Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Every week there is a mention in the newspaper about an activity sponsored by or a service provided by the International Friendship Club (IFC).
Whether it is volunteers manning a booth at the weekly Farmers' Market or in a social setting, IFC members are constantly getting questions about who they are, and what they really do. Is the IFC a social organization or a charity? The answer to this excellent question is that the IFC is actually both.
The IFC began in 1985 with a handful of people from the United States and Canada meeting socially. This blossomed into the well known charitable organization that exists today, with members now hailing from England, Europe, South Africa, and of course Mexico. The IFC is a registered charitable organization in Mexico listed as Club Internacional de la Amistad de Puerto Vallarta A.C.
The IFC is a volunteer based charity, with over 500 paid yearly memberships. It is literally a port in a far away place where members have a social hub that gives them the ability to meet other like-minded people while knowing their contribution goes to worthwhile local charities.
Being a member, you are rewarded by many discounts in fine restaurants and other quality businesses whenever you visit Puerto Vallarta. You also are eligible to attend IFC events and social gatherings, given first opportunity to receive information on tours, and additionally you receive an electronic newsletter that keeps you informed and updated on all of their many activities.
This season the IFC has had a major social function each month that raised funds for charity while providing a great time for members and guests.
In addition there are classes, lectures, and lessons. Everything from Spanish, to Bridge, beading, art, and more are taking place in the IFC clubhouse. They have raised money for charity by offering Home Tours each Wednesday and Thursday throughout the season for the last twenty-five years.
The IFC membership has a caring, compassionate camaraderie and love for the less fortunate. Through financial contributions, as well as devoted service, humanitarian aid in excess of ten million pesos has been provided to needy children and families living in and around Puerto Vallarta over the years.
There are any number of worthwhile charities in Puerto Vallarta. Although the main thrust of the IFC is to support their Cleft Palate Program, they also are able to raise enough money each year to support their own causes, as well as make donations to other groups in Vallarta. The IFC provides: community aid services, medical assistance, educational assistance, food to families, and charitable gifts to other humanitarian institutions.
Since 1987 the IFC has funded a unique and worthwhile Cleft Palate Program. It remains committed to continuing this program in association with Dr. Ezequiel Fuentes and his surgical team from Guadalajara, for as long as the need exists.
Over forty children annually benefit from reconstructive surgery, which is followed up by orthodontia and speech therapy. The whole process can take up to fifteen years to complete and about 200 children are in the program in any given year. Dr. Fuentes's team of surgeons, who volunteer their time and skills, are instrumental in creating new faces for the children.
In addition to cleft palate surgeries, the IFC and their medical teams are involved in reconstructive surgery for birth defects. Congenital anomalies such as webbed fingers and toes, missing and disfigured noses and ears are just some of the things they have helped with. Through their Patricino program, they have also helped families with emergency medical situations.
Among the places their Community Aid Services provides help to is the patients of the Regional Hospital. You can donate any unopened products to the IFC office for dispensation to the needy patients in the hospital. Larger hygiene products and Band-Aids can be donated to the club for redistribution in the poorest communities around Vallarta.
Whether it is to the children in the cleft palate program, kids groups, or to families in need, we provide dental hygiene education; booklets for toddlers on dental hygiene, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.
The IFC also provides help by giving monthly stipends to local institutions.
The IFC provides financial assistance to the Clinica Santa Barbara Rehabitation Center to help with the physically disabled. They also encourage the general public to visit the center for their personal physical therapy needs. These contributions help the center to maintain their service to the community in need.
The IFC provides funding to the Salvation Army for their "After School Program" as well. This program assists children with schoolwork, keeps them occupied with crafts, and provides them with a nutritious snack. They also rescue children from the street and offer counseling for families vulnerable to substance/drug addiction and child abuse.
The IFC also provides funding for a "Rice and Beans" program that distributes food to families as an incentive for their children to attend school on a regular basis.
In addition, the IFC provides funds to help the local orphanage in their needs for the handicapped and orphaned children of the community.
IFC volunteers have an ongoing school assistance program, which improves schools in challenged areas around Puerto Vallarta by building kitchens, screening windows, and putting bars on windows for security. Donated supplies and books in Spanish are also distributed to schools in need.
Large items such as desks, blackboards, and special education equipment, are also provided when the budget allows.
Since school begins at the height of the slow tourist season, it starts during the time when families are the most financially strapped. Although primary grades K through 5 are tuition free, uniforms, shoes, backpacks, and mandatory classroom supplies are not free.
Without these items the children cannot attend school, which contributes to some becoming street kids. While not all children in need end this way, it is all too frequent for a child to be unable to attend regular classes. When they fall behind in their grade level, it makes it easier for everyone to say "no need" to junior high or high school that is not mandatory or free! The most needed items are backpacks and colored pencils.
The IFC helps provide funding for scholarship programs. The objective is to assist deserving students with bursaries for their continuing education.
The IFC also provides funds to the public library to help maintain staff and services.
Wish ListIf you would like to help the IFC to meet the needs of the needy in the Puerto Vallarta Community they have a "Wish List". Go to their website at ifcvallarta.com and you will find a list of things you can bring to PV on your next trip. If you are coming by plane, train, boat, or car, you can tuck some of the wish list items into your luggage. You can check with your airline if they will allow you to take on a full extra suitcase of "Donations" free of charge! We had a few members that were granted this favor as long as no personal items are tucked into that case. They can be brought to the IFC Clubhouse, located on Calle Insurgentes at the northeast corner of the Rio Cuale Bridge above the HSBC Bank, or contact their office at (322) 222-5466 to make arrangements.