Kathy Perkins, a resident of La Paz, mentioned our charity to her sister in California who put out a call for donations to people in her professional network. Kathy drove down with a van stuffed to the gills with ten boxes of clothing, blankets, sheets, pillowcases, towels, shoes, toiletries, jackets, scarves, toys and school supplies. With the money donated, Kathy bought 20 pillows and eight more blankets.
Soccer, The Sport That Never Ends
Soccer is to Mexico what hockey is to Canada. Once children get their hands on a soccer ball, the game is on. The sport is so popular that when a Mexican team wins a big game, hundreds of cars in La Paz head to the street by the beach, driving back and forth, back and forth, with kids hanging out windows and sunroofs, swinging large Mexican flags swaying to the music blaring, and bass thumping at sonic-boom level, out of the speakers attached to the car, competing with the robust noise from the blasting of car horns. Noise pollution, you’re wondering? More like acoustic terrorism!
The balls were from Sport Check (West Vancouver) courtesy of Bruce and the clothing from Michael Ahmed of West Van Barbers who supplies soccer gear to children all over the globe. Who knows? Maybe one day one of these kids will live the dream of being a professional player in Mexico!
In Mexico, school days are divided into two sessions, one for the morning and one for the afternoon. It’s at the discretion of the school as to which session a student enters. Veronica, one of our scholarship students, entered high school last August, and was placed in the afternoon class.
1.5 km (1 mile) from her home. Trudging up a steep hill through a short residential district and then along a lengthy, unlit dirt road in the pitch dark was her daily route until she safely arrived home at 10 pm.
Her mother anxiously spoke to the school requesting that Veronica be moved to the morning class but was told there was no room available. Each class already had their quota of 50 students to a lecture room!
Being worried about Veronica’s safety, I went to the school with a volunteer, Pily, to talk with the Vice-Principal. I felt it important to impress upon her that Veronica’s safety was at risk. The community where she lived was infested with drug, alcohol and sexual assault problems.
While the Vice-Principal was very compassionate to the issue, her hands were tied. She had a folder full of students who wanted to move to day school for health or other reasons. It occurred to me that this just wasn’t a safety issue for Veronica but an issue for every girl who gets out of school late at night and has to find her own way home.
The Vice-Principal suggested that Veronica move to another school. However, this school had the program that Veronica wanted to study. Her family would never have been able to afford the high tuition on their own and it was a privilege for our charity, through her sponsors, to be able to pay the enrolment so that Veronica could study the field that she loved in order to have the career that would bring her joy. I vetoed that option pretty quickly.
I then asked the Vice-Principal to whom I should speak at the school board level. She gave me a name but also assured me that they would then call her to see if there was space in the morning class. Apparently, lack of adequate classrooms and lack of teachers have been an ongoing issue for those in education.
It was starting to sink in that this was a much bigger issue than one girl’s safety. That perhaps we weren’t going to get Veronica moved immediately because there was nowhere to move her to until the school added more classes.
Not willing to give up the fight, I tried one last strategy. I asked, “What will it take for those education decision-makers to wake up? To realize that they are putting their quota of students in a class over the safety of girls who leave school late at night? Does a young girl like Veronica have to be kidnapped, raped or murdered for the schools to realize the risk of sending a young girl home so late at night? Mexico is one of the largest hubs of sexual trafficking and I don’t want Veronica to be another statistic.”
Interview With Veronica
Veronica: First, the school social worker called me to ask where I lived, if the bus drove near my place, what time I got home from school, my grade point average…I was very excited when they told me a couple of days later that I was being moved. I couldn’t believe that in one instance something could change so quickly. Honestly, I was really scared walking alone at night.
V: I want to study construction. I like to design things. My course is really the foundation to a career in civil engineering, which is the profession I want to study.
V: It’s a career. I have always imagined something in my mind and then I imagine it already constructed. I also like to draw.
V: My dad built most of it but I wanted him to shape the house in a rectangle.
V: Not right now because it’s cold and I’m lazy. I like to be in a warm house. Also my gloves tore. But I will return when it’s warmer.
V: I want to be a civil engineer and to be an example to show that everything’s possible. When you’re younger, you think everything is easy but as you get older you realize that maybe life isn’t so easy after all. When I was younger I didn’t feel everything is possible but now I do.
V: I just have to want it and then do something about it. I’ve been reading books about life, sadness, affection and teaching and these books inspire me. Everything I read has a message.
V: Things happen for a reason and never give up. In the novels I read, the character has a problem but the end result is never give up.
V: I’m sometimes on Facebook and chat with friends – only people I know. I sometimes go to movies – action or romantic movies.
V: To follow my dreams and never give up.
V: It’s something that’ll help you in your whole life, to have a career and to be an example for your own children so they can have an education.
V: Both another scholarship student, Magui, and I work together. It takes two of us because the kids are out of control. They want to be free and play but both Magui and I think it’s important the kids also learn important things. We teach them multiplication tables and how to add and subtract. We get about five or six kids around 7, 8, and 9 years and they don’t know their arithmetic. At the end we do jigsaw puzzles or something else that’s fun.
V: It has helped me a lot. It takes effort to stay in the program. It’s an excellent program because it gives me everything I need such as tuition and school supplies. My life would be a lot more difficult without this scholarship. I’m not sure if my parents could pay the tuition on their own and I don’t even know if my parents would have enough money for bus fare.
One Side of Love
Every couple of years the Gerbrandt and Graves families visit La Paz and like to do a bit of volunteering. What a better way to meet humble Mexican families and angelic children then to bring gifts to them.
We also distributed clothing to sent to us by Justice, and we gave away colourful knitted hats and scarves by our resident knitter, Sylvia Sperling. There are no words to express our gratitude for the caring that visitors have for those who have so little. On behalf of the families in Vista Hermosa, thank you. More photos here.
Another Side of Love
Emily, who visits La Paz every few years and holds our charity deep in her heart, accompanied me to the community to hand out some new and used clothing and hair scrunchies her mother made. Curiously, one of the translations for scrunchie in Spanish is donut. Who would have thought?
The Face of Angels
Another big turnout for our monthly children’s event of races, musical chairs, Loteria (Mexican bingo) and the exciting game, Pie Face. The kids are totally fascinated with Pie Face, waiting for their moment of glory (unscathed) or agony (splatted in the face
with whipped cream).
Before the kids left, we handed out small bags of candies and popcorn and, thanks to donors of Tailhunter International Sportsfishing, a young boy won an awesome, huggable, stuffed penguin providing years of squeezable love. More photos here.
Food Hamper Delivery
Three pick up trucks packed to the gills headed out to Vista Hermosa to hand out 218 food hampers to very gracious and grateful families.
First, we had to follow the grader who opened the main road just for us and then we went street by street to meet large and small families, single moms and the elderly.
Our volunteers handed out about 100 candy canes and a ton of Hershey kisses. Happiness and sugar highs all around! Thanks to a generous donor, numerous 4 year old children left with a Christmas toy and a big smile. It was an amazing time meeting families, knowing that each and every one will have food on their table for Christmas. Thank you to all who donated to this special project. More photos here.
Our Future Leaders
Even the cold, brisk wind didn’t stop the scholarship families from attending our annual Christmas fiesta to celebrate a job well done by our volunteers and the hard work of our scholarship students, the future leaders of Mexico. It was a fun evening of cake and gifts – a food hamper and bag of assorted creams, lotions and shampoo for the moms, and a small gift certificate for clothing for each scholarship student.
One of our scholarship student’s sponsors visiting La Paz made a surprise visit to their student and joined in on the festivities.
Our sponsors are the backbone of our scholarship program. Without their support, some students wouldn’t have the financial resources to finish all twelve years of school. When the sponsors and students meet, gratitude flows both ways. It was a touching moment for Carol Ann and Dave, when they met up with their student and
family. The family was thrilled. We were, too!
Children’s Christmas Fiesta
Over one hundred eager children attended our annual Christmas fiesta where they vigourously and enthusiastically participated in five games: Pie Face, catch the flag, musical chairs, statues and a blindfold game.
Now that they were totally worn out, thirsty and hungry, we treated them to cake and a delicious, thirst-quenching drink called Jamaica (ha-my-ka) made from dried hibuscus leaves, while they anxiously waited for a gift: dolls, soccer balls, baseballs and backpacks donated by clients of Tailhunter International Sportfishing, girls’ blouses and dresses from the US company Justice, and a bag stuffed with candies.
There could never be enough gratitude to thank everyone involved who made this fiesta a success. We couldn’t have pulled this off without their help. More photos here.
Third Annual Christmas Food Drive
Last year our charity raised enough money to buy 173 food hampers. This year we’re aiming for 200! Each hamper costs 250 pesos or $25.00 and consists of basic food and personal hygiene items.
Will you help us reach our goal?
Thank you for wanting to make Christmas special for those who have so little.
Celebrating Our 11th Anniversary
It has taken commitment, love, dedication and hard work to survive the eleven years and we couldn’t have done it without our volunteers. Each year we celebrate the joyous occasion with our mothers and scholarship students. Our hearts are full of gratitude. Click here for more photos.
The Face of Angels: Profile of Children of Vista Hermosa
Mexico is crazy in love with soccer. A group of young boys and sometimes girls who are equally in love with the game, play it each evening on a dusty, fine powdered road in the community Vista Hermosa. To this group we handed out soccer shoes and shin guards donated by the generous clients of Tailhunter International Sportfishing. For those whose feet matched the show size, they were elated to get real soccer shoes, cleated ones at that, for traction on the dirt. They look good, don’t they?
I’m not sure who had more fun – those of us who handed out some of the donations we received from the generous clients of Tailhunter International Sportfishing or the children, who are a total delight to photograph. Most of them anyway. It’s not always easy to get them to smile at the same time.
These kids always love receiving something just for themselves. It’s as if Christmas had arrived early. In those bags they might find toothbrushes, toothpaste, school supplies, binders, ball caps, backpacks, crayons, coloured pencils, markers, and English-Spanish dictionaries.
As we were organizing the huge amount of donated items, a young man, with few financial resources, asked if our charity could help with notebooks for high school. He couldn’t have timed it better. We were able to give him ten and a solar lamp to study by, since his family doesn’t have electricity. It’s these moments that make the giving so worthwhile!
As dark clouds were forming, the palms on the tall trees were dancing madly in the wind and claps of thunder were heard in the distant background. Then, suddenly, the sun broke through and the threat of rain disappeared. Over eighty children of all ages started pouring into the outdoor area where we held the “Let’s Play” monthly event. Let the fun begin!
There’s nothing so joyful as children having fun while participating for prizes in games, relays, crafts and Loteria (Mexican bingo). They are like magnets to face painting. These events also allow us to meet families, hold newborns and listen to individual stories of hardship and optimism.
I was even blessed to meet a new student who will become part of our scholarship program: an outgoing, bright, 14 year old brother of a twin and 7 year old brother, sons of a single mom who recently moved to La Paz from another Mexican state and all sleeping without mattresses on a dirt floor. Talk about hardship! Just as an aside, if you would like to be a sponsor and help this young boy have a better future, please drop me a line.
Did you know that only 16% of the adult population in Mexico has completed university-level studies? While only 12% of the population between 55 and 64 years had a degree, that percentage leaped to 21% in the population aged 25 and 34 years? Having a bachelor’s degree makes a great difference for workers, who earn close to twice as much as those who have only a high school diploma. (Education at a Glance 2016)
For those living with few financial resources, scholarship programs are one of the best ways to keep kids in school and offer them a way out of poverty.
So, as for me, a social worker, who enjoys meeting new families and hearing their stories, the children’s event provides the perfect opportunity. It’s also the perfect time to photograph moments of laughter, pride, competition and joy at receiving a prize for winning and a gift bag at the end. All the prizes and presents were donated by clients of Tailhunter International Sportfishing and my Toronto family. Thank you for your generosity.
Tailhunter International Sportsfishing has an outreach program whereby their fishing clients bring donations to La Paz such as notebooks, pencils, pens, writing pads, paper, binders, crayons, colouring books, toys, jigsaw puzzles, clothing and shoes.
With the help of the mothers, we bag them up according to school-age groups and then hand them out to eager kids who always love something new and something free.
Trying to get a whole bunch of kids together for photos was like trying to herd smoke so our photographer opted for pictures of kids, doing what kids do naturally, in small groups or individually.