Sunday, June 10, 2007

Supplies & Glenn's Science Show!

Because of the awesome generosity of family and friends, I was able to go on a shopping spree at WalMart and purchase school supplies (45 notebooks, pencils, glue, scissors, crayons, pencil sharpeners, whiteboard markers, rulers and abacuses) and recess equipment (basketballs, soccer balls, American footballs, volleyballs, air pump, bat and ball).

Glenn and I completed our day at the American School and hopped in a taxi to head over to the Manuel Aguilar Juarez School in Las Granjas, a run-down neighborhood in a very poor area on the outskirts of Tuxtla.

The kids were thrilled to see us! They were very excited to play with their new recess equipment and they couldn't get close enough to Glenn and me. They followed us around and were literally tripping over one another to get as close as possible to their visitors. I'm sure these
students don't often, if ever, see people from other countries and they certainly make a big deal out of it.

Glenn ended up putting on five different science shows, visiting each of the five rooms in the school. It's interesting because the classrooms are not divided by age - first grade does not necessarily have the youngest kids. They are divided based upon how many years the student has been in school. For example, Ana is 12 years old, but this is her first year in school so she's in the Level 1 classroom. This could be challenging for a teacher because the maturity level varies a lot from a 6 year old to a 12 year old, but they make do.

The two hours we spent at the school flew by, but we've already discusses returning as Glenn would like to put on another show before we leave Mexico in July. It was one of our favorite experiences while living in Mexico and it sure adds excitement to the kids' day!

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your generosity and kind spirit.
You're the big-hearted people that put the smiles on the kids' faces that day.

In a world full of poverty and hunger, we have many reasons to count our blessings.

**With the money donated from friends and family, I was also able to pay for the kids to attend school during the 2007-2008 school year. I will return to Tuxtla from Guatemala next Spring to pay for the following year, as well. The plan is to pay for the Morales kids to attend school through secondary, but I'm hoping I'll have success encouraging them to continue on to the university. Education makes everything possible!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Christmas in November

On Friday, with the help of the Secondary Physical Education teacher, Rafael, I hauled home a large box overflowing with toys donated to the Morales kids from a generous co-worker, Ms. Mati.

The kids arrived around 8:00 pm and were playing soccer in our complex's small soccer field when I ran into them on my way to the market. I told them I had some gifts that they could check out when I returned.

They were very excited when they saw me 30 minutes later and they ran across the parking lot to help carry my bags and check out their new toys.

They immediately dumped the box out onto the floor and yelled, "Orale" or wow! They only had a few small squirmishes, but I explained that these were toys they were to share and there were plenty to go around.

They stuffed a few toys into their separate backpacks, which made me wonder how well they'd share with eachother, and managed to haul the box down the stairs. I asked them if they had to take a colectivo home and they said that they would take a taxi instead.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Your Donation Provides

Your donation helped provide the following to the Madrid Morales kids and the Escuela Primaria Manuel Aguilar Juarez in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas - Mexico:

a. Ana Cecilia: navy blue uniform skirt, white uniform shirt, 3 pairs of white uniform socks, Crayola colored pencils, pencil case, notebook, package of pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener

b. Julio: white uniform shirt, white polo uniform shirt, 2 pairs of white uniform socks, backpack, Crayola colored pencils, pencil case, notebook, package of pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener

c. Pablo: navy blue uniform pants, 2 pairs of white uniform socks, Crayola colored pencils, pencil case, notebook, package of pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener

d. Escuela Primaria Manuel Aguilar Juarez: 350 pesos cash donation, 150 peso entrance fee for three students

The school supplies cost 584.73 pesos making a total thus far of 1,084.73 pesos (approximately $108 US).

I will be meeting with Patricia Torres to talk about the needs of the school. With the donations, I plan to provide the following:

a. Entrance fees for other kids in the neighborhood
b. Future entrance fees for the Madrid Morales children
c. Books/Library Fund
d. Physical Education Equipment
e. Art Supplies
f. Additional School Supplies
g. Breakfast/Lunch Program
h. School Field Trip Fund

Your contribution is warmly appreciated and 100% of it will go directly to the children. Thank you in advance for your generosity.


Bella's Ninos


About Our Mission

Bella's Ninos was created in August 2006 to help the Madrid Morales children attend public school in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, the capital city of the southernmost state in Mexico.

I'm an international teacher currently teaching at the
American School Foundation of Chiapas Ana Cecilia, Julio and Pablo come to my apartment building every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to drag people's garbage to the curb for pesos.

I began speaking with them after they asked if they could have a glass of water. When I found out they didn't attend school because they couldn't afford the 50 pesos ($5 US) per year entrance fee, I told them my roommate and I would pay and also buy the uniforms and school supplies necessary for the year.

That set into motion a series of events that included many friends and family members donating money for the cause. The plan is to continue helping not only the Madrid Morales children through high school, but also donate needed materials to the school and find other children who need help.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

La Escuela Primaria

Success! I was finally able to find the Escuela Primaria Manual Aguilar Juarez!!

Rafa and I left school at 1:45pm and stopped at my apartment to get Ana Cecilia who was waiting patiently on my stairs. We attempted to find the school on three different occasions to no avail, so we finally arranged for Ana to take us.

She took us on a strange route,
involving a bit of baha-ing over rough roads, passing donkeys and crossing a bridge that appeared to be more for a donkey's use than a car, but we made it!

Ana's mom was waiting outside the locked g
ate of the school and said she was worried because she expected us earlier. I was happy to see that she was concerned for her daughter's safely.

Ana yelled to her brother Julio to unlock the gate and he and Pablo came running, Pablo with his glowing smile on his face. They unlocked the gate and Pablo gave me a big hug. He's really a sweet kid and he seems so genuinely happy to see us all the time.

I was surprised to see that the school grounds are much simpler than I had imagined. There are two buildings, but only one appeared to be in use, each only one story with two classrooms. All of the students of the school are crammed into two classrooms and there is a husband and wife team who appears to do all the teaching, as well as run the school. There is no office, a basketball court and two bathrooms that were being cleaned by students when I arrived.

Everybody seemed very excited to see me. All of the students were staring as if they had an alien in their midsts. This is pretty common in Chiapas, as there aren't too many gringos living here.

I was surprised that Patricia Torres was both the woman "encargada" (in charge) and their teacher. It seems she has to constantly yell at the kids, but I suppose that's what happens when you have 45 students of various ages in one classroom.

She explained that each student has to pay a one time fee of 50 pesos per year - less than $5 US. This fee pays for the utilities and classroom materials.

I told her that I was interested in paying for the Morales children's fee for the year and I also wanted to give money to the school for necessary items. I explained there are several people in the United States that would like to help and in the near future I'd like to get together to discuss ways we could do so.

I had thought the fee was 50 pesos a month for each student, so I brought along 500 pesos that I thought would take the kids through November - it turns out that was more than enough. I gave the pesos to Patricia and when she said she'd get me change I told her to keep it and use it for the school. She was very gracious and thanked me several times.

I felt comfortable speaking with her and felt I could trust her. She didn't seem to be interested in taking advantage of me or the situation and I felt much better about everything afterwards.

As I was leaving, Patricia asked the students to thank me for coming and the whole class broke into applause. I held back tears and gave Pablo one last hug before heading out with Ana who gave me a brief tour of the basketball court and introduced me to the kids cleaning the bathroom. Everybody was so cute and sweet; I felt very proud that my friends and family were getting involved.

I'm hoping that with the fund that has been generously created and contributed to by many of you, we'll be able to provide necessary items for the school, as well as physical education equipment and other things that come up along the way.

My plan is to pay for the Morales students to continue their education through high school ("preparatoria" in Mexico). I'd like to find other students who need assistance and do the same for them.

My next step is to meet with Patricia to talk about things that I could buy and possibly volunteer activities at the school. My friend and colleague from school, Glenn, doesn't know yet, but I'm hoping he'll be interested in doing one of his famous science shows for the kids ( some afternoon.

I spoke with my director at school, Ms. Aurora, and she said we may be able to have a drive at the American School Foundation of Chiapas and donate items to the Escuela Primaria Manual Aguilar Juarez. I've also thought about have a 10k race with the students at ASFC and having them get sponsored for a certain amount of pesos per kilometer.

I believe we'll be able to make a difference in the lives of these kids.

The Beginning

Just a little story to make you count your blessings...

Heather, my roommate, and I befriended three siblings (last name: Madrid Morales) that come to our apartment on trash days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) to take out people's trash for pesos. I started talking to them one day and made Ana Cecilila and Pablo peanut butter sandwiches - they'd never had one before! Their brother Julio had hurt his leg, so he was at home and not out slinging trash to put food on the family table. I guess their dad used to beat them and their mom, so he's not living with them anymore.

From that point on, we were their friends and we found out that they didn't go to school because they couldn't afford the 50 pesos ($5 US) per
year that it costs. I told them my roommate and I would go to the school in their neighborhood and pay for the three of them to go. The oldest is a 12 year old girl who hasn't been to school since the first grade. Sad.

After meeting with their mom and talking about how to get the kids a birth certificate (in order to enroll), they stopped by today to tell us they went to school for the first time today (and to pick up trash as it's a Wednesday)! We're going to stop by their school to pay the tuition on Monday. Crazy that in some countries that's all it takes to educate a child and it's too much for many. We're also going to buy them a clean uniform, some black shoes and Pablo needs a mochila (backpack) - as he told us tonight, as his sister was elbowing him :) It's unbelievable to me that things like this go on in the world when for a mere $15, a kid can attend school for a makes me ashamed to have skipped school on those few occasions that I did!

I've attached a picture of the kids...okay, three pictures! Have a great week!

xoxo Shel

I emailed that letter to just a few friends and family members a couple of weeks ago and it opened the flood gates! My friend, Deb, emailed my mom to ask if there was a way she could get money to me to help these or other kids. She had spoken to Andy and Molly, other friends of mine who work with her at General Mills, and the three of them were interested in helping. When I sent the email, I had no idea it would have that affect.

My mom replied to all letting them know they could send her a check, if interested, and she'd deposit it in my account. Several of my friends and family members did so and the first check that arrived was for $200 US from my friends Aimee, Pete and Charley - truly unbelievable!

Although it hasn't been easy paying the school, I will get it done. Rafael, a very generous PE teacher, offered to drive me out to the school - and it's not close. The first time we attempted - Thursday, we reached the barrio "Las Granjas" and after asking a half dozen people where exactly it was and found that we would have to traverse an extremely steep and treacherous hill full of crevices and boulders!

Rafael picked me on Friday after school and I fortunately called the woman "encargada" (in charge) to make sure she would be there when we arrived. I introduced myself to Patricia Torres at the Manuel Aguilar Juarez Escuela Primaria, explained what I was trying to do and asked if she'd be available ahorita - now. Unfortunately, it had rained earlier that day and the afternoon session of classes was cancelled! I confirmed that she'd be around on Monday until 6:00 pm and hung up. We'll try again!