In fifteen years of work with several great organizations, the Casa de los Amigos stands out as the place where I learned more than anywhere else the strength, nourishment, and potential of being a member of a community that truly attempts to live out its highest principles without compromise. The expectations and demands were very high, but the effect was always thrilling, the possibilities presented each day unusually rich, and daily life very, very fun. One of the Casa’s unique strengths is that it is both a successful non-profit organization and a real home. This overlap provides new challenges, but adds a richness and depth that cannot be otherwise produced.
There is something truly special going on right now at the Casa de los Amigos. More than an organization and home, the Casa is a living, practical exploration of how we can act out our most important principles each day while having a lot of fun, embracing a wide range of personalities, and doing all of it in the center of one the coolest, most-interesting cities on earth.
The Casa is a place to return to, a place of welcome and warm memories for so many people. The work of the Casa is so varied that it is hard to describe, but that is what gives it its humanity. It has the messiness of dealing with humans of different cultures, ages, expectations, and necessities. The volunteer /staff team is a great support in the learning process and in encouraging each of us to grow and change. It is never too hard, often fun, and almost always a challenge.
My first experience at the Casa was in early 2008. I was traveling through Mexico and decided to stay only because a good college friend of mine was a volunteer at the time. One thing that stood out to me about the Casa was its unique sense of community. In the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, the Casa quickly made me feel at home.
The extremely interesting cast of characters that are a constant; volunteers, guests, migrants, refugees, students, life-long visitors, community members, backpackers, teachers, activists, Quakers, etc. are also an instant network of friends. So for me, what began as a tentative 2 night stay in early 2008, quickly extended into a two week stay, which eventually led to a 6 month volunteer experience and has ultimately impacting my life forever and has blessed me with life-long friendships that I cherish. La Casa de los Amigos is exactly what it says it is, a house of friends.
When I arrived to the Casa I had plans to stay for a week- I stayed for four years! At the Casa I found a community that took me in, I met people from all different parts of the world, and I learned more about social justice work. In particular I learned a lot in the Casa’s economic justice program. Since childhood I had been raised with a capitalist perspective, and being at the Casa gave me the opportunity to learn about another perspective that was very distinct. Now, when I think about the Casa, I have many fond memories.
I came to the Casa as a backpacker, hoping to pass through Mexico City for a couple of nights. Two years later I was still there as a volunteer; I doubt there’s anywhere else in the world quite like the Casa and I will always treasure my experiences there. Some of my fondest memories are sat around that breakfast table having inspiring chats with people from all over the world learning about different cultures and cultivating life-long friendships.
What’s so unique about being a volunteer there is that you are given the opportunity to live out your values whilst having a lot of fun and getting to know a vibrant city. I learned a lot about migrant issues in Mexico, alternative economies and most of all about living in a dynamic, international community. It’s a truly unique experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone with a spirit of adventure.
Working and living at the Casa was the most influential period of my young-adult life, and it set me on a path I am still on today. During my time at the Casa my world-view both expanded to encompass a global perspective and contracted to focus on my immediate community. I developed a sense of solidarity that helped me move from seeing myself as a separate “helper” of those in need to seeing my life an inexorably wrapped up in the lives of those around me.
These days, the legacy of my time at the Casa shows itself in my life in a variety of ways. Every time I share a meal at a big potluck, chat with my Mexican neighbors in the front yard, participate in community or state activism, or find a moment of silence in the middle of a hectic day, I am reminded of the ways the Casa is still reflected in the ways I live, think and work.
The first year that I was in Mexico, I came to the Casa as a guest, and for me it was a place that recharged me and led to many enriching exchanges. I saw that there are no limits to the diversity of guests at the Casa de los Amigos and I wanted to further get to know this unique place, for that reason I applied as a volunteer.
To be able to form a part of such a diverse community in an environment of mutual respect and support was an amazing experience, almost magical.
I loved working in a place where the commitment to social justice and peaceful communal living were so authentic and real that they were reflected in the daily life, transforming it into something which cannot be explained in words, but which I believe each person who passes through the Casa doors can perceive.
The Casa is a very special place. For me, the most wonderful element of the Casa is the community it fosters – a community that is completely unique and inspiring!
My experience first as an intern and then as a volunteer at the Casa ended up changing the course of my life. After learning more about undocumented migration through Mexico I switched my major and my career plans to focus on this issue, which has become very important to me. I also met my husband at the Casa!
I came to the Casa because I hold hospitality at the center of all things good in this world–it is a holy thing for me. Yes, the Casa offers an amazing space and instant community to those who walk through our doors, but what has been most formative for me have been the times in which I have been able to welcome and host and care for people from all walks of life–mothers searching for their disappeared migrant children, refugees who do not even know how they came to be in Mexico, backpackers who wound up at our door on the recommendation of a friend, migrants who only seek a bit of food before they carry on their way, students and activists and families and so many more.
The Casa is not a place people forget. For so many of us, it is where we find grounding, stability, support, and a little piece of the world toward which we are working.
Casa de los Amigos was the beginning of an adventure here in Mexico City, a place I now call home. Initially I was only coming down here for a couple of months to be a part time volunteer… I was quickly swept away by the hospitality of the Casa, the warmth of the guests and visitors and the enthusiasm of the volunteers. The Casa and its many friends and guests were and continue to be a part of my life here in this enchanting metropolis.