Vallarta Living | June 2008
|Canadian Retiree Helps The Children Of the Dump|
Lorraine Glazier - Miramichi Leader
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Puerto Vallarta is an exquisite city, located in the western part of the state of Jalisco in central Mexico, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The area attracts 2.2 million visitors a year. The city is bordered by the beautiful Bahia Banderas (Bay of Flags) and is blessed with 25 miles of shimmering beaches, luxury hotels, gracious homes and pristine streets.
|Judy Adams with students|
But beyond the glitz and glamour of the city lights is a layer of poverty, and a standard of living that, for many of its citizens, is far below that of Canada or the U.S. This level of grinding poverty is not uncommon throughout the tropical vacation spots.
Ten years ago there were more than 80 families with approximately 200 children living in and around the Puerto Vallarta City Dump. The children and their families foraged for food, clothing and discarded items in the dump to survive. They had barely enough food to sustain them, and lacked medical care and clean water.
There is no social safety net in Mexico and no unemployment insurance benefits. The average income is less than 46 pesos, or $4 U.S., per day. There are few official statistics on the number of people who are unemployed, but unofficially it has been estimated that half the population in Mexico is unemployed and living in poverty.
The Children Of the Dump organization was founded in 1998 to help children and their families escape the vicious cycle of poverty. Their mission is to "help children go to school, stay in school and get an education." In the beginning, a breakfast program was started by feeding 30 children at the Magestario kindergarten. Today the program has grown and 2300 children are fed daily in eight schools located in the five communities surrounding the city dump.
In January 2008, Judy Adams of Bay du Vin retired after 25 years as a social worker, but she was not ready to become an armchair traveler. She decided to become an international volunteer and was soon on her way to Mexico to teach English to a group of third- and fourth-graders.
Through acquaintances, she had been introduced to the non-profit Children of the Dump Organization.
In 2000, the son of a missionary couple, who was an active volunteer with the program, began raising money in honour of his parents, who had been killed in a tragic car crash the year before. The donations were intended for a community center to be built for the children, and with the effort of the people throughout Mexico, Canada and the U.S., the School of Champions was established. It was at this school that Judy Adams volunteered to teach English to eager and charming children. Other programs taught at the school are math and computer skills.
The parents, most of whom are single moms, do their best to care for their children. Adams said the children were always polite and "were happy because they knew they were loved." She said she was impressed by the gratitude of the children for even the smallest gift.
Adams says,"The Children of the Dump organization reach people who really need the help."
There is always a need for clothing, shoes and school supplies. To send these items via freight or regular mail would be far too expensive, but a donation will be used for whatever the children need.
For the children who live around the dump, having a pair of shoes means they will be allowed to go to school. Because the spread of disease is a real concern, children are not permitted in school without shoes. For the sake of a pair of shoes a child's entire future could be altered.
Volunteers come from all over North America and Mexico. For the past 10 years a retired Sussex couple, Lynn and Paul Ward, traveled to Mexico to work with The Children of the Dump. Their fundraising efforts helped purchase two vans, which were needed in the outreach project to transport food and clothing to children in outlying areas.
Several people from the Miramichi have frequently traveled with Paul and Lynn Ward for a few weeks in mid-winter to help out with the various projects.
Adams says she would consider going back to Mexico as a volunteer, but at the moment she has applied to work with other international organizations.
For retirees who have good health, a sense of adventure and who would like to combine a vacation with their volunteer service, there are many agencies to choose from. It is just a matter of finding the agency that fits your expectations.
For more information on volunteering or financial support for this organization, you can go to ChildrenOfTheDumpVallarta.org. or contact Arthur Fumerton at arthiirerumerton(at)vahoo.com or (322)223-4311.
Lorraine Glazier offers a unique perspective on the world from an active senior's point of view. She welcomes feedback and suggestions at piratespad(at)hotmail.com.
The Children of the Dump was founded in 1998, originally as Feed the Children Vallarta. Through private donations, the program feeds more than 2,300 children daily, operates nine day care centers and an after-school program for grades 3 through 6; teaching them English, math and computers. The goal of the Children of the Dump is to ensure education through grade nine and to educate the children of Puerto Vallarta in the skills necessary to rise above poverty. To learn more about Children of the Dump's programs, click HERE or visit ChildrenOfTheDump.org.