Refettorio Mérida, a 360° transformation

Zayuri, Manager at Refettorio Mérida, has a great energy and high hopes for the opening of the new project. Thanks to her long experience working in the social sector and her vision in terms of social cohesion, Refettorio Mérida is going to be a welcoming place able to transform people's hearts.


How did your interest in the social sector start? 

It’s a mindset that has been there from the beginning, from my childhood, it comes from my family. I learnt to serve others when I was still young, since I was in school. Once I grew up, I had to choose what career path to take, and I knew I wanted to help others, so I decided to become a lawyer. Once I started working, however, I realised that despite all my efforts, it wasn’t enough – I knew I could do more. 

How could I contribute? What else could I do? For a long time, these questions remained unanswered and then, fortunately, I came across a foundation that was helping people in need, and I started working with them. It still wasn’t an easy situation, the political situation in Mexico makes it difficult to work in this field. The thing I have always appreciated the most about my work, however, is that it doesn’t matter which political party you support, the colour of your skin or your sexual orientation, your religion, or the political party in office. The only thing that matters is the people, and being able to help them. Here I found my own way, and my professional path, and now it’s 12 years that I’ve been working in the social sphere. 

Have you had other experiences in this sector before working at Palace Foundation?

I’ve worked for various different projects, and each one taught me something new. One of them protected unemployed women with children. As they were not able to leave their homes, we gave them the opportunity to work remotely, this way they could develop their business while taking care of their children. Another project I was involved in was with the school system, giving teenagers the possibility to participate in after-school activities like art classes, sports, and nutritional training. For these teens, this wasn’t just an opportunity to learn, it was their chance for transformation – a total transformation. More than 500 children were given the opportunity to imagine a different future, with new options and an opportunity to socialize, something they didn’t have at home. This dynamic environment changed their vision of the world. They started to dream, have a sense of responsibility, to want to have a good job, invest in themselves, and above all, to have a better life than their parents. 

All the positions that I have held in public policy have given me the opportunity to transform the communities that we were serving. 

I have also worked as a consultant for state and city governments on social projects. I founded FUERZA YUCATÁN, A.C., an organization that works to create synergy between governments, organizations, business and universities in order to increase their knowledge and overall attention to the issues faced by the Yucatecan community.

What are you expecting from Refettorio Mérida in terms of social impact? In what way do you think that the Refettorio could be an opportunity for those who live in Mérida? 

I think it will be a great opportunity for anyone who lives in Mérida. Palace Foundation and Food for Soul, thanks to their international appeal, are offering a unique opportunity to everyone who lives in the Yucatan community to serve and make a contribution. The same people who used to give a coin to those in need, now have the chance to give them something more. Their contribution will be concrete, because they will have a space to do it. Everyone will have the opportunity to take part in this transformation; which will generate a greater sense of responsibility and a stronger community.

What will your role be at the Refettorio? 

I will be responsible for bringing people together from different worlds: companies, local government and authorities and those who want to participate in the project. The aim is to make everyone understand that this is a space to come and serve, and that we are all happy to be able to work here, that not only the people we help, but also the people working here, feel good. 

What I envision is a 360 degree transformation, because those who are helping to take our message forward, will also create a ripple effect on the people around them. When someone sees an act of kindness, a positive gesture, something in them changes: the result is a ripple effect and we hope that Refettorio Mérida will become a space where people, after being transformed themselves, will inspire others to do the same.  

For years Palace Foundation has worked in the social sector to improve the lives of the communities that need help in Mexico. What are the values of your mission that you can recognize in Food for Soul?

Definitely the value of service, being honest and transparent in serving those who are in need. The two organizations are similar in many ways. First and foremost, in their commitment to help people – a true, real commitment. The commitment to serve others is our passion, and that’s why I agreed to take part in this project. 

In this unique home that is the Refettorio, you will find the heart of the Yucatecan community - ready to welcome the guests and all those who want to participate. Refettorio Mérida will be able to transform all those involved: those who were once hard-hearted will become generously spirited, eager to take part in the project.

Zayuri Valle V.

How are caring for the environment and for the wellbeing of the community linked to one another? 

Today, environmental awareness is no longer a choice. The Mayan culture teaches us to have a very close relationship with the natural world. Now, the responsibility to remember and teach about our connection with nature is in the hands of our society.  Refettorio Mérida is in the position to remind everyone what nature can give us and how we can all benefit from it, shining light on the transformational effects that the environment has on all of us. When we pay attention to our surroundings and we become aware of what is happening around us, we are able to solve the problems we see. If we ignore them, sooner or later, the consequences will fall on someone else.

What communities do you think will benefit the most from the opening of Refettorio Mérida?

In a city like Mérida, there are many communities that need our help. The first one that comes to mind is people without stable accommodations: to them we will be able to offer a service with showers, access to bathrooms, food and a lot more in terms of love and care. 

Another category that will benefit from our services are women who are victims of domestic violence and those with children, as well as individuals who are struggling with substance abuse and who rely on the support of other organizations. For them, the Refettorio will represent a safe space, the chance to feel good about themselves and to share this feeling with those around them. 

Is food waste a popular discussion topic in Mérida or do you think that it will take time for people to become aware of this problem? 

The issue of food waste is not well known around here, people don’t have much of an idea about the quantity of food that gets wasted. There’s no awareness. It will be a slow process. At the beginning, it’s going to be difficult and time consuming, but I am convinced that once we show them the situation, they will be very generous in doing their part.

What benefits does a partnership with a non profit like Food for Soul bring have? How do you think the community will react to the opening of Refettorio Mérida? 

The aim is to increase awareness both at an organizational and community level. Only if we learn to share our culture and knowledge, will we be able to show what is in our heart. Refettorio Mérida represents an opportunity: for Mexico to do its part in the global challenges that we all face, for Mexicans to go beyond the misconceptions that they are often associated with, and for those involved, to show that they are capable of taking concrete action for the health of our planet, and the wellbeing of its people.