Mujeres de Maíz Opportunity Foundation is a small, independent, grassroots non-profit organization established specifically to provide access to education for the young women in a seamstress cooperative centered in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Our aim is to provide resources to the indigenous women of the cooperative who want to further their education. This includes literacy training, secondary school, vocational courses, or college or university. Scholarships include tuition, room and board, uniforms, transportation for visits home, and books. Other Foundation programs provide funding for educational workshops, eye exams and glasses, We are currently funding Children’s Programs in four communities to strengthen academic skills, teach literacy in their Maya language, develop creativity and learn about sound environmental practices. Additionally we fund a government certified literacy program for adults. We listen to the women of the cooperative and support their proposals.
Judith Pasco, Board Chair, taught Spanish at the high school level for twenty years and continues to teach adult education Spanish classes at the community college. Her interest in indigenous culture began with a trip to Guatemala in 1990, and since then she has traveled extensively in Mexico, Central and South America. Maya culture and spirituality are continuing sources of fascination. In 2003 she attended a workshop of the Mujeres de Maíz en Resistencia. After attending a second workshop in 2005, the idea for this non-profit was born.
Read Judith’s book, ““somewhere for my soul to go, a place, a cause, a legacy. Judith Pasco’s account of her personal journey to a non-profit organization.” CLICK HERE:.somewhere for my soul to go
Cathy Van Ruhan, secretary, traveled to Mexico several times in the 1960s and ’70s and studied Spanish in high school and college. When she joined the Peace Corps in 1971, she expected to go to a Spanish-speaking country but was sent to Kenya, where she taught students from kindergarten to adults. She came to Sequim in 1991, where she directed a nonprofit organization and was a newspaper copy editor. After visiting Chiapas with Judith in December 2010, she retired, which enabled her to join the board and share her knowledge and experience. Her two grown daughters live on the East Coast. She has “too many” hobbies and shares her home with a dachshund named Freddy.
Linda Finch, Board Member. After 37 years of teaching math at Sequim High School, Linda is now enjoying retirement, splitting her time between Sequim and Bellingham (as well as the annual trip to see Las Mujeres in Chiapas.) She is fulfilling a life long dream of learning tai chi and is involved with tutoring English through the Whatcom Literacy Council. She spends the rest of her time walking, travelling, reading, participating in Bellingham Senior Activity Center offerings, taking advantage of university programs, and appreciating having the time to slow down and enjoy the little things in life.
Steve Gilchrist, Board Member, first became interested in working with indigenous communities in Latin America when he and his wife were Peace Corps volunteers in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador in the early 1980s. He met Judith and learned about Mujeres de Maiz when his son was a student of hers at Sequim High School. He volunteered at several Mujeres fundraisers and visited some of the scholarship recipients on a trip to Chiapas in 2009 prior to joining its board. He works as a landscape contractor in Sequim and has the unique distinction of being the first male on the board of directors.
Molly Rivard, Board Member, currently manages the tasting room as a co-owner of a small winery owned by women in Port Angeles, WA. Prior to that, she cooked and managed the food service program for the Sequim School District for 15 years. Her daughter was part of a group of high school students that Judith Pasco, board president, took to Guatemala in 1994. That planted the seed for her desire to travel to Mexico. Meeting the women in the cooperative fueled a desire to stay connected and provide the opportunity for education that otherwise would not exist for them.
Martha Rudersdorf, Board Member, lives in a log home that her husband built on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. They have traveled by bicycle in several countries during her summer breaks from teaching. Her travels to Mexico especially nurture her interests in art, the Spanish language, and Mexican culture. The trip to Chiapas was her first opportunity to work closely with indigenous women, and she is grateful to be able to help provide educational opportunities for those unable to access them in the past.