’ the streets. You never stop entering, it is an endless world, every day is a surprise and there is always something new to discover.
How did you become a street educator?
Jessika: I got to know the mobile school in 2002. I was already working with street-connected people, but we were only bringing them bread and water with cinnamon. With the Mobile School I was able to enter the street a little more and I really got to know the street and its people. I didn’t choose to be a street educator, it is something that found me.
Elizabeth: I met the Mobile School in Cali in Colombia. I immediately loved the idea, and I thought it was very cool. I never imagined Jessika would come to Mexico a few years later. My calling has always been to support people and to listen to them to help them overcome their problems.
The work with the mobile school is more than just going out on the street, it is team building, it is about developing yourself.. It implies being open to the richness that others can share. It means letting others participate in this magic. As a street educators, it is crucial to have a solid team by your side, a team that helps you to contain anger, frustration, pain and sometimes loneliness. Being a street educator requires many skills, which cannot be learned anywhere else, you can only learn them while working on the streets.
What kind of achievements do you celebrate after 10 years of working on the street?
Jessika: For me, it’s the fact that children and adults come out to meet us. It’s the proof we created a strong trust relationship with them, and it shows they make us a part of their own lives, with all of its challenges and opportunities. We have many stories of kids who were able to change their lives via the work with the mobile school. Lupita for example, used to live on the streets. She was a drug addict and got pregnant. Her pregnancy moved her and she got off the street and started to work. Raul also used drugs, now he works for the local food bank (Banco de Alimentos), Miguel is another boy who is now almost a street educator! He takes the mobile school out, takes care of it, and teaches other children. It is not possible to define everything we did in detail, but if I have to describe it, I would say the most important is the unconditional presence of being there for these children, and by offering them a positive, empowering environment.
Before we wrap up: why are you doing this job, and how does it link with your purpose in life?
Elizabeth: For me the most important thing is to do a job that’s closely linked with my roots, where I come from. That’s why I love my job and why I listen to the children and try to support them in the best way possible.
Jessika: For me, it’s about leaving a positive legacy behind, in a way that it transcends from what I leave. I don’t know exactly how this will live on in the future, but I know that it has already transcended in many other people who have discovered other ways of living.
- Want to know more about the incredible work of the mobile school in Queretaro? Check out this documentary produced with Tomorrowland Foundation
- Or check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Escuela-Móvil-Querétaro-Mx-107985894003213