Nevada City becomes a showcase global village
On Friday, April 19, I made my first trip to Nevada City. It was a sunny and pleasing surprise to enter this little bit of Oz in the Sierra. I was reminded of my daughter instructing me on the distinction between the “cultural” (made by humans) and the “biotic” (nature). The harmony of these two, buildings set against nature, made me smile as I looked for J.J. Jackson’s store. I was in town to attend a fund-raising event for a worthy organization in Guatemala.
Martha Meredith, the proprietor of J.J. Jackson’s, has been to Guatemala a number of times. One year ago, she and I were part of a group of eight that traveled there to observe the work of FUNDAP, a nonprofit organization committed to the development of the communities of the Western Highlands of Guatemala. FUNDAP provides microcredit loans to women who live in rural villages in the area. These loans can be as little as $50, and as much as several hundred. The borrowers invest in small businesses – raising livestock for market, running small tiendas (stores) or weaving fabric for clothing. The effect is transformative: The women can put better food on the table for their families and their children are more likely to stay in school. Best of all, the women experience improved self-esteem and confidence in their abilities to change their lives. This can break the cycle of poverty, forever.
Our trip last April was organized by Global Partnerships, a Seattle-based nonprofit private foundation. Global Partnerships’ mission is to engage the private sector in this country in working to alleviate poverty in the developing world. The Partner Trip we participated in is one of the hallmarks of their work. The trips are the single best way for Global Partnerships to share its enthusiasm for the wonderful accomplishments of such partner programs as FUNDAP.
Now, a year after our inspiring journey, Martha had mobilized more than a dozen Nevada City individuals and businesses to provide sound, video, food, wine and service for this event. In the aftermath of the devastating fire the town just suffered, this was an astonishing outpouring of support for a faraway neighbor.
There is a large studio above J.J. Jackson’s that has the same dark wood-beam ceilings and pastel stucco walls that characterize the historic buildings in Antigua, Guatemala. I was surprised to see well in excess of 50 people in the room, which soon swelled to 100. Nevada City has a disproportionate number of bright-eyed citizens who seem to have decided not to give up on life, and to experience greater satisfaction in living by helping others. At least this group was heavily represented at the event to benefit FUNDAP.
The star of the show was Eunice Alvarado, who was visiting the United States from her home in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Eunice and FUNDAP had hosted Martha and our group in Guatemala last April. It was a true “global village” experience to see her in Nevada City. I realized at that moment that Nevada City is the Quetzaltenango of the United States.
Martha, Eunice and several other women of unusual ability put on an intelligent and persuasive program about the excellent work being done by FUNDAP. I have attended many events of this kind that failed to stir the spirit. But that Friday in the little studio above J.J. Jackson’s, there was a palpable energy that linked those attending to the work and vision of FUNDAP. I had a sense that the basic goodwill and humanity on display at the event was of exactly the same quality our Guatemalan hosts shared with us a year ago.
This energy was made manifest in quantitative terms when the guests in attendance contributed an astounding $11,000 to support the work of FUNDAP. I know this money will be well used to improve the lives of our neighbors to the south. I hope that the hearts and minds that were so aglow in the room that Friday continue to spread their gifts, and receive as much in return, although I don’t think any reward is anticipated or necessary. You already live in culture-biotic paradise, amid loving neighbors. What more could you want than to share your good fortune?
Peter Lynch, who works in real estate investment in San Francisco, previously worked for a number of years in the field of international development.
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