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.

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.]


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


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.


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.