In nature, nourished soil is responsible for helping a seed grow roots and ultimately develop into a strong, healthy plant. In society, a vibrant culture is instrumental in encouraging children to flourish and grow into well-rounded adults.
Hispanic Heritage Month provides a great opportunity to honor the people and organizations responsible for the vibrant culture of Spanish-speaking countries and regions. Observed each year from September 15 to October 15, it is a time to pay tribute to the histories, culture and contributions of those with ancestry from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
We sat down with Tania Lobillo, a Human Resources (HR) representative here at Zebra, to discuss the importance of her own Hispanic heritage and how she and her colleagues continue to breathe life into the intricate fabric of Mexican culture.
Tania has been working with the Club de Niños y Niñas del Estado de México (Boys and Girls Club of Mexico), an organization that seeks to improve the quality of life for children and young people in Mexico. Its mission is to inspire and train youth, especially those in disadvantaged circumstances, to reach their full potential as productive, responsible, and committed citizens. The Club was founded in 2008 with support from the Boys and Girls Club of America and now operates across thirteen centers in Mexico, serving thousands of children daily with educational programs.
Read more about Tania and her work with the Club below:
Your Edge Blog Team: What inspired you to work with the Club de Niños y Niñas del Estado de México?
Tania: We’re always looking for new ways to engage our colleagues in philanthropy and volunteer activities. The missions of some organizations resonate better with employees than others, so we also like to offer a variety of opportunities. For Zebra’s second annual Global Week of Service in July, we were specifically challenged with finding an organization that could benefit from virtual or at-home volunteering due to the pandemic.
I came across the Club online and saw it was seeking volunteers to host activities for children via Zoom. As I met with leaders at the Club and poked around its website, the purpose and impact of this organization became even more clear. The children served by the Club live in Estado de Mexico, one of the most populated areas in the country. It is also relatively isolated from the resources associated with affluent neighborhoods. For example, some of the streets where the Club was built did not have names until recently. Public transportation is limited, and school dropout rates are high. We immediately realized the great opportunity we had to share our knowledge and resources to foster an environment where children can flourish.
Your Edge Blog Team: You mentioned you volunteered with the Club for Zebra’s second annual Global Week of Service. What was it like? What did you do?
Tania: After consulting with the Club organizers, we constructed a two-week program for Zebra volunteers in Mexico. During the first week, our 12 employee volunteers learned about the Club and challenged themselves to create an activity to offer via Zoom. Next, they presented to the organization leaders to gauge the viability of their activities and then fine-tuned them based on the resources and age group. The second week was focused on actually hosting the activities. We had an employee who shared insights on personal finances, another who led an art class, and someone scanned pages of a storybook and read aloud while children followed along on their own screens. I taught a basic Microsoft Excel class for around 20 children. In all, there were 10 activities offered. We were fortunate in that the employees who participated in the session were sensitive to children’s needs while making it fun and engaging.
Both the children who attended and my colleagues alike were appreciative of the opportunity. We realize one session won’t necessarily change their lives, but to hear it made their day or week is motivation enough to maintain the effort.
A few weeks after our volunteering, I met with the Club again to brainstorm what sorts of activities we’ll offer when our next session begins in October. This time, we hope to offer a longer, three-week session.
Your Edge Blog Team: It sounds like the program structure of the Club is quite broad. What are the benefits of such a diverse range of activities?
Tania: The Club offers programming under five pillars: tutoring, art, sports, human development and healthy lives, and this variety helps accomplish a number of things. For one, it wants to ensure every child is motivated to continue participating in the Club. One child might love mathematics but experience frustration in a dance class, or vice versa. By offering a little of everything and not focusing solely on academics or playtime, the Club hopes to keep the children engaged while also giving them exposure to interests they might not even know they have.
Another benefit of holistic programming is that it gives kids ample opportunity to learn, play and create in a safe space. In the State of Mexico, many children are without access to parks, libraries, or quiet rooms to study. We can never assume that any child, in Mexico or elsewhere, lives in a home with parents or guardians that provide basic necessities and learning. This space to develop is critical – you can’t ask children what they want to do in the future if they don’t even know their options.
Lastly, the Club offers this slate of programming because it has been proven to work. Whereas seven out of 10 children in Mexico do not attend university, 95% of the students who’ve enrolled in the Club become college graduates.
Your Edge Blog Team: How does the Club strengthen and promote Mexican culture?
Tania: What’s at the core of the Club – and the vast majority of Mexicans – is our shared goal of making an impact, both in our local communities and the world.
The Club is exceptionally great at recognizing and responding to the needs of children in Mexico. It offers what it thinks the children could be lacking and strengthens what they have already. There’s a substantial amount of communication between the Club and the greater community it serves. Keeping a pulse on what the children may be experiencing at home or in their personal lives helps the Club fill any gaps.
The Club also meets parents and guardians where they are – no child is turned away because they can’t pay for it. It is well understood that many parents do not possess the level of education they want their children to achieve. In some cases, adults will have the opportunity to work at the Club on occasion so their child can attend for free. Everyone involved seeks to help children in Mexico reach their highest potential – even the kids who might not know what they’re capable of.
Your Edge Blog Team: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the Mexican culture? What are some of the traditions, celebrations or values that resonate with you individually?
Tania: What I appreciate most about the Mexican culture is our resiliency. Of course, culture is what a society produces over time, but it’s also our environment and the way we interact with each other. I studied psychology at university, so I’m interested in the way humans develop and how much can be attributed to either nature or nurture.
Mexico’s history is laden with colonization by an influence of other nations, including Spain, France and the United States. I believe that because of this, Mexicans have grown to be more agile and adaptable. We are resilient in the face of adversity.
When I think about the traditions that resonate most with me, I think about the holidays when families come together. Some of my favorites are Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Christmas, both rooted in the Catholic religion my family and I practice. These holidays give us an opportunity to reflect on our past and our loved ones who have passed away. There’s also a celebratory aspect that feeds our inner child. What we feel during the holidays – nostalgia, love and respect – is what our community is built upon.