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.

UN NUEVO MUNDO PARA IRINEO

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.

Watching our children grow: the story of Esmeralda

Esme jovenEsmeralda, age seven

Written by Franciscan associate Viridiana Quiroz Rogell

(Versión en español abajo)

Esmeralda was seven years old when we met her. She and her mother were living in one small room, made of unpainted concrete blocks, and no windows. The two of them survived day by day by making and selling earrings, necklaces, and bracelets to passersby outside the cathedral of Cuernavaca. We began working with Esme when we found out that her average was so low that she was in danger of failing first grade. She was unable to read and did not know the alphabet.

Her mother could not help since she herself had not attended school and could not read or write. So, we began to do what we could to try and help her pass first grade. I began giving her a little tutoring class every weekday after school in front of the cathedral, while her mother sold jewelry nearby. There on a little bench under a tree is how Esmeralda started to learn the basics of grammar.

It was very difficult to cover the whole of first grade in the few remaining months of the school year, and especially to teach Esme to read and write. But towards the end of three months of tutoring, the principal gave us the good news that she had improved remarkably, and was reading and writing well. And so it was that day by day Esme expanded the horizons of her education.

Esmeralda is now fourteen years old. Last year, because she had the highest grade average in her class, she was given the honor of carrying the flag during the closing ceremonies of the school year. She regularly receives awards for high achievement. From being a shy girl who could not even speak or look into your eyes, she now participates in plays, concerts, and traditional and modern dances. She is now in ninth grade, studying dressmaking alongside the traditional academic subjects, and is getting all A’s.  She dreams of being a doctor, a nurse, or a great chef.

Esme will soon be graduating from junior high, and is researching her options for senior high. She has been with us for seven years so far, and knows that she can ask us for help when she needs it, like the time when her Mom was very ill. And she feels free to talk to us about her problems and concerns of adolescence.

All this has been possible because of her sponsor back in the U.S. Claire has been supportive of Esme at every step, at every turn. We have all become family. What a blessing this has been to all involved!

Esme ahoraEsmeralda today

[Read more about Esme and her Mom in our blog of March 17, 2010, entitled “The Gift of Sight.]

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL

Esmeralda era una niña pequeña de 7 años, quien vive sola con su mamá y venden a las afueras de la catedral de Cuernavaca, de un puesto muy modesto. Cuando la conocí tenía apenas 7 años, recibimos noticias de su escuela que su promedio era bajo, que a pesar de que la mayoría de sus compañeros ya sabían leer y escribir pero ella aun no, y la mala noticia era que Esmeralda no podría pasar el año en esas condiciones, y que su mamá no podía ayudarla pues su educación era muy limitada.

Buscamos algún modo para ofrecerle ayuda a esmeralda y rescatarla de esa pérdida de año, y fue así como me acerqué a darle unas pequeñas tutorías de 5 a 6 pm en catedral frente a donde su mamá se ponía a vender. Fue muy difícil lograr en alrededor de tres meses que Esmeralda supiera leer y escribir, pero allí en una banquita bajo un árbol es como ella empezó a aprender las cosas básicas de la gramática. Alrededor de esos tres meses de tutorías su directora nos dio la buena noticia de que Esmeralda había mejorado extrañamente, que ella ya sabía las letras y podía escribirlas. Fue así como día a día Esmeralda fue abriendo sus horizontes hacia la educación.

Esmeralda tiene ahora catorce años cumplidos en julio. Ella ha participado en la escolta siendo abanderada, nos ha entregado reconocimientos de honor por ser de las mejores estudiantes cada año, y de ser una niña tímida que ni siquiera podía hablar ni mirar a los ojos ahora ha participado en obras de teatro, recitales y bailables típicos y modernos, ahora ella estudia la secundaria el tercer grado, en taller de confección, igualmente siendo abanderada con promedios de 9 o 10. Su mayor sueño es ser doctora, enfermera o una gran chef.

Está a punto de graduarse de secundaria y aun en cuadro de honor, e investigando una escuela preparatoria apta para ella. Hasta ahora ella lleva siete años con nosotros, nos pregunta que hacer cuando lo necesita, nos platica sus problemas y dudas de la adolescencia, y sabe que siempre estamos ahí para ayudarla y escucharla.

Todo esto ha sido posible gracias al apoyo de su madrina. Claire ha estado allí a cada paso, a cada vuelta de la vida de Esme. Ya somos familia todas. Y todas nos sentimos bendecidas.

A seemingly impossible dream

Daniela in uniform

A SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLY DREAM

Written by Franciscan associate Malena Rogel Rubi

(La misma historia aparece abajo en español)

When I met Daniela, she was a very creative, shy girl, the daughter of an elderly couple. Her father works at the market unloading fresh fruit and vegetables from trucks. He is diabetic and has various other health problems which limit his ability to work. Her mother is also advanced in age. For years she sold quesadillas to her neighbors from a small grill just outside their home in the roughest neighborhood in Cuernavaca. The family struggled to make ends meet, struggled to survive day by day. In those circumstances Daniela could hardly afford to dream to be a great professional. We talked a lot about her dreams, though, and how she might achieve her goals. We all believed that, if we put ourselves in the hands of God, everything is possible.

At that time I was much struck by her creativity and her outstanding grades in school. However, after graduating senior high, she went to work in the market, selling clothes, earning $60 for a 72 hour week. We ran into her there one day and asked why she had not gone on to college. She replied that she didn’t think it was possible given her financial situation. Her dream, though, was to become a physical therapist. Subsequently we made a visit to the university together and inquired about the costs. And thanks to her incredibly generous sponsor, we were able to enroll Daniela in the university that fall, with a major in physical therapy.

She continued to earn excellent grades, and even though her friends were dropping out or failing, she persevered. At the end of two years, she received her Associates’ Degree. At that point she confided in us that her dream was to go on for a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy. Again, we talked with her sponsor, who immediately agreed to cover the costs. Daniela is now in her fourth year of college and well on her way to realizing her dream.

UN SUEÑO POSIBLE

Cuando conocí a Daniela, era una chica tímida, muy creativa, hija de un matrimonio mayor, el padre trabaja en el mercado bajando la mercancía de los camiones que subastan a los comerciantes del mercado, enfermo de diabetes y con los múltiples achaques por la avanzada edad, su madre con problemas en sus piernas y al igual que su esposo con muchos problemas de salud, ama de casa, viven en extrema pobreza, trabajando  y luchando para sobrevivir el día a día, en esas circunstancias difícilmente podía darse el lujo de soñar con ser una gran profesionista, pues no cuenta con el apoyo económico de sus padres, hablamos mucho sobre soñar con realizar nuestras metas y que si nos ponemos en las manos de Dios todo es posible.

En ese entonces me llamó mucho la atención su creatividad,  sus dibujos, una chica muy inteligente,  con muy buenas notas, que teníamos que motivar y apoyar para salir adelante,  no solo económicamente si no también impulsándola con cariño, tiempo y dedicación para enseñarla a realizar sus sueños.

Cuando salió de la preparatoria ella se acercó a mí para preguntarme dónde podía estudiar pues su deseo era estudiar un curso para dar masajes, pero mi pensamiento era de que ella tenía capacidad para hacer algo más, no solo ser masajista, platique con ella y fuimos a la Universidad para solicitar información sobre una carrera técnica, sobre Terapia Física, los resultados fueron fantásticos , terminó con muy buenas notas, pero ella tenía el deseo de continuar a nivel licenciatura, gracias a su empeño y dedicación, actualmente cursa el 2º. Semestre de terapia física a nivel licenciatura. Gracias al apoyo de su Madrina que merece toda mi admiración y respeto.

The value of individual attention

Judith Yola

A few weeks ago we started working with seven-year-old Judith. We were concerned because she was about to enter first grade without having attended kindergarten. Judith was not even familiar with the letters of the alphabet. With classes as large as sixty children and no aides, public school teachers are often unable to give students the individual attention they need. Thankfully, Judith is advancing rapidly in the free tutoring classes we offer two evenings a week. She now forms her letters easily and is gaining confidence in her abilities. Thanks to Yolanda (pictured above) and our other dedicated tutors, these children have a better chance at doing well in school. We are grateful to our benefactors and sponsors who make our work possible.

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Sponsor a child, change a life

Sponsor a child, change a life

Ingrid Lupita with Sister Maggie, Director of Cuernavaca Children’s Mission

Ingrid Lupita will be entering kindergarten this month. Thanks to her sponsors in the U.S., she has a great future ahead of her. We are grateful to all those who sponsor these children and give them a chance for a brighter future. For information on how to support our work, click above on “How to help.”

Leer es poder!

“Leer es poder.” Reading is power. By opening a small children’s library within walking distance of downtown Cuernavaca, we hope to instill a love of reading in the children we work with. Most of these children have never owned a book other than their textbooks. To read a book for pleasure is a totally new experience for them.

Our librarian (Franciscan associate Rutila) keeps the library well organized and always ready for our next visitors to drop in.

This morning Irene and Rubi stopped by for their first visit. After spending half the day with us, it was time for them to go. I asked them if they would like to return. “Can we come every day?” asked Rubi. “Can we live here?” added Irene. Their first trip to the library was a resounding success.

It is only thanks to our benefactors that our dream of a children’s library has become a reality.