Ambassador Wayne’s Remarks at Ceremony for Donation of Items to Durango Community Kitchen

Good afternoon.  Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today.  Governor Jorge Herrera Caldera and Mayor Esteban Villegas, thank you for your hospitality and for your sound leadership, both for my visit today and for your collaboration with the United States throughout your time in office.  Without your support this day would not be possible.

It is an honor to be here to learn about the great work you are doing in Durango to help those who need it the most.  The programs I have seen and learned about demonstrate what can be achieved when governments, the private sector, and local volunteers work hand-in-hand to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.

I had a chance to visit a community kitchen earlier this afternoon, which is part of the Crecemos de Corazon project.  Since it started operations four years ago, this kitchen has already provided over one million meals to families who are visiting their loved ones in Durango’s General Hospital and other areas of the city.  Each week, more than 100 volunteers, many who also have full-time jobs, dedicate their time to preparing food in this kitchen because of the satisfaction it brings them to help those who are less fortunate.  I am humbled by this spirit of generosity from the people of Durango.

I understand that another kitchen is being constructed as part of a shelter that will provide meals and housing to citizens that arrive from surrounding communities – some very far away – to attend medical appointments or visit loved ones.  These people often sleep on the floor of the hospital or in their cars, so the new shelter will provide a safe, dry, and warm place to stay during an already stressful time.

The Government of the United States believes in the mission of these initiatives, and today I am happy to announce the United States Government’s contribution to these inspiring projects.  Through its Humanitarian Assistance program, the U.S. Northern Command based in the state of Colorado actively works through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to identify areas where our countries can cooperate to help meet the basic humanitarian needs of the civilian populace, in areas such as disaster preparedness, health, education, and basic infrastructure.

Our donation of essential appliances and kitchenware will support two Civil Protection facilities, allowing them to increase the quantity and quality of the meals.  We are happy to provide gas stovetops, refrigerators, freezers, and other kitchenware to enhance the operations of these kitchens.

Today’s ceremony is a wonderful example of the continued collaboration and friendship between the governments and people of Mexico and the United States.  The U.S. Embassy, U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, and U.S. Northern Command have demonstrated a continued commitment to the state of Durango, through projects such as the donations of fire trucks and fire-fighting equipment, and we are looking forward to continuing this relationship through future activities.

Future plans include a contribution of furniture for the future shelter near the General Hospital, and some of this furniture will also benefit community centers in the neighborhood of Anáhuac.  I will visit Anáhuac this afternoon to learn about the Civil Protection initiatives that are revitalizing this area of Durango.

In closing, I want to express my appreciation to all of the people here who make these wonderful projects possible.  Licenciado Galindo, I know you have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Durango citizens, and I thank you for all of your time and effort.  Caring involvement by citizens to meet community needs is the lifeblood of vibrant democracy.  From the U.S. Northern Command, I want to recognize Ed Maldonado, who is integral to the collaboration between the United States and Mexico.  Ed, thank you for everything you have done to ensure that our partnership is meaningful and has a significant impact.

Thank you Consul General Joseph Pomper, whose staff partnered with Northern Command to help see this donation realized.  Finally, a special thanks to the people of Durango, who volunteer their time and resources to those among us with the least.  You inspire us all and demonstrate the values that continue to make Mexico a great country.

To all of the federal, State, and city officials here:  thank you for your warm welcome to Durango, and keep up the great work.