Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico - Whether we are religious or not, this time of the year often gives us time to reflect on how life has affected us during the past year and how we have affected the lives of others.
Thomas S. Monson wrote, "Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others."
There's an organization in Puerto Vallarta where many of its members practice those principles by raising money to help Mexicans obtain better health and dental care, better education, improved social services and enriched cultural programs. It is the International Friendship Club or IFC.
The IFC was started in 1986 as a way to raise money to provide free assessment, surgery and follow-up care to children born with cleft palates and cleft lips in and around Puerto Vallarta and that program is still its major focus today. The club pays the airfare and expenses of a team of surgeons and other medical staff to fly in from Guadalajara three or four times a year to help dozens of kids suffering with cleft palates and cleft lips. That medical team donates their time and skills to the project.
In Boca de Tomatlán, a village 45 minutes by bus south of town, IFC gives financial support to a dental outreach program for children in villages stretched along the coast and to those living in the jungle. The club's Patrocinio program will pay for 80% of medical treatment or appliances, to a maximum of $8,000, for Mexicans who have no or low income.
The IFC supports nine educational organizations in the city and surrounding area. Students and teachers at the British American School are provided with funds to purchase books and set up small libraries in rural schools that would otherwise have no school library. The PV Youth Orchestra introduces hundreds of local students to the beauty and discipline of learning and performing classical music and IFC helps in the purchase of new instruments. The club also donates to the SETAC Community Center, where the money is used to provide HIV education and counselling and provides baby formula to HIV positive mothers.
Puerto Vallarta might seem like a perfect slice of paradise if you are spending a couple of weeks on the beach or around the pool sipping margaritas and reading a novel, but scratch the surface here and you'll find problems that need love and resources to solve. Members of the International Friendship Club provide to two orphanages and to the Banderas Bay Women's Shelter. The children they help suffer from abandonment, violence, family disintegration and/or extreme poverty.
Our Spanish-speaking volunteer, Susan Davalos, spends many hours travelling to charities and homes in outlying areas providing nutritious food and school supplies to families in need but who fall through the cracks of the scanty government support system here.
The need for, in Charles Munson's words, "giving without a thought of getting" is deep and wide in PV, but the IFC does what it can to help. Information about the social and charitable aspects of the club can be found online at ifcvallarta.com, or by visiting the office and clubhouse between 9:00 and 1:30, Monday to Friday. You'll find it upstairs at the northeast corner of the bridge where Insurgentes crosses the River Cuale.
IFC invites everyone to its Christmas Party that will be held at Coco Tropical on Tuesday, December 19th at 6:00 pm. It will be a lovely way to spend an evening under the stars, enjoying a good meal with friends and dancing the night away. Profits from the evening help the kids of PV. Tickets can be purchased at the IFC office or online at ifcvallarta.com via PayPal.
Well, if Charles Munson had some appropriate words about Christmas so did Jay Lenno. He said this: "The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin."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