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Seeds for Change

By: Evan Upchurch

If we could all look through the innocent eyes of children, we would be reminded of limitless creativity and dreams that we all once embodied. Children explore and process the world from a place of innate curiosity and endless energy. There is much to learn from little ones, yet somehow we – the adults – are the teachers. With that role comes great responsibility, not only to safeguard their physical and emotional well-being but also to foment their natural talents and guide their passions for life. 

At Habitas, we believe that focusing on local youth is a key factor for sustainable development. As both seeds for change and trans-generational bridges, their impact is limitless. In Tulum, we are proud to support the non-profit organization Los Amigos de la Esquina (LADLE), which works with Tulum’s local Mayan youth by providing them with activities surrounding wellness, art, and the environment. Our relationship with LADLE has blossomed over the years, acting as a constant source of inspiration and hope for a more conscious future.

In 2017, the story of LADLE began thanks to the power of human connection. Initial founders Jaime Kohen and Francisco Rocha had bought a corner property in Tulum to develop and build rental apartments. As they started cleaning out the space, local kids appeared on-site, offering to help. Three turned into thirty in the blink of an eye, and just like that, La Esquina (the corner) became a gathering place. Jaime and Francisco grew fond of the children and started offering them recreational activities. As the project grew, Claudia Martinez, with experience in non-profits, happened upon the space and would join the team to help shape the project into what it is today. 

Over the years, people from nearby Mayan communities have moved to Tulum seeking work opportunities. Today, many of these families live in vulnerable situations with limited access to quality childcare. Because of this, the gap continues to exist in opportunities and education for native children. Four and a half years ago, LADLE was one of the first non-profits to address this social issue within the community. Co-founder Claudia Martinez says, “It is the people who are going to lead Tulum’s sustainable development and growth. That’s why our mission has been to create a safe space for children – a community in which locals, natives, and foreigners can learn from one another.”

Like Habitas, one of LADLE’s most important pillars is physical and emotional well-being. Claudia says, “We want the children to learn from a young age to live a quality life – one in which they feel proud of themselves and what they’re a part of. It’s important to remember that poor urban communities have one of the lowest qualities of life in Mexico. That’s why health and wellness should come first. Good health is measurable happiness.” Our Head of Wellness Alejandro Leo continues, “This year, we’ve really wanted to share Habitas’s vision of wellness and our programming with the children by inviting instructors and resident artists to LADLE’s facilities.” 

This past July, one of Habitas and LADLE’s most memorable events took place at the hotel when the children visited the property. For the occasion, yoga teacher Marcos Jassan taught a morning yoga class for Habitas guests in which 15 children also participated. After the class, chef Horacio Dardano and his team at Moro prepared the kids a breakfast banquet filled with bright colors, flavors, and smells. 

Marcos Jassan recounts his experience, “In the class I taught, the children were able to integrate into an adult situation. The space that Habitas and LADLE created for that type of integration and sensibility was beautiful. During the breakfast, I watched the children perceive subtleties in their palate. It was a process of discovery and fun. The Habitas team gave their all to these special guests.” Claudia continues, “If I were to ask the kids about their experience at Habitas, they would be able to describe every moment. A lot of things go on at LADLE’s facilities, but when the kids are able to go somewhere, it really stays engrained in their hearts.”

Another activity recently organized for the children was the visit of a Huichol elder. Alejandro Leo comments, “Wellness can also be tied back to taking care of our planet. We were able to bring a Huichol elder to talk to the kids about respecting Mother Earth. During the event, there were shamanic dances and songs to honor their ancestors. It was a beautiful experience to witness.”  

Community building and lifelong experiential learning are shared interests between Habitas and LADLE. We know that if we can work together, we can make a greater impact both short and long-term on Tulum’s community. With Habitas co-founder Eduardo Castillo being appointed to LADLE’s Board of Directors this year, there now exists an even more solid relationship and opportunities to come. As Claudia says, “When it comes to how our relationship with Habitas will evolve, the sky is the limit.” 

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