Overcoming shyness and forging ahead

Esme Mendez with JaquelinEsmeralda (right) with one of the tutors we are providing for her

Written by associate-in-training Johaly Flores

Esmeralda: despite the circumstances of her birth, she is a child who had been wanted and hoped for, ever since she was in the womb of her mother. Esme was born into a family that lives in extreme poverty –  an extended family of 16 people live in two small rooms made of concrete block – but a family full of love and tenderness. Her parents make a living by playing the accordion for tips in front of the Cathedral of Cuernavaca. Twice a week over the past few years, Malena and Sister Maggie have always stopped by to say hello and to put a few coins in the till. It wasn’t much, but it was much appreciated. Her mom said it helped pay for the expenses when Esme was born. There are always lots of expenses when a new baby comes along, and it is even harder when you live day to day as they do.

Malena and Sister Maggie just had one request: that when Esmeralda was older, she would attend the free after-school tutoring that the Cuernavaca Children’s Mission offers just a few steps from where her parents play the accordion. Our Franciscan associates are there year-round to tutor the children of the street vendors, and treat them to a healthy snack afterwards.

And so it was. At the age of five, Esme arrived at the little outdoor café where tutoring was offered. Unfortunately, her first experience was not very pleasant. Since she did not know anyone, she felt very shy and started crying. She clung to her mom and would not let her go. We decided she was not quite ready for tutoring. Six months later, we tried again. This time, Esmeralda was ready. She felt calm, secure, and motivated to learn. Now, at the age of six, she always has a smile in spite of her shyness. She loves to learn, and always has a thousand questions, always wanting to know WHY? She is a quick learner, and with a little help, we think she will do very well as she enters first grade this month. She has already learned the alphabet and is even beginning to read a little.

Congratulations, Esmeralda! We will do all we can to help you have a bright future ahead!

Esme Mendez tutoring

En español:

Esmeralda. Una niña que desde que estaba en el vientre de su madre ya se le conocia y se le esperaba. Los padres de esme tocan el acordeón frente a la catedral de cuernavaca y con lo recolectado es como sostienen a la familia que ahora ya esta conformada por 4 miembros. Malena y la hermana maggie cada martes y jueves le daban $10 pesos a la mamá de esme para ayudarla y aunque para algunos parece poco o algo insignificante para ella era de mucha ayuda, era como contribuir para el parto ya que no cuentan con el dinero suficiente para todos los gastos que conlleva el tener un bebé. La petición era que una vez que esme creciera la llevarán a “el cafecito” un lugar frente a la catedral donde se reunen los asociados franciscanos a dar clases y apoyo a los niños, y así fue, esme acudió un día y su experiencia no fue buena como no conocía a nadie se intimido, lloro y no quiso quedarse , se quería ir con su mamá paso algún tiempo y la mamá volvió a intentar la llevo y funcionó! Esme ya se sentía más tranquila y segura, ella estaba muy motivada y quería aprender. Esme una niña de 6 años un poco tímida pero siempre mostrando una sonrisa, sus ganas de estudiar y como cualquier niño con muchas dudas pero sobre todo con mil preguntas.. siempre preguntando ¿por qué? ¿para qué? ¿como? etc. y aunque aveces un poco distraída siempre termina sus ejercicios a tiempo. ahora se está preparando para entrar a la primaria y lo va hacer muy bien pues ya sabe la mayoría de letras y esta comenzando a leer.




Why am I so loved?

Juan Carlos

Introducing Juanito

Written by Franciscan associate Yolanda Rodriguez

I would like to write about a boy who has blessed me with his trust, friendship, and affection – Juanito. He is a quiet boy, very intelligent and observant, and very motivated to learn. He lives with his mother, brother, aunts, and grandmother. His grandma supports the family by walking the streets of Cuernavaca and selling seasonal items such as mosquito netting during the rainy season and poinsettias at Christmastime. His mother also helps by selling tortillas at a tortillería. Juanito’s father abandoned them all a while ago.

Juanito is now is first grade. He is very sweet and sometimes says to me, “Yola, why am I so loved?” I always answer, “Because you are a very smart and a very good boy. I too love you very much.”

We are grateful to our benefactors who are giving this sweet boy a chance to get an education and get ahead in life. May you always continue to know how loved you are, Juanito!

Juanito de cariño

Hablo de un niño que me he ganado su confianza, amistad, y su cariño hacia mí – Juanito. Un niño callado no habla mucho nada más observa a las personas, pero con muchas ganas de estudiar. Muy inteligente. Vive con su mamá, hermano, tías, y abuelita. Su abuelita sostiene la familia vendiendo pabellones, burbujas, flores, lo que puede ya que el papá de Juanito los abandonó. Son seis de familia y su mamá de Juanito apoya trabajando en una tortillería vendiendo para ayudar a su mamá, que se llama Silvina. Juanito va en primer año de primaria. Es muy tierno y me dice, Yola, ¿porque las personas me quieren mucho? Y yo le contesto que eres un niño muy inteligente y muy bueno, yo también te quiero mucho.

Headed for a future filled with hope


Written by Franciscan associate Ruth Bernal Hernandez

At ten years old, Cristal has already had to struggle in life. Her parents were very young when she was born, and they promptly abandoned her and divorced. Her father does have some contact with her now, but his new wife rejects Cristal completely. So he has entrusted the care of Cristal to his own parents.

Cristal’s grandfather was a construction worker until he was badly hurt in an accident at work. Grandma and Grandpa love Cristal dearly and do their best to provide for her, but it is not easy.  Thanks to Sister Maggie and the Cuernavaca Children’s Mission, Cristal now has a good support system surrounding her. She has become part of our Franciscan family. And despite being new to our program, she won second place in our most recent reading contest, reading a total of thirty books in six months. She is an intelligent girl with an A average in school; she likes to play soccer and play the flute; and her favorite activities are reading and watching documentaries. Her favorite subject in school is math, because, she says, it makes her think!

We thank God for Cristal’s sponsors and for all the good people who make our work possible. Your donations make it possible for our children to have a better quality of life and a brighter future.


Es una bendición contar bellas historias.

Cristal, es una niña, que ha luchado en la vida. a pesar de ser una niña abandonada por sus padres.

Sus papás unieron sus vidas muy jóvenes. de esa unión, nació Cristal, sus padres no eran compatibles, tenian muchas cosas en contra, por lo que decidieron separarse.

Ellos, decidieron rehacer su vida. por lo que Cristal, ahora tiene tres hermanos, por parte de su su mamá y uno por parte  de su papá.

El papá, se unió a una mujer que rechaza a cristal,

Por cuestiones de trabajo, su papá ha tenido que viajar a otros estados. dejando a la niña con sus papás y con la madrastra, ellos se hacen cargo de la niña

Cristal es muy inteligente, lleva buenas calificaciones, le gusta practicar el futbol y tocar la flauta. lo que mas le gusta hacer es leer. y ver documentales.

la materia que mas le agrada en la escuela, es matemáticas, porque dice que la hace pensar.

Gracias a la hermana Maggie, cristal ya no está sola, ahora es parte de esta maravillosa familia franciscana.

Dios bendiga a sus padrinos y a las personas que hacen posible esta bonita labor. por brindar sus donativos, para que niños como ella tengan una mejor calidad de vida.

Dios los bendiga.

Moving ahead despite all obstacles


Written by Franciscan associate Ruth Bernal Hernandez

Gabriela is fifteen and currently attends senior high school. She lives with her parents and her older sister and brothers. Despite the obstacles in her life, she has a great motivation to get an education and improve her life. Gabby’s Dad is very sick with kidney disease and has to undergo dialysis every day. Her mother is unable to work because of a herniated disc. Because of this, the older boys have had to drop out of school; they work to help the family.

Gaby is an excellent student with an A average. She wants to stay in school and attain a professional career, so that she can help her family. She is a great inspiration to me. She shows us that, if you set a goal, you can reach it, despite the weight of adversities that life places before us. She shows me that we can overcome any obstacle however large it may seem.

Gaby sends a big thank you to the Cuernavaca Children’s Mission, Sister Maggie, and her sponsors, for the great help they provide. And we send a big thank you to you, Gaby, for inspiring us! God bless you and help you attain your goals.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres


(1 Corinthians 13:7)

Written by Franciscan associate Silvia Hernandez and Sister Maggie

Angeles is nine years old and in the third grade. Her parents are emotionally incapable of taking care of her, so she lives with her grandma (pictured above) and grandpa. Even though the grandparents are very poor, they are committed to raising her. Her childhood has been rough so far. At the Cuernavaca Children’s Mission, we are giving her lots of love and attention, hoping that we can help break the cycle of poverty and abuse that her parents are caught in. Angeles comes to our children’s library regularly to read, play, and have a hot meal. We also provide free tutoring. Donations from her sponsors in the U.S. help pay for these services, as well as purchasing her school supplies and gifts for her birthday and Christmas. We are hopeful that all this attention and care will make a difference in her life and give her a brighter future. We love you, Angeles!


Sponsoring a child changes two lives

Timo with young Blanca

Tim first came to Cuernavaca from Minnesota many years ago to study Spanish. It was here that he first met Blanca, a five year old with a winning smile. They soon became fast friends. Tim returned to Cuernavaca many times after that first visit, and got to know Blanca and her family quite well.

Blanca’s father often picked fruit so that he could earn a little extra money for the family. In 2009, he was standing on the branch of a guava tree when the branch broke, and he fell to his death. From that time on, Tim became a second father to Blanca. When her school expenses became too much for the family to handle, Tim stepped in to help. With his assistance, she was able to pursue her dream of becoming a beautician. She recently obtained her degree from a school of cosmetology, and is now a certified beautician. Now her dream is to own her own beauty salon. Knowing Blanca, she won’t give up until she achieves her goals.

It was not only Blanca whose life was changed by their friendship. In the following reflection, Tim writes that befriending Blanca and her family has changed his life:

I had no inkling that my life would be intertwined with another on the day that I first met Blanca. I had recently put into practice a new way of living. My job was to show up – the rest was in God’s hands.

To help guide a child through the oft bumpy road into young adulthood is an honor and a privilege. Over the years we saw each other as much as time would allow me to be in Cuernavaca. During that time she lost her father in a tragic accident. I was one of many who filled that role in the ensuing years. When it came time to make an important decision concerning her future, I offered to finance whatever educational choice she wanted to do. Blanca recently completed her two-year beautician classes.

It is hard for me to put in to words the feelings I have had over these years, watching her grow into a young woman, and knowing that I played a part – the part God wanted me to play: show up and be of service.

“Show up and be of service” is exactly what Tim did. The Cuernavaca Children’s Mission is richly blessed to have friends like Tim.

Tim and Blanca 1

Mariana’s Story


Mariana Villada

By Franciscan associate Yolanda Rodriguez

Nine years ago, I met a beautiful three-year-old girl by the name of Mariana. She was a sad and quiet child, and very intelligent. Whenever she said something or asked for something, she always did so with kindness and respect. But I could tell she felt very alone in the world. I remember one day she asked me to show her how to draw.  Her family was very poor. Mariana had no paper, crayons, or coloring books. So I started helping her in whatever way I could. I would often give her magazines so she could look at the pictures.

The years passed, and I had the good fortune to start volunteering at our little children’s library, La Biblioteca San Francisco. We like to say that it is a little corner of peace for our children, a place where they can safely spend a few hours, get a good meal, read, and play educational games. I started bringing Mariana with me to the library, and she loved it!

Before long, I became a Franciscan associate, and I am now part of our Franciscan family in Cuernavaca, which has its motherhouse in Tiffin, Ohio. Over time we were able to find sponsors for Mariana so that she could have what she needed to do well in school. Her sponsors, a couple who live in Texas, fill an empty space that Mariana had in her heart. She considers them her family. It touches my heart to see Mariana decorating her latest letter to her sponsors. She is so much happier now. I can tell that she feels loved.

Mariana is about to graduate from primary school now and will go on to junior high. She has come a long way from the sad little girl I met so many years ago. May God bless all the sponsors and benefactors of our work, who bring so much happiness and hope to our children.

La historia de Mariana (versión en español)

Escrita por asociada Yolanda Rodriguez

Hace 9 años conocí a una hermosa niña de nombre Mariana, una niña triste y callada, muy inteligente. Cuando decía algo o pedía algo, siempre lo hacía con amabilidad y respeto. Me pedía que le ayudara a dibujar. Le prestaba revistas  y libros para colorear y escribir. Con el paso del tiempo tuve la suerte de conocer la Biblioteca San Francisco, un rincón de paz de las hermanas franciscanas, y ahora soy parte de la familia franciscana.

Gracias a sus padrinos en el programa Cuernavaca Children’s Mission, Mariana ha salido adelante. Ahora es una niña feliz porque sus padrinos llenan el vacío que había en su corazón. Le mandan cartas, regalos, y fotos. Mariana no conoció a su papá entonces está feliz de tener no sólo a su mamá y a su hermanito aquí sino también a unas personas en Texas que la quieren mucho. Ahora va a salir de sexto y entrar a la secundaria. Gracias a todo el apoyo que sus padrinos y la familia franciscana le han dado, ahora Mariana es una niña feliz. Que Dios los bendiga.