“Ein Herz für Mexico” Charity Initiative – Interview with IBM Student & Co-Founder Kattya Cruz Ruelas

Kattya Cruz Ruelas is an International Brand Management Master’s student at Brand Academy. Confronted with the devastating earthquakes that struck her home country Mexico in late fall last year, she decided to take action and help her fellow countrymen and –women.

Hi Kattya, reported by the world press – but still unnoticed by most people here in Germany – Mexico suffered from earthquakes last year. What has happened exactly and how did it affect you?

On September 7, a first earthquake hit Oaxaca, one of the 31 federal states of Mexico. It’s a fairly rural area, so the damage to the lives and the possessions of the people were fortunately limited. However, on September 19 a second stronger earthquake happened right during the on-going memorial service for Mexico’s biggest earthquake ever, exactly 30 years ago on that very day. Some lost friends or family members and many homes were destroyed.

I saw the images on the Web, got notifications via WhatsApp etc. and of course I was scared that my friends and family may have been affected. I immediately made enquiries and my family turned out to be ok, as did most of my friends. 5 students at my former university Technologico de Monterrey had lost their lives, though. It was all very shocking. I went to bed that day thinking I have to do something! Life in Hamburg was still so nice, all the while my home country was suffering. My next impulse was to fly home and help somehow, be it by picking up rocks or distributing water – as many others were doing. But the cost of the flight was about €800 or more, and I figured that money would be better spent on aid.

So instead I posted in “Mexicanos en Hamburgo”, a Facebook page for Mexicans in Hamburg. The post was my very first and it was about the earthquakes and included a call to join me in helping Mexico. I got some responses from other Mexicans and little by little our group kept growing. By now we are about 20 people.

With others to support you in your cause, what did you do first?

The first thing we did together was to head into the city center, and in front of the shopping center Saturn we held up pictures of the earthquakes and those suffering from them and approached passers-by. We wanted to draw people’s attention to what’s happening in Mexico. We realized that lots of people were willing to help, but didn’t know how. So, we decided to give our efforts some structure and founded a proper charity organization with the name “Ein Herz für Mexiko” (A Heart for Mexico). By now we have realized that the name is somewhat limiting, so we are now looking to change it to be able to subsume more projects under a joint umbrella. “Ein Herz für Mexiko” will remain one of those projects, though.

Since then we have been doing small fundraisers, parties etc. The first one of 2018 took place very recently, on Jan 19.  We sold authentic Mexican food, there were DJs and so. The proceeds went (and still go) to “Brigada 106”. They build new houses for people in rural areas who lost their homes in the earthquakes. So far, our activities have enabled them to build three houses. I know that three houses don’t change the world at large, but they might change the world for three families. I hope we can do the same for many others as well.

How do you feel about your success?

Thank you for calling it a success! However, it is not really my success, but the success of all the people who are part of our association. It’s the result of team work. I must admit, I never thought I would be able to be part of something like this and help my country – especially from so far away. My activities have brought me in contact with other Mexicans in Hamburg. I now feel like I have a Mexican family here in Hamburg.  Or as we say, a little piece of home far away from home. That’s a truly wonderful thing.

What are you going to do next and how can others – like those who read this interview – support your cause?

Right now, we are busy learning how to set up a proper charity under German law and how to run it effectively and efficiently. As I mentioned earlier we would like to introduce more projects under the same umbrella. If you would like to help us you can like us on Facebook and Instagram. That way you will get updates on our activities. Of course, it would be great if you also attended some of our events and supported us that way. And if you want to get even more involved you should feel welcome to join us! Our group doesn’t just consist of Mexicans, there are also Germans, Ecuadorians etc. On behalf of our entire group I say many thanks in advance!