Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Margaret Mead's famous saying, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world," has been very true for the International Friendship Club (IFC).
In 1986, a small group of thoughtful, committed ex-pats in Puerto Vallarta decided to raise money so that they could provide free medical services to local babies and young people suffering with cleft palates. They hit on the idea of charging other expats and tourists to see some of the interesting homes in town and so the IFC Home Tours were created.
Thirty-one years later the Home Tours sell around 3,000 tickets in the five months from November to March to residents and visitors and all of the profits are used to fund the club's cleft palate program and to help many other charities and programs of the club.
The Board of Directors consists of the usual suspects: the esteemed president, a vice president, treasurer, secretary and a director at large. This group oversees a large financial budget and is responsible to the State of Jalisco to make sure the club keeps its charitable status by submitting the required reports on time - and in Spanish. The board meetings are attended by a host of other leaders within the club who chair various committees.
Eight of the charities IFC supports come under the heading of "Education," and include Volcanes Education Project, SETAC, the American School, the British American School and Corazón de Niña. Each member of this committee is responsible for liaising with a particular charity and making sure that the financial aid given by IFC is spent according to the proposals that the NGOs submit.
Eight more volunteers serve on the Charities Liaison Committee. Their job is to make sure that IFC's contributions on the Social Services side of the business are spent according to the club's expectations. These charities include CANICA (kids with cancer), Clinica Santa Barbara (a family rehabilitation clinic), Pasitos de Luz (a free physiotherapy clinic for handicapped kids) and various programs distributing food, clothes and school supplies.
IFC Home Tours needs a small army of volunteers to ensure that the homes are treated with respect and that the paying customers have an enjoyable and safe experience. Volunteers find the homes, negotiate with the bus company, sell tickets, write name tags and act as docents. The chair of this group also sits on the IFC advisory board.
One of the reasons to join IFC is to meet new friends and to enjoy old ones, and the Events Committee is charged with organizing the opening brunch, Christmas Party, closing brunch and any other bright ideas that are submitted for their consideration. They arrange for the venue, choose the menu, hire musicians, sell tickets, wheedle prizes for raffles and report to the Board.
The club has an office and clubhouse where meetings, lectures, classes, bazaars, and events take place. The place is old and always in need of repair, maintenance and new equipment, so IFC's Facilities Manager puts out chairs and stacks them afterwards, orders the bar supplies, runs the A/V equipment, makes sure the A/C is working and keeps the place spic and span. He is also a member of the club's advisory board.
The web master keeps the club's web page current, which is a huge task as the information on it needs updating weekly or, sometimes, daily. He also keeps the accounting straight as it relates to transactions put through the PayPal account.
Another volunteer, who writes two articles each week for both this paper and the PV Mirror, handles the publicity duties for the club. A brave attempt is also made to keep the various online media outlets reasonably current.
The International Friendship Club was formed with the intent of it being a club where people could socialize and, at the same time, contribute to the less fortunate locals in Puerto Vallarta.
The founders of the club would be surprised at the results of their efforts. From their small acorn a huge "oak tree" has grown to encompass not only the flagship cleft palate program that is still a necessity here, but a dental program in Boca de Tomatlán, a free English program for Mexicans, distribution of much needed supplies to the poorest of colonias and a myriad of educational, medical and cultural charities. To learn more, please visit ifcvallarta.com.The International Friendship Club is a registered charitable organization in Mexico listed as Club Internacional de la Amistad de Puerto Vallarta A.C. It is located at the northeast corner of the Rio Cuale Bridge above the HSBC Bank, Colonia El Centro, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, 48300. Phone: 322-222-5466. Website: ifcvallarta.com Email: ifcvallarta(at)gmail.com