By: Ileana Coronado
It was with great hope that we prepared for this project in August 2014. As with the previous trips, we contacted two elementary schools where we could provide school supples and service. 200 children were to benefit from this trip. In addition, we joined with a Catholic charity that works to provide a nutritious meal once a month for the elderly of the town. Most of the attendees are very poor, homeless, or have been abandoned because of illness. We also worked to find some families that could directly benefit from monetary donations. Seven U.S. volunteers planned to come along; we were so excited and grateful.
I. The Plan
Our objectives included:
1. To encourage K-6 children to attend school regularly
2. To encourage older children (Grades 4-6) to remain in school and make plans to continue in their education.
3. To help some families that were on the brink of homelessness and other misfortunes to stay afloat for the next 6 month
4. To provide a free nutritious lunch for the elderly in need
Young men and women from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Clovis, CA prepared a donation of school bags. The donation included backpacks with school supplies such as pencils, pens, markers, erasers, sharpeners, crayons, a pencil pouch, a toothpaste, and a toothbrush.
The monetary donations received were used to buy food, clothing, and home appliances for the families in need, as well as to serve lunch for the group of elderly that attend this Catholic shelter once a month for a hot meal. Because of the donations, they were able to receive two meals that month.
II. The Outcome
The children were ecstatic! Their little faces lit up with surprise and unbelief. Teachers had told us that most absences happen because they lack the school supplies they need to continue attending. Most children were amazed to have six pencils to call their own. Others contemplated the Crayola variety with tears in their eyes. Those who knew how to write wrote Thank You notes for their new friends in the U.S.
At mid-morning, the children had recess and we were able to observe breakfast. The parents association provides the funds to feed the children a small cup of porridge every day. Some took out small tortillas or other kinds of food brought from home. It was heartbreaking to see that most of them did not have shoes or proper school clothing. However they were all very grateful to be in school even if it meant to walk barefoot for miles to make it there. On that day, 200 children and some teachers returned home with a happy smile on their faces.
On Saturday, we went to the local market to buy groceries for the families we were going to help and for the lunch for the elderly. These latter, whose brave souls showed the impact of hard work and long-suffering, came from different villages; some leaning on the arm of a grandson or a neighbor, others with the help of canes or crutches. A well-balanced meal was served. It included a main entrée, fruits, drinks, and dessert. Unbelievably, all of them ate only half or less and took the rest home; either to share or to have something to eat the following week.
We were able to provide food, pay rent for four families in need. One family was in need of a stove to start and business, and the with the help of the donations provided were able to help them purchase it. The clothes and shoes that were donated were given among the children in these homes. We listened to their stories and cried with them. We tried to give hope and express love.
For the sake of brevity, I do not express in detail every experience we had during this trip. However, I hope that more opportunities are given to the Miguel Vargas Association, so that members and volunteers can continue this labor of service and love to our fellow men.