Day two of school supply distribution brought more long lines of families needing help to send their children to school. It’s easy to see why school supplies are cost-prohibitive for some families. Purchasing just one set of the materials required by schools could easily cost $500 pesos—more than a typical week’s salary for a laborer.
Community leaders such as church pastors recommend names of families with financial need to Friends of Cozumel. After being checked in on the list of selected families, students picked our their “mochila” or backpack, choosing from a variety of action characters, sparkling Barbie and animal themes, to the more basic ones favored by older students. Then volunteers packed the mochila with the specific supplies required for the student’s grade level: pens, pencils, erasers, markers, glue, scissors, spiral bound notebooks, loose leaf paper, two-pocket folders, ruler, protractor, calculator and Spanish/English dictionary.
The students were proud of their new backpacks and each said thank you in their own way—sometimes a shy smile, or a whispered “gracias.”
“Here’s what I’m excited about,” said Larry, one of the Friends of Cozumel leaders. “In the past, about 65% of what we distributed went to children in the primary grades. But now 65% is going to students in secondary and higher grades. More kids are continuing their education. That’s exactly what we hoped to see happen.”
In the past, Mexican law required parents to send their children to school only until grade six. But in 2012, regulations were changed, making education compulsory through high school. Some say the requirement is rarely enforced on the island and many children drop out of school for financial reasons.
If you’d like to help, now is the time to find sales on school supplies, especially in U.S. stores. Bring donations to the island yourself for a wonderful tropical experience, or find someone else who might be visiting Cozumel for a vacation. FOC volunteers will be happy to help you connect with a drop-off point.
Friends of Cozumel hopes to support the education of around 500 children this year and so far, we’ve served 233 children in two of our five days of distribution. Thanks to our generous donors, each child received a backpack of opportunity, ~ Phyllis from Nebraska