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Video, Growth Plans, NGO Partners Highlight 7th Annual Meeting

Amigos president Hileana García presiding over the Amigos annual meeting.

With an at-capacity audience, Amigos president Hileana García presided over the seventh Annual Meeting, held at the historical Congreso Building conference facility on March 22.

Hileana’s bilingual skills made the well-organized agenda move along crisply. Also, for the first time, an impressive slide show with videos featuring each of the currently sponsored projects and the past year’s membership and fundraising events was presented. With Hileana referring to the projects as “our motivation,” the video included testimonials from recent recipients, who described how Amigos’ donor funds are improving lives through the efforts of partner NGOs working to improve health, education, and economic well-being. The presentation is available on the Amigos website (, the Amigos Facebook page, and on YouTube.

The Annual Meeting opened with Hileana welcoming guests and warmly thanking all members responsible for multiple accomplishments in 2011, including members of the board of directors, three of whom are not standing for reelection in 2012: Adriana Aguerrebere, Diane Livingston, and Nicholas Miller. Specially recognized for their ceaseless efforts were treasurer Alison Abbott, Projects Committee chair Ann Conway—along with her committee members—and Amigos administrator Claudia Tovilla. Representatives of the NGO partners in attendance were also introduced and welcomed individually.

In reviewing the financial report displayed on a large screen, along with other statistics, Hileana reported that 106 members are current with 2012 dues, $722,440 pesos are in an investment account held by Amigos (of which $473,381 pesos are endowment or reserve), and $476,988 pesos had been raised through generous donors in 2011.

Board member Adrianna Aguerrebere presenting the slate of candidates for the 2012 Amigos board.

Objectives for 2012 include growing paid membership to at least 120 members, as well as achieving donations of 500,000 pesos and local event fundraising of 103,000 pesos, to be able to distribute 450,000 pesos in grants in the fall. A fundraising video is in the planning stages, with filming at representative project sites scheduled for the second week of May. The highly credentialed New York documentary filmmaker David Pentecost, a part-time San Cristóbal resident and Amigos member, will make the film pro bono.

Hileana also reported on a productive Amigos weekend retreat in late January, which resulted in the unanimous decision to increase Amigos growth rate to broaden Amigos’ impact in addressing basic needs of the marginalized population of Chiapas. To do so, larger funding sources will be targeted to supplement gifts from individual donors and a full-time director will be hired. A grant request to a major foundation to cover the first three years of the director’s salary has been submitted.

A formal strategic planning process addressing the next 3–5 years was also a result of the retreat and is well under way, led by Adriana Aguerrebere. A review of the Amigos mission statement at the retreat led to the inclusion of “to develop self-sufficiency,” in addition to “improving the health, education and economic well-being of disadvantaged Chiapas citizens.”

The Annual Meeting concluded with the election of directors of the board. Reelected to a new one-year term were Alison Abbott, Ann Conway, Hileana García, and Alma Silva. Elected to their first term were Lucía Baráibar Ruiz, Katherine Faydash, and Bruce Ferguson.

Report from the Amigos Strategic Plan Leader Adriana Aguerrebere

Armando Alfonzo working with Amigos board members.

We are very excited about the strategic planning work that the Amigos Board has been involved in recently. One of our objectives for 2011–2012 was to conduct an organizational analysis and design a strategic plan for Amigos. In February 2012, board members attended a retreat led by Armando Alfonzo to look at where Amigos started, where we are now, and where we are going. Armando has years of experience working with NGOs, and he has helped Amigos align our vision and mission statements to focus on the added value that Amigos brings to San Cristóbal and Chiapas.

The board members unanimously agreed that it’s time to grow and have more impact in Chiapas. This will have significant implications for our strategies and operational plan, and it will involve some changes, including hiring a director. During several more meetings we worked to fine-tune Amigos’ overall strategies.

The next stage of our planning, which will be carried out by the new board of directors in 2012, will be to develop a one-year operational plan and to finalize the three-year plan. Our focus will be on excellence and measurable results so that we can benefit the disadvantaged through our partner NGOs and the broader community.

Amigos Gives the Second Annual “Donna Wilcox Hart Award”
to 12 Guayacanes del Sur, AC

Amigos president Hileana García presenting the “Donna Wilcox Hart Award” to José Norberto López.

On March 10, 2012, Amigos president Hileana García presented the Donna Wilcox Hart Award to 12 Guayacanes del Sur, A.C., for its project “Pan para Todos”. This award was established in 2011 in memory of Donna Wilcox Hart, who loved the people and cultures of San Cristóbal and Chiapas. The Project Committee and board of directors of Amigos felt that it was fitting to give this award to 12 Guayacanes because the project represents an exemplary combination of education, health, and economic development in Chiapas. In her presentation, Hileana said that Amigos was very impressed with the 12 Guayacanes’ spirit, strength of purpose, tenacity, and dedication to one another.

José Norberto López explaining the mushroom project to Amigos members.

Five other Amigos members (Rodrigo Alfonso, David and Nancy Orr, Kraig Kemper, and Alison Abbott) made the three-hour trip with Hileana to the project site in the municipality of Frontera Comalapa, near the Mexico-Guatemala border, to participate in the award celebration. The celebration opened with a warm greeting, during which many of the project participants—men, women, and children—each welcomed and thanked the visitors from Amigos. After the presentation, the 12 Guayacanes’ secretary, José Norberto López, explained how much the award and grant meant to the group for their food production project.

The Amigos members then were given a tour to visit some of the impressive components of the project: pigs, chickens, fruit trees, and a new mushroom-growing structure. The tour ended at the parcel of land that is being purchased with part of the Amigos grant, and the tour was followed by a delicious lunch of tamales, fruit, and atole.

March 23rd Sak Tsevul Concert Amigos Benefit

March 23rd Sak Tsevul Concert Amigos Benefit

On March 23rd, the second in a series of four SakTzevul/Casa del Pan concerts for 2012 was held, with the proceeds for this evening donated to Amigos de San Cristobal, AC. Many thanks to Amigos members and Casa del Pan owners, Kippy and Ron Nigh and to the musicians of Sak Tzevul for a wonderful evening of delicious food and music. Many Amigos members were in attendance for this delightful event. To quote Kippy, from her report to Amigos: “The event last night was a success in every respect. I saw smiles on everyone´s faces, reflecting supreme, continuous enjoyment of Sak Tzevul´s perfect concert, and we made money for AMIGOS.”