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.

Connecting with adolescents


Written by Sister Maggie and Associate Margarita Castro

At the tiny park just outside our children’s library, we offer a weekly workshop for teens and their parents on Saturday mornings. As the lines of communication are opened, it has proved to be an enriching time for parents and teens alike. Franciscan associate Francisco, who is a psychologist, facilitates these gatherings. He is assisted by associates Margarita and Juanito.

During one of these meetings, Francisco asked the group, “Why are you here?” Here are a few of their responses:

“We’re here because we feel like this has become our family. We feel happy and free with each other.”

“We have lots of problems at home, but when we come here, we can forget our problems. In this workshop we always play and laugh and simply spend time with one another.”

“I love coming to the children’s library because I love reading, but I have no books at home. Here I can read as much as I want, and it doesn’t cost a thing.”

Thanks to our benefactors and partners in mission, who make it possible for us to provide opportunities such as these.


Setting sail for a brighter future

Jorge off to school


Written by Franciscan associate Francisco Nava Garcia

I met Jorge one Saturday morning when I was a new volunteer at our children’s library. I still remember my first glimpse of him: a timid little boy in the corner of the room, silent, his skin the color of the earth. Perhaps all he needed was a little attention in order to bloom.

Jorge is from a family of four women, including his one-year-old niece. He is the only male. The members of the family have noble aspirations which, unfortunately, they do not follow through on. Jorge was experiencing severe neglect. His family environment was putting his future in jeopardy. It looked to me like he was at risk for dropping out of elementary school and subsequently falling into some type of addiction or criminal behavior if nothing was done to correct his course.

We started thinking that getting him into a healthier environment could make a huge difference in his life and his future. Near my home, about two hours from Cuernavaca, there is a YMCA home for children known as Camp Camohmila. It is a place where children from backgrounds of poverty and neglect are given a new start in life. We began to talk with Jorge and his family about the possibilities this would offer him.

I remember the day we first mentioned the idea to Jorge. We made a paper boat together, and made a deal: we would launch the boat in the little stream near Camohmila on his first visit to their campus. Imagine my surprise when he arrived the day of his visit with that little boat in his pocket. He put it into the water, and together we watched it sail away in the current.

With the consent of his mother and under the blanket of care of our Franciscan family, Jorge was accepted at Camohmila and began his new life. Even his two big sisters gave their approval. The image of his face when we left him there for the first time is engraved in my mind. He was determined not to cry as he began a new life in a new home, with people he did not know. Although they were there to give him unconditional support and love, he had no idea what his future would hold.

A year and a half later, Jorge is blossoming. We are catching glimpses of a new Jorge: a boy with a promising future and a generous heart, a boy who is well on his way to becoming a responsible adult and a loving person. And he promises to remember where he came from and always lend a hand to his family.

Francisco Nava Garcia, Franciscan associate


A Jorge lo conocí un sábado en el que apenas estaba iniciando a asistir como voluntario.  Tengo la imagen de un niño en un rincón, un chiquito taciturno de color de piel como la tierra, a  la que sólo le hace falta  ser removida y rociada un poco para así poder dar fruto.

Un poco de su historia…

Es miembro de una familia de 4 mujeres (incluyendo a su sobrina de casi un año de edad), siendo él el único hijo varón.  Sus miembros son de nobles sentimientos pero van a la deriva y eso es lo que a Jorge lo pone en un riesgo fuerte. Riesgo de, no terminar más que su educación primaria, de caer en algún vicio y parar su  camino para llevarlo a ser un hombre de bien.

Viviendo a dos horas de camino, pensamos en que sería una manera de rescatarlo de ese casi inminente destino, trayéndolo al Campamento. Llega a Camohmila cobijado por la familia franciscana, con el consentimiento firme de su mamá, apoyada por sus hijas. La ocasión en que le comenté la idea que teníamos, recuerdo que hacíamos un barco de papel y nuestro trato de que lo echaríamos a un riachuelo cuando el visitara el lugar del que le hablamos. Cuál fue mi sorpresa que  el niño traía en su pequeño bolsillo ese barquito confeccionado aquél día y juntos lo vimos deslizarse por esa pequeña corriente de agua.

Tengo grabada la imagen de su rostro el día que se iba a quedar por primera vez en la instalaciones…  vi la confianza en él de no llorar al vernos partir y quedarse con unas personas desconocidas que, aunque estaban por brindarle un apoyo incondicional, él no sabía bien a bien que le deparaba.

Ya con año y medio de haber ingresado al programa de becarios de la YMCA,  en Jorge se puede  vislumbrar  como un chico con un futuro prometedor  y no puede disimilar, a su corta edad, la generosidad que posee.

Jorge Daniel Villegas Tetatzin es el nombre de futuro adolescente, joven, adulto responsable,  y amoroso que promete voltear hacia atrás y tender la mano a los suyos.

How to make a difference in a child’s life

Nancy Saro and Juan Manuel

Sponsor Nancy Saro from Michigan, with sponsored child Juan Manuel

I want to take the opportunity to tell a little about an amazing trip I took last month to Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. Cuernavaca is not one of the resort areas in Mexico. It is a city about an hour outside of Mexico City that you don’t often hear about.

I went to meet, for the first time, a wonderful young man that I sponsor. His name is Juan Manuel. I’ve been sponsoring Juan over the last few years through the Cuernavaca Children’s Mission. This mission exists due to the hard work and dedication of Sister Maggie, a Franciscan sister from Tiffin, Ohio, and some lovely dedicated ladies that help her (along with a couple very dedicated men, also). Their mission is simple, to end the cycle of poverty through education.

The poverty in this area is very real. Many children must be pulled from school to work or sell trinkets on the street in order to put very little food on the table. There are some very sad things that are the result of this extreme poverty which I will not go into.

The mission’s goal is very simple. Sponsoring a child enables the child to finish their education, therefore making them employable, and hopefully breaking the cycle of poverty.

My sister Carol was with me and also sponsors a child. Our time with these kids, their siblings, parents, and the wonderful people that dedicate their time to this worthy cause was truly a Christmas blessing for me.

If any of you are looking for a worthy cause to support, I encourage you to take a look at this mission. I can assure you that sponsoring a child will be one of the most rewarding things you can do. If you cannot sponsor a child, consider a one-time donation. What you spend on a coffee at Starbucks is more than these families make in a day. This charity is real and legitimate. I’ve been with those that run it.

Thank you, Hermana Maggie, for a very wonderful and rewarding vacation!

[Note: The actual cost of the services the Cuernavaca Children’s Mission provides for each child is approximately $1,000/year. A child may be sponsored for an annual donation of $300 or more. Details are under “How to help.”]

Written by sponsor Nancy Saro, Michigan.


Feliz Navidad


A few years ago I asked one of our children what she had for Christmas dinner.  “After working all day and not selling any of our crafts, all we had at the end of the day was 20 pesos,” she said. “So, when we got home, we bought a few tortillas and ate them with a little bit of cheese.” Twenty pesos…less than two dollars. Ever since that day, I have vowed to do all I can so our families do not go hungry on Christmas. Want to help? Click on “How to help” above. Together we can bring smiles to the faces of our children…especially on Christmas! – Sister Maggie

A new world for Irineo

Irineo smiling by fountain

Written by Margarita Castro, associate

(Versión original en español abajo)

I have been a Franciscan associate and member of our team for about a year now. During that time I have seen lots of instances in which our children have been helped, guided, and loved, and I feel blessed to be a part of something so beautiful. But one story in particular not only touched me, but changed my life: my way of looking at things, my way of giving thanks to God for all that is given me each day.

It began the day I accompanied my Franciscan sister Malena on a visit to Irineo’s home. Ten-year-old Irineo is one of the children in our Sponsor-a-Child program. My first impression was how far away from Cuernavaca they live! We drove a long time before we arrived at the nursery in the middle of nowhere, where Irineo’s father works as a gardener. There we parked the car, walked down a hill, and crossed a little stream on the rickety board that stretched across it. To my dismay I saw a shack in very poor condition. This was home for Irineo, his parents, and his older brother and sister, Panchito and Karina. I was saddened to see the poverty in which they lived. But what impacted me even more was meeting Panchito and Karina, ages twelve and thirteen, both of whom are bedridden. According to Irineo’s mother, they had not received enough oxygen during birth, and have severe brain damage, in a condition perhaps only slightly better than what we would call a vegetative state.

I cannot describe what I felt in that moment. My heart broke in two, and at the same time my admiration grew for Irineo’s mother Rosa, who singlehandedly cares for Panchito and Karina with love, affection, and patience, while giving Irineo the care he needs also. When I returned home and reflected on what I had seen, I could barely believe the situation: a home with a dirt floor, no running water, and two severely handicapped children who needed constant care. It did not seem real. I prayed for the family every day after that. I especially prayed for Irineo. Rosa had shared with us that he seemed depressed and no longer wanted to attend school.

One day it occurred to me that perhaps Irineo could attend Camomilha,the YMCA residential camp in the nearby town of Tepoztlan. Camomilha provides room and board for children like Irineo, who come from backgrounds of extreme poverty. They also see to it that the children attend public school in town, and help them with their homework when they get home. Irineo has the right to be happy, I thought; to have a change in his life that would reveal to him another side of life, so that he would see that life is not only pain and suffering. I mentioned my idea to Sister Maggie and Malena, and we all got to work, trying to make it happen. It was not easy, but we did it!  One of the obstacles was the cost involved: almost seven times the normal cost of sponsoring a child. But a wonderful man from Canada overheard us talking, and made an online donation that very day to cover the extra cost for an entire year. Added to the donations his regular sponsor sent, we had enough to send Irineo on his way.

And now it is with great satisfaction that I see Irineo’s face filled with happiness. His joy is evident in the photo above, taken on his first day at Camomilha. I pray that God will continue to guide him, so that someday he will grow into a good man for both himself and his family.


A  casi un año de pertenecer como Asociada Activa, en Cuernavaca Children’s Mission, he visto muchas historia de muchos pequeños, a los cuales se les guía, se les da apoyo, se les da amor algo muy hermoso sin lugar a dudas.

Ahora quiero compartir una historia que cambio mi vida, mi manera de ver las cosas, mi manera de la valorar todo lo que tengo, mi manera de darle Gracias a Dios por todo lo que me da dia a dia.

Un dia acompañe a mi hermana Malena a una visita a la casa de Irineo, un chico al que se le brinda apoyo con una beca, mi primera impresión fue: Que lejos vive, tomando en cuenta que yo vivo en la centro de Cuernavaca, para mi todo es lejos, después de manejar por un buen rato llegamos a un invernadero y estacionamos el coche, de ahí caminamos cruzamos un apancle y mi sorpresa fue ver un casa de carton  muy destruida y ahí estaba la casa de Irineo eso fue muy triste, pero realmente lo impactante fue cuando conoci a sus dos hermanos de 12 y 13 años totalmente en estado vegetal, en ese momento no puedo describir lo que sentí, mi corazón se partió de dolor y de admiración al ver a Rosa ( la madre) con cuanto amor, cariño y paciencia trata a sus dos hijos sin dejar de lado a Irineo.

Cuando regrese a casa no podía creer lo que acababa de presenciar fue algo que en un momento pensé que era un sueño, y le pedi mucho a Dios por esa familia, y un dia se me ocurrió que Irineo podía ir a Camomilha, el tiene todo el derecho de un cambio de vida, de ser feliz, de conocer otro aspecto de la vida no solo el del dolor y el sufrimiento, y fue asi que lo comente con la Hermana Maggie y con Malena y ellas aceptaron mi propuesta y pusieron manos a la obra,  trabajaron muy duro pero lo lograron.

Ahora con gran satisfacción puedo ver una cara feliz. la de Irineo, mucho le pido a Dios que lo ilumine y siga adelante con este tesoro que tiene en sus manos, que no nos defraude y que llegue hacer un hombre de bien para el y para su familia.