Eric Rust Teenagers Rogelio and Yessica participate in the weekend enrichment programs in Crucero, Mexico, where the Sequim-based Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation provides support for young students.

Eric Rust Teenagers Rogelio and Yessica participate in the weekend enrichment programs in Crucero, Mexico, where the Sequim-based Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation provides support for young students.

Mexican Breakfast to benefit scholarships for women in Chiapas

SEQUIM — One winter morning nine years ago, Steve Gilchrist and a group of friends cooked a batch of breakfast and kept the coffee coming. He recalls a get-together that went well: People ate, sipped, relaxed and conversed together.

Yes, the breakfast — returning to Macleay Hall this Sunday morning — is a fundraiser for the Sequim-based Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation, but Gilchrist figures it’s something more.

That first one didn’t raise a giant amount of money. But the guests, he said this week, “lingered over their coffee, visiting with people they hadn’t known before they arrived, sometimes for an hour or more.” So maybe, Gilchrist said, “we’d created a sense of community along with our meal.”

The event, known simply as the Mexican Breakfast, brings together tortillas, scrambled eggs and cheese, black beans and tomato-chili salsa plus orange slices to further brighten the plate.

Volunteers cook and serve the meals and pour tea and coffee from Raven’s Brew, the Alaska-based roaster that donates its joe every year.

Everyone is invited to the breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday at Macleay Hall, 290 Macleay Road, off Old Olympic Highway about 5 miles west of downtown Sequim.

Admission is a suggested $12 donation at the door, with proceeds supporting the Mujeres foundation’s scholarships and programs for women and their families in rural Mexico.

Mujeres de Maiz cofounder Judith Pasco will be there with a selection of handmade shawls and purses from Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state.

The foundation is named Mujeres de Maiz, Spanish for women of corn, in honor of the women of Chiapas and the staple food of Mexico.

Much like a small farm, the nonprofit organization has flourished over the years.

It began with one education grant for one girl in 2006. Now 18 girls and young women are attending high school and college on Mujeres scholarships.

At the same time, the Mujeres board of directors — Gilchrist, Pasco and Sequim residents Martha Rudersdorf, Cathy Van Ruhan and Kathy Purcell — partners with Chiapas’ local women to establish weekend enrichment programs for children.

The students on scholarship run these programs, covering academic and life skills for youngsters in the villages of Zinacantán, Crucero, Yajalón, Las Ollas, Ocosingo and Naranjal.

At Sunday’s Mexican Breakfast, Pasco and crew will be on hand to talk about Mujeres de Maiz with anyone who’s interested. They have news too of the latest project: mini-libraries for the enrichment programs. Mujeres is helping fund collections of 10 to 20 books chosen by the local program leaders.

That has been the Mujeres mode of operation since the start: Partnering with, rather than prescribing for, the women of Chiapas.

Pasco and other board members periodically travel to the state capital, San Cristobal de las Casas, and its surrounding towns, visiting the scholarship students and participating in the enrichment programs.

It’s become clear, Pasco has said, that when women have support in pursuing their schooling, they share this educational wealth in turn with their home towns.

“It might be hard for us here in the Northwest to relate to the issues of indigenous women and girls in southern Mexico,” Gilchrist added.

“But once you’ve visited that area and seen for yourself the difficult lives they lead and the roadblocks they face, you realize that it doesn’t take much to give them a life-changing helping hand,” in the form of a scholarship.

Since Mujeres began, recipients have graduated and continued to work in their communities — showing their younger neighbors what’s possible.

More about these activities is found at MujeresdeMaizOF.org and by writing to Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation, P.O. Box 1954, Sequim, WA 98382.

Meantime, Gilchrist and Pasco say Sunday’s meal is a delicious way to connect with neighbors in and around Sequim.

“We’ve been asked by folks after they’ve had breakfast, ‘Where can I get this in town? What restaurant serves this?’ Well, this is an original recipe and, as far as I know, this will be the only place you can get it,” Gilchrist quipped.

“I’ll get the sauce and beans cooking and a pot of coffee started at 6:30 Sunday morning.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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