Four teachers, in separate meetings, told us that the number one challenge they face is hunger. "The children are too hungry to concentrate". "Some children faint during class." "If you really want to help at school, feed these kids".
We learned that teachers were already helping to feed the children, but were overwhelmed. So we began by feeding 40 children. That was all we could afford at the time. People criticized that effort because the school where we fed those 40-children had a one-thousand students. Our response was that we do what we can do right-now and let God do the rest. Sure enough more people joined us and we were able to feed all of the 1,000 children at that school. We built a cafeteria, complete with stove, refrigerators, cooking utensils, pots, pans, tables chairs and everything needed to run a cafeteria. Eventually, the state offered us discount ingredients and trained volunteer cooks. Plenty of parents volunteered their time. Then we met Michelle!
Michelle came from Pennsylvania to walk the colonias. She made no mention of support. Instead, she immersed herself in the colonias. Her mother and other family members also came. After seeing what was happening in Paper Houses Across the Border, Michelle paid for the construction of two more cafeterias and supported this program. By the way, today we feed thousands of children every school day and can use your support. For $5 a month you can feed a child at school - every single day!
Their new board of directors are 'hands on' and invest their own money, time and energy into the best nursing home in this city. It would not surprise us if this were the best nursing home in the entire state.
Some of the residents were living on the street. Many were simply forgotten. Today they are loved, cared for and receive shelter, food, clothes, medical care and frequent visitors
The roof, walls (interior and exterior), ceiling, windows and plumbing is new. Medical staff is on the site 24/7. Volunteer student nurses, high school volunteers, and people from the local community all do their part. We've seen local performers, live radio broadcasts and even Santa visit these wonderful people.
This is one of the places that will accept in-kind donations of wheel-chairs, walker, blankets and they are in constant need of adult diapers. Email us for details!
We provided monthly support to help with operating costs and repairs.
When a single-mom cannot return from work until after dark, who can watch over her children? Many would be at home, alone. With all of the things happening in the colonias of Mexico, not to mention the sudden storms and danger of fire, the After-School Program is a blessing.
It is difficult to measure what does not happen and it is difficult to put a value on safety. However, we know that preschool, kindergarten and first and second grade children are safe at this program!
The program is on school property. The children are watched over by teachers. They receive extra help with schoolwork, hot meals, and plenty of attention.
Like everything that we support, we make frequent visits and are always pleased with what we see. Children are eating, dancing, coloring, drawing and playing. Teachers seem to hover over their charges and seem to always be smiling.
We've even witnessed a uniformed city police officer leading the kids in a dance! The mayor's wife is also a frequent visitor and has been found playing and dancing with the children!
The school year runs from August to the 2nd week of July. Classrooms do not have heating or air-conditioning. Teachers and students wear winter coats, sweaters and hats on cold days!
Try keeping a school clean on $2 a month! That is often what is allowed for cleaning materials. Broken windows and broken commodes are common. There is no money for repairs. Sometimes, there is no water.
It is easy to blame the government or to live in 'the land of should' - where people talk about what should be instead of rolling up their sleeves.
Parents contribute an entire week's worth of their pay over the course of the school year to help. Teachers help. And WE help!
Did you ever wonder how it seems to work out so perfectly? We are lucky. We turn off our cell phones and act in good faith. For example, a lady named Mary Ann learned that boxes of Spanish math-books were being replaced in Houston and that boxes of the old unused books were being trashed. She took them with us to the colonias.
Normally, just like bringing items for charity into the USA, Mexico taxes these items. However, the people at the border said, "The law is made to serve the people. The people are not slaves to the law. Take it through without a charge."
We were a little hesitant at the school. Could they use the books? The school director smiled and led us to a classroom. Here, the children were each sharing a math book - the same books we had in our truck! The exact same book was already being used and there were so few that the children could only share the book and not take them home!
This type of thing happens in schools, at the shelters, at the cafeterias, and simply everywhere. Maybe it happens back home, but we are too busy with cell phones, Face-book and twitter to notice. I am only sure that when we immediately act in faith, it will work out great.
Imagine having two children and earning only $60 per week. After expenses (rent, water, electricity, etc.) you have $6 to buy this week's groceries. One of your children needs chemotherapy. The cost of the bus tickets to the cancer hospitals in Monterrey is $300.
Often, the state health insurance covers the cost of chemotherapy or the cost is only $50. But getting to and from the nearest hospital where the chemotherapy is administered is $300. Some parents know their child is dying and that there is nothing they can do about it.
Walking door-to-door, visiting the 'poor people's hospital'. and talking with teachers is often how we find children with real medical needs. It helps to understand how the insurance covers (or does not cover) medical treatments.
Mexico has universal health insurance, but all people are not protected equally. The amount of coverage is based upon your income. The higher the income, the better the insurance.
Many of the poor are uneducated and because of their 'station' in life, they seldom question doctors. The poorest must go to the hospitals that serve the poor. Doctors are not on-duty 24/7. Emergencies are handled by nurses. There are only two ambulances in Acuna and they do not transfer patients from hospital to hospital. We helped two trauma victims at the public hospital in Acuna, where there is not even a CAT scan available. We agreed to pay for a CAT scan at the nearby private hospital and were stunned when the nurse started asking other staff members if they had a pick-up truck to move these people with serious head injuries.
Many types of surgery and medicines are not available to the poor. Because doctors know that they cannot afford these drugs, the doctors seldom tell patients that these expensive drugs exist. Instead, they prescribe pain medications that do nothing to fight the infections or other problems. We know of one case where the infection became so bad that the doctors spoke to the family about amputating a child's foot. (Amputation was covered. Medicine to fight the infection and prevent the need for amputation was not covered). We stepped in and saved that child's foot.
Our belief is that we help when we can help. While some things, like dialysis are covered at the poor people's hospital, others are not and there is no point in casting blame. A child needs help and we help.
Some levels of insurance cover the cost of chemotherapy. However, there is no hospital in Acuna (and many other places) that offers chemotherapy. The round trip bus tickets to the cancer hospitals in Monterrey cost $300 (five times the weekly take home pay of many people). We have a deal with the bus company for half-price tickets and we buy the tickets.
We help with cancer treatments, surgeries,hearing aids, eye glasses, and a host of other medical treatments that otherwise would be unavailable to these families. We change lives and affect future generations. Click here to see more photos of medical help.
Many poor families try very hard to survive, but they often need help. Many of the wealthy try very hard to enjoy life, but we often need a little help. A walk along the poor streets of the colonias provides opportunities for all of us to find the help that we all need.
Walking door-to-door and simply visiting these families provides a great deal of help for us. Sometimes, we can also help the poor.
Often, we bring food as gifts for the families. Groceries are the most common gift, but sometimes we have small dolls or toy cars for the children. In the winter, we bring warm socks, mittens, woolen caps and blankets.
Seeing how the families find their own happiness helps us to better understand what is really needed for happiness. It cannot be found in the endless quest for things.
A shared cup of coffee of a plate of beans is a wonderful experience with these people who have so little.
Walking door-to-door is our most important 'program' because it defines and shapes us. It is the difference between helping the poor and being with the poor. It is about real understanding and listening to the poor. It is about learning from the poor and learning about life and learning about ourselves.