Connecting in Bucerias

by tuftsigl
Jul 25

Nitya Agrawal is an international relations major in the class of 2017.  She is also an Empower fellow.

Hi everyone! I’ve been in Bucerías, Mexico for more than two weeks now. I already feel like I have learned a lot about the area, the people, the issues, and the small businesses here. I’m interning at an organization called Human Connections, based in Bucerías, Nayarit. The organization Human Connections is a spin-off to the organization Investours in Mexico.  Investours also has a branch in Tanzania. Investours Mexico used educational tourism to benefit the local communities as well as the tourists, by taking tourists to see the businesses of local vendors. The Investours model was that the local vendors would receive tour proceeds as micro-loans. However, Investours Mexico was conducting only one tour a month and not covering its costs. Also, the clients (the local vendors) in Mexico said that they were already receiving loans and really just needed to sell more of their products. The staff here realized that the model that works in Tanzania does not work well here. The Investours branch in Mexico started diverging from the Investours model, and thus, very recently, transitioned into an organization called Human Connections. Human Connections will not focus on giving micro-loans, but instead on increasing the sales of our clients (local vendors) through the tours and other programs.

There are eight interns, including me, in Bucerías for six weeks. The Investours branch in Bucerías actually transitioned into Human Connections the same week the interns arrived here. We are a part of the founding team for Human Connections, and will spend a lot of time developing components of the organization. I love interning for Human Connections this summer, because I feel that I am significantly contributing to the organization as a team member. Human Connections will offer tours, college educational seminars in Bucerías, internship programs, and classes (on topics such as English and financial literacy) for our clients. The English classes are meant to help clients converse with foreign tourists and sell more products. A lot of the development work will focus on the construction of the website. In addition, interns will work in groups on a consulting project. For example, I am working with two other interns to help Belén start a business selling bolis (a type of popsicle) outside her house and in the park in the evenings. Also, every Monday we host informal English classes at the office, and I always really love teaching! 

Interns have also been divided into groups of two to work on developing different aspects of website and/or the organization. These are the projects we will be spending most of our time on. Another intern and I have been focusing on the artisan database section of the website, which will include profiles of our clients with information about them and their products. The database will help attract people to our tours as well as increase the sales of our clients. Our work has involved creating a survey, interviewing existing clients, recruiting and interviewing new clients, taking photos, writing blogs on the clients, and inserting the data into Google Forms/Zoho for the client profiles. I really love the work that we do and I especially love interacting with the clients on a one-on-one basis!

I am learning a lot about international development that I was not able to through Tufts. The Human Connections team had dinner with three individuals from micro-finance institutions in Bucerías and I learned a lot about the difficulties these institutions face with the micro-loan process. Also, I have learned about the struggles small business owners in Bucerías deal with, such as their lack of financial education, English language-ability, money to pay for expenses, customers during the low season, etc. Also, I have learned about the logistical components – such as the overheard costs, marketing – that are necessary to run an organization like Human Connections. It is all so interesting, exciting, and challenging! I can’t wait to find out what the rest of my time here brings.

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