by Judy King
This editorial originally published in the September, 2013 issue of the Lake Chapala Review. Editorial reprinted with permission of Judy King
Not Everyone Can Go Back to School in the Fall
Interspersed among the rainy days this month have been days that make me think of fall up north. When it is clear this time of year, it is so clear — like the whole world has come into sharp focus. The skies are high and blue and the clouds are so white and puffy. Those days, with their cooler mornings and evenings, make me itch to buy pencils and protractors and I think of early fall high school games in my home town. It feels like back to school.
Growing up, I assumed it was a God-given right for all children to attend school. Sure there were always a couple of kids with coats held together with a diaper pin and tooth-gnawed, eraser-less pencil stubs… but they were there, part of our class, getting an education that took some of them a long, long way.
Unfortunately, here in Mexico, while all are promised free education, the hidden costs keep many children either out of school entirely or attending a minimal number of years. The costs are just too high for many parents to support.
The Federal government provides public school buildings and teachers salaries… and precious little else. It is up to the local communities to furnish, clean and outfit the building. And, it is up to the parents to pay annual entrance fees, to purchase all of the child’s books, workbooks, and school supplies, to help supply the school with things like toilet paper, and to provide the uniforms. In theory, a child can attend school without the correct uniform, but in practice, that child’s experience is limited and too often unpleasant.
It’s fine for us to shake our heads and cluck our tongues at this situation. But that does little to turn it around. The truth is that for the cost of just one beer, alcoholic beverage, Starbucks or Black Coffee drink per week during the year would pay all of the expenses of one primary school child.
Living at Lakeside offers retirees so much; many of those living here work hard to give back to the community in a variety of ways — often by helping to pay some or all of the costs so children can attend school and thrive.
There are many ways to help. Some expats help an employee’s child, others find a program for education within their church family. Many contribute to school costs or fully sponsor one or more children through Los Niños de Chapala y Ajijic A.C., a registered, non-profit group organized in 1977.
The IDEFT English course grads are, from left: Emanuel Angulo Camarena, Janeth Alejandra Arroyo Saldaña, Maria de Lourdes Ascencio Ramirez, Francisco Javier Cuevas Delgado, Cecilia Franco Mendoza, Andea Martinez Espinoza, Juan Francisco Martinez Espinoza, Marlene Rocio Marvin Cuevas, Fatima del Rosario Morales Marquez, Andy Jared Perez Alcantar, Daniela Perez Herrara, and Maria Veronica Siordia Moya. At the far right is NCA Graduate Paulo Arroyo who is now the group’s chartered accountant and legal representative. Also shown are members of the NCA Board.
Over the decades, NCA has helped several thousand bright (they must maintain an 8 GPA or better) but needy Mexican students go to school. Many former students are now professionals: lawyers, doctors, veterinarians, accountants, marine biologists, engineers, etc. Area youngsters who can attend and complete school immeasurably improve themselves, their family and their community.
In addition to the 230 NCA-sponsored children currently in kindergarden through grad school classes, a dozen of the older students graduated from a recent IDEFT (Instituto de Formación para el Trabajo) English course. These devoted students attended Saturday classes at the Chapala office of NCA in order to build their skills in English they know will enrich their future.
Not all expats can find room in their budget to sponsor a student on their own, but they can still help. Several times a year, NCA holds fund-raisers. This year there is a series of garden parties. A recent modestly priced Mexican garden party featured mariachi music. The next garden party, with an East Indian theme will be held on October 20th with authentic food and dancers. Guests can participate in a raffle to win a five-day all-inclusive November Thanksgiving trip to the beach.
You can also help these kids and others by shopping at “El Bazaar de Los Niños” at Carretera #95B in Riberas, across from the 7-11. The thrift shop is packed with treasures, and contributes a major part of NCA’s overhead. Tom Thompson of Barbara’s Bazaar frequently donates major quantities of goods to be sold at the Bazaar de Los Niños. It’s generosity that makes a significant difference to the program.
The world can change through the actions of individuals. “The Power of One” is powerful. It’s great to know you have the ability to change one or many lives (one woman sponsors 17 children!)
To learn more, to see the photos and histories of the students still waiting for sponsors, visit the NCA website at: http://lakesideninos.org. Remember, just one coffee or drink can ensure someone’s future.