Hello Everyone -
So we are still here in Z town getting ready to leave the area on Tuesday to head north again back to Puerto Vallarta. We had decided to come down to Z town not only for the beach scene in the Shawshank Redemption but also for Sailfest. Chris and I thought what a great opportunity to help some of the kids in Mexico and for the kids to participate in a fun event but also to feel that they are helping some kids as well. We have heard numerous stories about this event and how it is the primary fund raiser for the poorer community here in Mexico. We wanted to especially help the kids. As you walk the street they are the cutest things and always give you the biggest smiles. So with that said it is hard to imagine that if they cant afford a uniform or what we would consider a very small fee they can't attend school past 6th grade or even at all. School is not mandatory and is very much a privilege for them. From what I understand school is subsidized by the Mexican Government but only until grade 6. After that the families are on there own to provide funds to send their kids to school. If they don't have the funds the kids don't go.
We had a great time with Sailfest. We participated in the Sailfest Race day. In this Chris got to race the house and all the boats in the bay around 20 of them took passengers with them and raced out around Roca Negra and Back. It is a quick race and most of the cruisers don't really race their boats because of the weight and lets just face it we build our boats for long distances not speed. Plus I think I have a complete aisle of Costco provisioning in the bildges of my boat. Anyway We got to take a few people out that participate in the Sailfest. They are tourists from the mainland, some Chicago and New York... then there are all the little activities that Sailfest offers and then the parade at the end where we took about 25 people on our boat and sailed/motored up to Ixtapa (about 10 miles) and back. Some of the people that were on our boat were able to come back with the circus so we had a blast with them again. So much fun seeing how relaxed and excited they were to be out on the water. Something we take for granted everyday... and sometimes even get annoyed with it. So it is nice to get reinspired and reminded how fortunate we are to be able to do this. Any Way we made a few really great friendships with this event and had a really great time. Don and Carol it has been a blast seeing you guys in town, going to dinner and listening to the Ipod you so generously donated to the family circus adventure... we will be playing the steel drums sound track on our way across to the Marquesas hopefully with a full sail and a full moon. Cheers!
Anyway back to Sailfest and Por Los Ninos...
One of the opportunities we had with Sailfest is to visit one of the schools that they helped to make better. So the Family Circus headed inland and went to school. All I can say is wow.. I can't believe how good we have it and how big our schools are. The school we visited had 9 classrooms (1st through 6th grade), an outdoor cafeteria (two picnic tables and a Costco folding table for the food) and one bathroom that was just installed. One toilet for the boys and two for the girls. The foundation, 2 years ago, had just paid to have the dirt floors replaced with Concrete. They only pay for supplies. The parents have to come and do all the labor. It is important for the parents to take ownership of the school. The foundation is based all on volunteers, parents and community. They can only afford to pay for the materials.... The kids come from the local neighborhood which is considered a middle class area. Only because they can afford cement houses. The kids living in wood houses are the really poor families. Most of the kids had uniforms. There were two different types the uniforms donated by the Mexican government and the newer uniforms that were donated to the school by another private school that closed its doors. The families can purchase the new uniforms or for a lower fee can purchase the Mexican Governemt uniforms. Uniforms aren't mandatory but the kids really want to wear them because if the child doesn't have a uniform it shows how really poor they are because they can't afford it. At the time we were there the Mexican government was suppose to send food rations to help the lunch program for the kids. This school hadn't received their shipment for over a month so the parents were making a ton of rice and beans to feed the kids during lunch everyday... talk about arranging volunteers for lunch time!
Any way the kids were shown around the school and I could see them processing what they were looking at. One small basketball court in the middle that looked pretty new as well and then the 9 classroom surrounding it. They went to look into the classrooms and typically each classroom is decorated the same way. There is a white board in front... some desks for the kids, and one small bookshelf 1/4 of the way filled. Bars on the windows, no glass with homemade curtains blowing in the wind. Some art work on the walls from construction paper the kids made and that is it.... The boundry of the school has a fence built around it from chain link fencing and posts from bushes/trees they have cleared around the property. A lot of the parents were just sitting on the outside of the fence waiting for the kids to be finished and watching with younger children playing in the dirt ruts surrounding the property. Once inside all you could see were the smiles of all the children and how much fun they were having. At this point I couldn't tell you how frustrated I felt because of my lack of Spanish. They all wanted to talk and play with the kids. Chris picked up a little Soccer with the kids and Amaia and Alina played some hopscotch and Alina was tickled and touched by so many little kids playing with her hair. They loved taking pictures with us and posing for the cameras. I think it probably impacted me more than the kids but we all sure came away from there thinking of our friends back home, the schools and how fortunate we are and how much we take for granted.
I usually don't ask for donations and never really thought I would in my Blog... but am really touched by this organization and the kids and just felt it was right to bring attention to it. I am really hoping to bring awareness to this program and if there is anyway to donate a small amount... it is crazy how far the funds go down here and how much they can accomplish for the kids. I have attached some links at the bottom to Por Los Ninos foundation for you to look at if you have a chance... Any little bit helps a great deal!
Here are some of the pictures from the day:
SailFest is a six-day festival that combines fun and games, heart-felt volunteerism and an outpouring of international friendship. Although the tone of the event is light-hearted, the cruisers’ goals are serious – to raise funds for the education of Zihuatanejo’s poorest children. In the true spirit of a "rendezvous", vessels begin arriving in November from as far away as Alaska and the Caribbean and drop anchor until February to participate in what is becoming one of Mexico's premier sailing events, the Zihua SailFest. Cocktail parties, benefit concerts, live & silent acutions, sailboat raoces, kids beach day, seminars, chili cook-off, street fairs, regattas, school tours and work parties at the schools are just some of the events that highlight this gathering of "free spirits".