The History of Amistad Canada

Amistad Canada organizes, implements and monitors focused projects in cooperation with selected non-profit agencies in Mexico and provides tax-receipts for Canadian donors who support those projects.

The organization has its origins in San Miguel de Allende, a small colonial city in Mexico’s Guanajuato state, where a sizeable group of people who come from cold climates spend their winters and, in some cases, their retirement years. Responding to the vitality and warmth of San Miguel’s community life and the very evident need of the local population for more social support, many people in the expatriate community become active in supporting social agencies that provide services to those in need. Amistad Canada has been formed to help Canadians participate more effectively in such efforts.

It was organized, incorporated and registered under the Income Tax Act in 2009 — a lengthy process that was led by Mel Kliman, at that time Amistad’s Treasurer and Administrative Director, and later President (2011-13). But the organization was built on the foundation of a fundraising effort by Canadians in San Miguel that goes much further back.

In the 1980s Aileen Harris of Toronto began doing volunteer work for the Centro de los Adolescentes de San Miguel de Allende (CASA) and in the early 1990s decided to organize a committee that would draw other Canadians into supporting CASA. In its early years, 'Canadians for CASA' held annual fundraising events in San Miguel. Canada’s Ambassador to Mexico attended some of these and the Embassy matched private donations. In the 2000s, fundraising events were organized in both Toronto and San Miguel by Aileen’s daughter, Elizabeth Harris, who was the first President of Amistad Canada, until her untimely death in March 2011

CASA operated the first school of professional midwifery in Mexico and the activities of Canadians for CASA in Toronto attracted the involvement of several Toronto midwives. Links soon developed between the CASA School and Ryerson University’s Midwifery Education Program. This helped to make Canadians for CASA a good fit when volunteers were sought to form a new organization seeking charitable status for work in Mexico. In 2009, Canadians for CASA merged into the new organization that became Amistad Canada. And, not surprisingly, our first partner was CASA and our first project was to fund a Clinical Coordinator who worked in the CASA Midwifery School and its Maternity Hospital.

Amistad’s second partnership was established in 2011 with La Biblioteca de San Miguel de Allende, which implements our Canadian Education Project to raise funds for buying books, providing free after-school classes to children and funding scholarships that help students from needy families continue their education beyond primary school or enter university programs.

In 2012 we entered into a three-year agreement with Feed the Hungry to help fund nutritional education for children who participated in their school-meals program and their families.

Jóvenes Adelante operates an ambitious program of university scholarships awarded to highly qualified and needy students. In addition to financial support, the program provides the students and their families with mentoring and other support throughout their degree programs. Amistad began helping to fund this program in 2013.

Amistad had a busy year in 2016, setting up three new partnerships:

  • The Children's Art Foundation runs a Literacy Through Art program directed to children who live in marginal communities. Our project helps to fund teachers' salaries and buy art supplies.
  • The Rural Education Institute directs its activities towards encouraging and assisting children who live in the campo to extend their formal education.
  • Opera San Miguel works to identify and assist the most promising young students of opera in Mexico and provides them with professional grants, performance opportunities and other assistance.

Our newest partner-agency is Patronato Pro Niños, which operates an ambitious program of dental and health services. As of January 2017, Amistad is helping to provide mobile dental services in rural communities by collecting funds that will, along with support from other contributors, be used to purchase a new dental van and fund the maintenance of existing mobile units.

For more information on our projects and partner-agencies, go to the 'Our Partners' and 'Our Projects' tabs at the top of the page.