Atzin Mexico - Testimonials




Thoughts in 2018 about experiences in 2007 and 2009 - Volunteering with Atzin for a year in 2007 fundamentally shaped my personal and professional values.  Ten years later, those formative experiences continue to exert a significant influence on my daily life.  I learned the value of deep commitment and taking responsibility for the well-being of one another, especially the most vulnerable among us.  I could only learn this by committing an entire year to volunteering, working six days a week, and spending three of those six days living and working with the people of Tlamacazapa.  This deep engagement afforded insights, relationships, and an understanding of life's complexity that is seldom gleaned from textbooks and classrooms or the more common parachute model of volunteering where you drop in and out of a cause for a couple hours a week or a full summer at best.  This and numerous other lessons colour and ground my understanding of development today.

Shekufeh ZONJI. Health and Education Programs.

Full-time volunteer (2007).  Part-time volunteer (2009).



2017 - From the team of Atzin, I have learned about passion and perseverance.  I have learned about the importance of small steps and that small changes are in fact the most significant ones to the individual child and woman in Tlama.  I am so privileged to be part of the ATZIN family.

Po Chun LAU. Board of Directors, ATZIN Canada (2008-present).

Two visits to Atzin, Mexico (2009, 2011).



I'm grateful to have the means to assist in having quality literature [for children] on life, Earth, history and family values…where I KNOW they will be fully utilized for the development and enjoyment of the future of Tlamacazapa and Mexico... I'm proud to have worked with Atzin since 2006, and will continue to support everyone in these community building efforts, as long as I can.

Diana Eloisa BENAVIDES, educator. Tihueliske Education Program for Children and for Women.

Diana contributed 250 books to the Tihueliske education program in 2017 and made a similar contribution in 2006. Fulltime volunteer 2007-2008 with many return trips. Los Angeles, California.



Working at Atzin was a chance for me to test my limits: physically (working hard, in the hot sun), linguistically (communicating in a foreign tongue), organizationally (planning the logistics and materials needed for a week of work) and personally (building the confidence and resolve that I could and would succeed despite challenges). I am a more disciplined, more organized, more forward-thinking person today because of my time at Atzin. But apart from the professional aspects, I fell in love with Mexico and the people I had the chance to live and work with; to share in common experiences of success, failure, pride, loss and hope. There are so many opportunities to give up in our everyday lives: to drop courses, to change jobs, to buy a new thing when the old one doesn't work. My time at Atzin was a chance to understand what it means to persevere and to learn from women and men who, on a daily basis, continue to fight for better, more equitable lives, despite the fact that progress is slow. Compared to the instant gratification and immediate success that we have become accustomed to, I gained an appreciation for the rewards that come from slow, sustained effort and for the tight bonds of friendship and community that are built along the way.

Elizabeth TILLEY, engineer. Environment, Water and Sanitation Program.

Fulltime volunteer July 2003 - June 2004. Toronto, Ontario.



I always had in the back of my mind the desire to volunteer in another country - where I had no idea! Through different circumstances my husband and I got connected with Atzin in Mexico. I still remember the first time I came to Mexico "just for a visit" because my husband was doing technical support. I met the staff and went to Tlamacazapa (the village where Atzin works). It was very overwhelming, all the people looked the same, it was very confusing, I didn’t speak Spanish at that point. Although it seemed confusing, I could sense order and good things happening in this very complicated village. Instinctively I embraced participatory development although I did not fully understand what it meant at that time.

Forward a few years! In 2011, we made a commitment for 18 months and ended up staying for two years. How do I put in a nutshell all that I experienced? All the frustrations, disappointments, living in community, working in the village as a team, the friendships that we made, the tears that we shed together, the exciting times, the "aha moments," the dedication of the team, and much more. This experience changed me! Being over 60 I have quite a bit of life experience behind me personally and professionally. I found that I could use ALL of my life experiences at one time or other. I was often stretched to my limits, and manage to step over many of my fears, and in the process, learned a new language. Layers are now being stripped away as I am readjusting to life in Canada, but I realize that at the core I will never be the same person on the inside. It makes me very thankful to have had this opportunity.

Ruth WIENS. Special Needs Program.

Fulltime volunteer January 2011 – December 2012. Kelowna, British Columbia.



Atzin has worked as a foundation for my work ethic and purpose in life.  I went into Atzin with the purpose to learn and give what I could for a greater common good.  I have come out of Atzin with a lot more than that.  I learned that in order to give, I must build a sturdy self to give purely and wholeheartedly.  To assemble myself I had to understand my intentions for being there, learn to focus and strategize my goals, prioritize and play it out with serious dedication.  Through practice, errors, reflections, communication, realizations, patience, persistence, balacing my mind, body and heart, I learned to look and listen to my and others' needs; to work from the heart, to never give up, and to explore other possibilities, and to unite as one with those I work with.  All negative and positive experiences are useful for community or any development, an it is important to be reflective and purposeful, for the influence of one person promotes the team's common goal.  Atzin has opened many doors for me in my professional, educational and personal life.  I am deeply grateful to ALL at Atzin for the opportunites, love and the rich priceless experiences.  I thought I went to give at Atzin, yet my Atzin friends gave me so much more.  It is for all of these reasons I stay close to my Atzin family

Diana Eloisa BENAVIDES, educator. Tihueliske Education Program for Children and for Women.

Fulltime volunteer 2007-2008 with many return trips. Los Angeles, California.



Being a part of the ATZIN community was a changing point in my personal and professional life. As the years pass since my time as a volunteer with Atzin, I still have realizations on how awakening and soul-directing it was for me and those who shared in the experience. Atzin provides a space for blissful human encounter yet also is an apex of growth. We lived in community with one another, both volunteers and individuals from the community of Tlamacazapa, in the midst of extreme poverty and all strived to overcome many challenges. I was honoured to work directly with individuals with special needs and health concerns, and their families. Being welcomed into their homes and becoming a part of their team in the struggles that life presents was a balance of raw trust, relationship, and sustainable improvements to a better life for all of us.

Malory HENDRICKSON. Special Needs Program.

Fulltime volunteer 2008-2009. La Crosse, Wisconsin.



I spent almost a year at Atzin (then it was called Caminamos Juntos) in 2005-2006. I had just graduated with a civil engineering degree, and came to work in the Water and Sanitation Program, but this was unlike any regular engineering job I could imagine. While I took water samples, and supervised a crew building toilets and cisterns, I also helped teach literacy and math, drove people to the hospital, even bathed an old man. I lived with several other volunteers and saw all of Atzin’s programs—the health clinic, the education program, the quilting and basket weaving co-operatives, outreach for special needs, and more.  I learned a lot, hopefully helped out a bit, and met some wonderful people, both the people of Tlamacazapa and the other Atzin volunteers. During that year in Mexico, I even met my {future} wife. It was an intense and challenging year, so that it felt like three years in one, but it was a memorable experience and helped to shape me. I’m glad I postponed the ‘regular engineering job’ to do something different, and that I found the opportunity with Atzin.

Paul KLASSEN, engineer. Environment, Water and Sanitation Program.

Fulltime volunteer 2005-2006. Winnipeg, Manitoba.



The work in Tlamacazapa continues to be a very rewarding experience in my life. It is an honour to spend time with the women and children of this secluded Mexican community. Their strength in the face of the hardships of poverty inspires me to re- evaluate choices that I make in everyday life. I return to Mexico every year to connect with the lovely people of Tlamacazapa and to lend a helping hand to my friends, the hard working Atzin team in Cuernavaca.

Mimi DUPUIS, educator and librarian. Tihueliske Education Program for Children and Women.

Fulltime volunteer 2008 with many return trips. Ottawa, Ontario.




Tlamacazapa and its inhabitants experience everything simultaneously: hope and fatal resignation; a vision for the future and despair; ancestral customs and globalized modernity; happiness and domestic hell; a future and oblivion. This is to name just a few of the many contradictions that I have seen during my different stays in the community.

Actually this is my fourth year to volunteer for two months in Atzin`s educational program, Tihueliske. Each time I have had to get used to a new rhythm of doing things and a very different “logic.” I would love to accelerate processes, help to change negative mentalities quickly and yet know at the same time that this is not possible. Each time Atzin’s collective knowledge accumulated over the last 18 years of working in Tlamacazapa impresses and impacts me. I have learned that if I violate the rhythm of the people by trying to push things too much, people won`t be able to “own” their own development. As well, I have learned about patience and optimism, both necessary to avoid being defeated by the different setbacks experienced by the Atzin team.

I feel privileged to have had these opportunities to live in and to get to know the community of Tlamacazapa, and to have participated in the Atzin programs, working in an important area like education. Our shared objective is to help people, especially women, understand that they all have rights, especially the right to education.

Jutta KLASS, teacher in the Atzin Tihueliske Educational Program.

2012-present. Participant in Zapapres A.C., a small non-governmental organization in Hamburg, Germany, that informs the public about Mexican realities.



My student internship with Atzin surpassed every single one of the expectations I had brought with me to Mexico. I expected to participate and help in some capacity in a few of the organization’s programs, to improve in my Spanish conversational skills and to better understand the intricacies of managing a grassroots organization. Six short weeks with Atzin left me inspired, challenged and touched.

I was moved by the stories of tragedy and resilience that were experienced by the women and young girls who work for and with Atzin. Many of them have faced more hardships and inequalities than I could ever imagine, and yet they exhibit such inspiring strength and hope for the future. My preconceptions of good health care and community care were also challenged. It was interesting to observe the use of a variety of disciplines and methods of care in tending to the health of the village community. Lastly, their strong sense camaraderie and friendship left me deeply touched. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to meet and collaborate with such a hard-working family for the betterment of others. 

Christina OH. Health and Healing Program.

May-July 2014 Internship, Masters Student in Global Health. Hamilton, Ontario.