Mexico City - Of all the world’s developing nations, America has its closest relationship with Mexico. A popular tourist destination, a visit to Mexico was, for many of us, our first exposure to what we think of as Third World poverty.

According to the World Bank, 53 percent of Mexico’s population is poor (living on less than $2 per day), while close to 24 percent is extremely poor (living on less than $1 per day). These families are “foodinsecure,” meaning they cannot meet even their most basic nutritional needs for some or all of the year.

As is true in other developing nations, the rural people of Mexico suffer the most acute consequences of poverty. Basic services that help people survive and thrive—such as bank loans to build businesses and healthcare—are concentrated in urban areas. Ethnic disparities and discrimination further prevent rural, indigenous people from gaining fair access to these key services.

But that is about to change for thousands of people in states such as Guanajuato, Chiapas, and Hidalgo. Freedom from Hunger is pleased to announce that it has launched operations in Mexico to meet the needs of the rural poor.

Freedom from Hunger’s goal in Mexico is to work with local organizations that share our commitment to reaching out to the rural poor with a combination of financial services (such as microcredit), lifeskills training and health education.

By collaborating with existing organizations, we double the effect of our technical knowledge and donor support by leveraging the contributions of local, highly committed and knowledgeable people. Our objective is to transfer our skills, knowledge and capacity to local organizations so they provide services for the long term and, ultimately, without our assistance.

These partners are already bringing or are planning to bring some savings and loan services to rural areas. But with Freedom from Hunger’s help, they will be able to reach farther, serve more people and add education to these banking services that will improve the health, nutrition and business knowledge of the families they reach.

By the end of the first year, Freedom from Hunger and its collaborating partners could be reaching as many as 14,000 people in villages where financial services and health education are desperately needed.

Freedom from Hunger has opened an office in Mexico City that will serve as a training center and technical assistance resource to local organizations that want to build their capacity to serve very poor, rural people.

To meet all our goals in Mexico, Freedom from Hunger is seeking special funding for this initiative. We have already received some funding from First Data/Western Union Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and some of our loyal donors.