Author Archives: pedersenll

Cozumel Covid Update

Covid cases are spiking here similar to many other locations.  We remain in “orange” status with enforced limitations to reduce covid exposure to local families and visitors.   Examples of precautions now in place:  Everyone (including tourists) over the age of 2 are expected to wear masks indoors and outdoors except when exercising and eating/drinking.  Only one adult family member may enter supermarkets.  Organizations/businesses are limited to 30-50% of capacity depending on the type of business or organization. 

Vaccines are being administered in a number of public places by age group but the long lines have discouraged many from getting vaccines.  People age 60+ have had the opportunity to receive both vaccine doses.  Younger age groups are anxiously waiting for the second dose.

Good news . . . we see modest signs of economic recovery including:  increased number of visitors coming on flights for vacations, packed ferries bringing tourists for day trips from the mainland, limited number of cruise ships returning, etc.  More restaurants are reopening a reduced number of hours or for takeout.  Some shops close to the cruise ship ports are now open as well as some hotels.   A few tour operators and selected other jobs are being hired but less skilled workers (the majority of the families we support) are still without work.  The double edge sword is more visitors coming to the island = increased exposure especially from those who may not comply with local expectations to wear masks, etc. 

Friends of Cozumel continues to provide:

Grandmother and grandaughter with their despensa
  • Despensas (dry goods pantries) to 110 families monthly; 1,500 despensas since 4/2020
  • Expenses for Vida Abundante Church’s community kitchen for meals Mon., Wed. and Fri. for 200 families/650 family members; 40,000 meals served since 4/2020
  • Financial help for prescription medications with documentation from their doctor
  • Baby formula and ecological diaper kits for families with babies under age 2, and
  • Drinking water purification systems; delivered to 100 families since 4/2020

The weekly Community Closet has been temporarily suspended until we believe it is safe to open and maintain safe distance.  When we reopen, a reduced number of families (5 at a time) will be invited to come and receive credit to select clothing, hygiene and home goods. 

Friends of Cozumel is extremely blessed for the continued support of donors and volunteers. You are the ones that make all this possible.  Thank you . . . Larry & Karen Pedersen

In Loving Memory . . Kristin Kay Bowen Jan 24, 1963–Jun 8, 2021

Kristin Bowen

Kristin was an avid Friends of Cozumel volunteer and advocate for serving families in need.  If you would like to help continue Kristin’s life of service, donations may be made to Friends of Cozumel, one of the memorial options designated by her family.  A scholarship fund has been established in her honor to be awarded to students studying in medical, health or marine related careers.  Or donors may designate their gift for “Families in Need” to provide medical treatment.  Electronic donations may be made via PayPal or other options in this link: http://friendsofcozumel.com/your-help/how-to-make-a-donation/

Following is the Obituary from Kristin’s Celebration of Life service held in North Carolina on June 19, 2021.  Other informal gatherings of Cozumel friends will be organized in the coming months.

Kristin Kay (Burns) Bowen

January 24, 1963 – June 08, 2021

Kristin was born in Royal Oak, MI to Leona and Billie Burns.  She grew up in Southfield, MI with her brother William Richard Burns and graduated from Southfield Christian Academy.  Following high school, she attended Olivet Nazarene College, where she met her future husband William A. Bowen.  They were married on August 11, 1984 and lived in New Jersey before making their way to Greensboro, NC in 1988.  A year later they had their first daughter Sara, followed by Mandy and Jake.

Kristin loved God and dedicated her life to His service at an early age.  She introduced her Savior, Jesus Christ, to her children by reading them Bible stories and sharing her life experiences with them.  Along with her faith, she treasured her family.  She guided, counseled, prodded and cheered them on as they moved through school, sports and relationships. The family loves travel, scuba diving and sailing, and Kristin was great at planning and participating in those adventures. 

After raising her family, Kristin fell in love with the people of Cozumel, Mexico.  She was first drawn to Cozumel for the scuba diving, but soon joined up with Friends of Cozumel to serve the local islanders by exposing them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by performing service projects including offering school supplies, clothing and shoes for school age children.  Kristin served God with her heart, voice, hands and wallet.  She gave regularly to her local church, Friends of Cozumel, and other missionaries including Rob Kimmons and David Carter, both serving overseas through Pioneers where they minister to people from Europe and Africa.  In addition to serving others, for the last nine years of her life, Kristin owned and operated an industrial sales company with her husband, where she served as president and director of finance. 

Special Tribute To A Supporter Like No Other:

Kristin Kay Bowen, January 24, 1963 – June 8, 2021 

Kristin loved supporting the children of Cozumel
Kristin always brought her Barbies as traveling companions.

She was a blonde force of nature that could make even the most serious-minded volunteer crack a rare smile. Kristin came to Cozumel regularly, toting her frequent flier weight limit in donations. She showed up ready to work at our various project sites, usually carrying her camera and a Barbie doll just for fun, because…well why not?  

Kristin’s work with Friends of Cozumel began in 2010 when she visited Cozumel with 13 other family members on a cruise port-of-call. They combined their vacation with service work by delivering supplies needed for FOC’s school backpack project. Kristin returned to the island just a couple of months later when she and her parents volunteered for a mission week with FOC. And she kept coming back for more than a decade—often several times a year. Serious illness kept Kristin away this year, but she continued her financial support as well as her interest in FOC projects. 

She passed away at home surrounded by family in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 8, 2021. 

Kristin played an integral role as a supporter and mission volunteer helping people in need. 

Kristin working on chairs on her first mission trip with FOC
Painting tables and chairs for Centro de Autismo

As a leader in Friends of Cozumel projects, she led by doing. She didn’t hesitate to jump in, often emerging from a long, hot day wearing paint and sawdust from a construction project or with sea salt dried in her hair from helping local children learn to snorkel. She donated and transported shoes to island children, helped distribute literally thousands of backpacks of school supplies, and even shopped the sales for affordable dresses for young women who otherwise would not have a gown for their quinceañera.  She gave very generous donations to the construction of Vida Abundante church and community center. 

“Kristin and her husband Billy have been great supporters as well as frequent donors,” said FOC Co-director Larry Pedersen. “We always ask how funds should be used and about four years ago, Kristin said ‘I see so many families that need medical help and don’t have any resources. I want some of the money to go for that type of aid.’ As a result, the Families In Need Fund was established and has grown.” 

Friends of Cozumel continues to assist local families almost weekly with support for doctor consultations and medication.   

“Five years ago, a local soccer player tore his ACL in a game and the family had no funds for an operation,” Larry said. “When Kristin learned about this, she immediately came forward and paid for the surgery. The family is forever grateful. That’s the kind of person she was—ready to step in and help without hesitation.” 

Kristin could make people laugh. And she cared deeply. Her easy smile and love of the island people will be remembered by so many.  

“Kristin’s spirit, enthusiasm and fun-loving nature has been an inspiration to all of us,” said FOC Co-director Karen Pedersen. “You couldn’t help but smile when you were around her. She left a lasting impression on everyone.” 

Taking inventory of school supplies
Helping with shoes during school supply distribution

WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM UPDATE

Water systems that purify tap or well water to be safe for drinking continue to be a popular with local families.  Recently we were able to deliver water systems to 14 families who have children in the CAM Primaria School.   CAM Primaria serves elementary-age students with special needs.   These families incur a lot of expenses caring for their children so not having to purchase purified water is a great financial savings and health benefit.

This week, we are receiving 40 more filters brought down by visitors. Our goal for the first two weeks in May is to make an 25 additional systems  (13 more for CAM Primaria families; 10 other families that are on a waiting list; 2 extra)

We are very fortunate that the majority of items are available to be purchased locally.   The filters are the only component that we bring in from the United States.   Donors have already provided funds to purchase them.   We only need people able to bring them to us.  A package of 10 filters fills half of a rollerboard and weighs approximately 10 pounds.  If you are interested in helping us out by bringing in some filters, contact Larry Pedersen at PEDERSENLL@HOTMAIL.COM or (515) 249-9241.

Volunteer Thursdays Continue

Supporting families in need during this past year has required us to modify our approach to mission efforts.  Friends of Cozumel hosts Volunteer Thursdays every week.  Island visitors, resident expats and locals interested in volunteering serve together in small teams.  Language and cultural differences are not obstacles.  There is a lot of pointing, laughing, guessing and learning as we work together. 

Examples of typical Volunteer Thursday projects and the local families who benefit . . .

April 1 - Prepared 50 despensas for local families
April 7 – 25 sets of filters and faucets were installed and checked for leaks prior to distributing water systems
April 8th – Additional despensas were delivered to families in need
April 8 – Delivered infant formula to a local mother
April 8 – A local senior citizen received clothing and personal hygiene products from the community closet
April 8 – a team prepares 300 ham and cheese sandwiches to distribute the following morning at Vida Abundante Church

A VILLAGE OF VOLUNTEERS PROVIDE WATER SYSTEMS

Interest continues to increase among local families in having water purification systems. The systems are made with two buckets and a ceramic charcoal filter that cleans impurities from tap or well water to produce safe drinking water. This is a significant $ savings for families because it eliminates having to buy purified drinking water and encourages them to stay hydrated for their health. We’ve been blessed by two non-profit organizations that funded materials for an additional 45 systems!

Friends of Cozumel frequently receives emails and texts from visitors as well as island residents expressing a desire to “build something” or assist us in a service project.
During the past two months these volunteers have spent half-days cutting, sanding, staining or painting the wood bases and assembling the buckets and filters. As a result, 20 systems were delivered to local families in February. We are currently preparing 10 more systems that will be delivered in the coming two weeks and supplies are on the way for even more builds.

Chris staining parts prior to assembly


Rick and Steve installing filters into the buckets


Steve B. pre-drilling parts for the stand assembly

We are fortunate that most items necessary for the systems can be procured locally or purchased online. The filters are still purchased via Amazon and transported here by volunteers. Our goal is to have systems on hand and ready to be provided to families that want them.

Debi painted messages on the legs of the stands


Eight systems have filters installed and are being tested for leaks prior to delivery

Complete and ready for a new home

More information about the water systems is available at this link: http://friendsofcozumel.com/2020/12/09/water-purification-systems-help-families-stay-healthy-when-money-is-tight/

Community Closet – An Emerging Need

Friends of Cozumel is continuing to focus on basic necessities of food, prescription medications, baby formula and ecological diapers as well as supporting the third generation (seniors) and those with special needs. 

Families are also requesting support for these emerging needs: 

  • Clothing, shoes, home goods—to fit growing children and/or replace home items
  • Hygiene products—shampoo, toothpaste, antibacterial gel/soap, feminine products
  • Purified drinking water to stay healthy 

The initial “Armario Comunitario” (Community Closet) held February 1-2 as a pilot project was so successful that we have opened a temporary location (preview here) to continue addressing the first two emerging needs above of clothing/shoes, home goods and hygiene products.  It is open at least once a week by appointment only.  We enforce covid protocols (masks required, limit of two representatives per family over age 12, temperatures taken and antibacterial gel at entry, only 8 families invited per hour to ensure social distance).

Pilot project Feb 1-2 held at Vida Abundante Church
Pilot project held Feb 1-2 at Vida Abundante Church

The Community Closet is different than Gran Bazars we hosted in past years. It is by invitation only (not open to the public) for families who have all been vetted (identified as low resource families).  Families receive credit coupons ($100, $200 or $300 pesos; approximately $5-$15USD) based on the number of people in the family.  They can purchase addition items if they wish.  The goal is to provide families the opportunity to select good condition second-hand items and/or inexpensive new items and hygiene products.  All the items are donations priced at reasonable rates (Examples:  good condition used t-shirts 10 pesos or about $.50USD; new t-shirts for 20 or 30 pesos about $1 – $1.50 USD; shampoo for 20 pesos, toothpaste for 10 pesos). 

Milton and Eena
Elena and Milton selected home goods and clothing for their family of 11 spanning three generations

The Community Closet is staffed by local and/or visiting volunteers usually on “Volunteer Thursdays” but can easily be open other days. 

Special thanks to the many donors who continue to give $ as well as “in kind” donations, especially during the past year when many families are out of work due to Covid. We often say “It takes a village. . .”  This all happened (opening a temporary community closet for 2-3 months) from the idea to a reality in less than 24 hours.  The owner of the property just two doors from our storage bodega deeply discounted a rental apartment as their part in supporting the community. One of our local leaders cleaned the space immediately; four visiting volunteers painted it; other volunteers transported the crates of items from the pilot project directly to the new location.  We “hired” local parents without work to help lift/haul and organize everything.  Opening a community closet was not in our plans.  However, covid has provided us opportunities and challenges to serve the community in ways we hadn’t previously imagined.

Watch for future posts about purified drinking water systems.  “Volunteer Thursday” events will continue now through April.

Jefte (standing local volunteer), George and Randy (seated visiting volunteers) check out a mother’s selections.

Reading glasses make a big impact—Aug. 4, 2019

If you’re a user of inexpensive reading glasses, chances are you have a pair in every room of the house. It’s easy to buy several pair at the dollar store—unless you live in Cozumel.

While we can solve our need for magnifying readers, people in Cozumel simply don’t have easy or affordable access to nonprescription glasses. Many older adults have eyesight that prevents reading and a visit to an optician is way beyond their budget.

Friends of Cozumel offered free nonprescription reading glasses at two sessions last week at the DIF Senior Center and during school supply distribution. 220 people were fitted with glasses by volunteers with optometry training. It was gratifying to hear recipients say getting the glasses was life-changing. Now they can read a book, a package label or their Bible for the first time in years. 

Ray, a former optician, helps determine which strength glasses are needed.

Looking for easy-to-transport donations to bring to Cozumel? You can support this effort by helping us replenish our nonprescription reading glasses inventory, especially in magnification powers of +1.50, +2.25, +2.75 and +3.25.  Sturdy unisex frames that appeal to both genders are helpful and lots of lens cleaning cloths are needed, too.

Thanks for your help.

~ Phyllis from Nebraska

Lens cleaning cloths and non-prescription magnifying reading glasses in all strengths are needed, but especially unisex glasses in +1.50, +2.25, +2.75 and +3.25. Thanks for your help.

Snorkel lessons open up the world below—Aug. 3, 2019

Friends of Cozumel volunteers and project participants got drenched today— first from a thunderstorm and then in the ocean.

One of FOC’s educational projects is to help island residents learn more about their environment. Many have never seen fish in their natural habitat or gone into the sea beyond wading near the shore. 

Eighteen participants listened intently to instructions on how to use the snorkeling equipment and stay safe in the water. Then participants were paired with FOC volunteers who were experienced snorkelers and divers. 

After the briefing, participants were fit in donated flotation vests, fins and masks, despite the thunderstorm that popped up. Rain is not unusual in Cozumel and no one seemed to mind, until lightening forced us out of the water. Once the weather cleared, everyone was anxious to get back into the sea, even with the choppy waves and shoreline surge.

Luis (right) instructs a participant in snorkeling techniques.
Victoria snorkeled for the first time.

Those who were anxious at first eventually got more comfortable in the water. Colorful fish distracted them from their own fears and many asked for names of the creatures they were seeing. Back on shore, fish identification cards were passed around as the new snorkelers talked excitedly about their experiences. They clearly loved being able to experience the sea in a new way. 

~ Phyllis from Nebraska

Stormy weather? No problem. We’re wet anyway.

 

Volunteer perspective: Ilene Kendrick—August 2, 2019

Yesterday we held a Gran Bazar to benefit the Cozumel community. We sell donated clothing, shoes and household items at a very low price so families can afford them. At the school distribution a few days earlier, each child received a 20 peso coupon (worth about $1.10 US) to spend at the Bazar. It’s always such a blessing to see families carefully choose items to purchase with their coupons.

A lot of preparation is needed to price, load and transport each item and set up the space to accommodate a crowd. People waited in line patiently and then poured through the doors when we opened the sale. It was a noisy but polite crowd.

Some children helped shop while volunteers kept others safe from the crowd with activities.

The proceeds of the Bazar help fund many of our projects here in Cozumel but 50% of our profits go toward education scholarships, helping kids stay in school and further their education. Thank you to those who donate the new and gently used items we bring over, especially those who have collected bras for the ladies!

~Ilene from Texas

Sewing workshop supports island ecology—Aug. 1, 2019

What some see as a problem, others see as an opportunity.

Cozumel works to protect the environment, but the millions of plastic bags generated in Mexico each year pose a threat to the island’s wildlife. The “Sin Bolsa, Por Favor” (No Bag, Please) program was spearheaded by Cozumel’s Municipal Department of Ecology and sponsoring companies that include local branches of supermarket chains. According to the Cozumel4You online forum, this program is the first in Mexico to attempt to influence 100,000 residents and 3 million yearly visitors not to use disposable plastic bags for their shopping. 

 Yesterday, Friends of Cozumel offered a sewing workshop at the DIF Senior Center where participants learned how to make market bags. Volunteers helped turn piles of donated fabric into sturdy bags to be used over and over.  

Carmen first learned how to make a market bag at an FOC sewing workshop last January. She had an idea: could she support her family by making the bags more upscale and selling them outside one of the large grocery stores? She decided to decorate the bags with handmade fabric flowers she also learned to make at the workshop and priced them at $130 pesos–about $7 US. The price was fairly steep for many, but not every shopper. So far, she has sold seven of the bags and plans to make more.

The simple act of sewing and using reusable bags has now become a tangible way help to protect Cozumel’s environment. And that is a very good thing. Felicidades (Congratulations), people of Cozumel.

~ Phyllis from Nebraska

FOC volunteer perspective: Almendra Gutiérrez–July 30, 2019

This year, 500 sets of school supplies and shoes were taken by little hands of all kinds to prepare Cozumel’s children for their education. Generous donations also made it possible to provide scholarships for some students pursuing higher education. 

This year started with an orientation volunteers. It was my third time with the team, and I was greeted as a friend over some distinctly mid-western hors d’oeuvres. Larry quieted everyone and summarized accomplishments from last year. His wife, Karen, noted the current demands and went over the week’s agenda.

Apart from the main event of distributing school supplies, several other charitable activities and worship services were held during the week; a pool party for children with autism, oceanfront worship and a shopping for food to feed needy families. At the end of the week, everyone is exhausted, but this group always happily pursues more opportunities to fill their time with charitable fellowship. 

Over the weekend–from Friday until Saturday–families arrived at the DIF park to receive their children’s school supplies. The first day was full of grateful smiles on both sides as kids were fitted with shoes, backpacks and the learning materials required by their schools. It was almost unbelievable that every family had been served without the volunteers breaking a sweat–metaphorically speaking.

There was plenty of literal sweating, as always in the Cozumel summer, but the weather doesn’t discourage anyone. There were complaints, but the smiles betrayed everyone’s shared satisfaction. Our joy multiplied thanks to the donations, preparations and time offered by the Friends of Cozumel.

A student shows his backpack with the special heart while Almendra (left) distributes school supplies.

This year a U.S. mom whose young daughter passed away recently due to cancer cut hearts out of her daughter’s clothes and sewed them to the backpacks that she donated. We told the story to as many of the recipients as we could. Our hearts were warmed with the thought of these little hearts going to and from school in Cozumel.  

We are once again blessed to be a part of the group and look forward to another year of watching the Friends of Cozumel transform lives. 

Gracias ~ Almendra from Cozumel

FOC donors gives backpacks with heart—July 29, 2019

Nearly 600 backpacks have been donated to Friends of Cozumel by people who care deeply about kids and their education. Each backpack is customized to hold the assortment of learning tools specific to that school’s requirements. The stockpile is staggering–big backpacks, small ones, some with cool graphics and glitter and others that are simple yet strong enough to hold the books and dreams of the students who will carry them. You could say they’re backpacks with a lot of heart.

In fact, 24 of those backpacks had a special addition crafted by artist Sharon Cavanaugh and five of her long-time friends. 

Sharon (third from left) and friends delivered donations on their cruise stop in Cozumel.

“This is the perfect way to honor our daughter Sarah,” Sharon wrote in a note that accompanied her donation. “We sewed little fabric hearts on each of the backpacks. The fabric is from Sarah’s clothes. It gives each one a little extra love.”   

Sarah died from complications of cancer in 2016. She was a fan of Jimmy Buffett, the Baltimore Ravens, elephants, dinosaurs, Disney princesses and most of all, her family and friends. She was the inspiration for the Connecticut Art School, owned and directed by Sharon. And Sarah helped create many great memories during past trips to Cozumel.

“This week we’ve been celebrating life and finding ways to spread joy, Sharon wrote. “Thank you for helping us to make that happen. If we make it back to Cozumel, I hope we have the chance to meet.”

And just maybe she’ll catch a glimpse of joy on a student’s face or a tiny heart sewn onto a backpack.

~ Phyllis from Nebraska

NOW is the time to buy school supplies for Friends of Cozumel—July 28, 2019

Here we are in the midst of distributing school supplies for the coming year and believe it or not, NOW is the time to also begin replenishing supplies for next year. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But the fact is that prices for school supplies are at the best levels now as stores promote back to school for this year. We always do our distribution in Cozumel in July and the supplies have to be transported to the island so we can’t wait until next year’s back-to-school sales to buy them.


Here’s an example: A 12-count box of Cra-Z-Art colored pencils is typically $1.50-$1.97 but Walmart has them for $0.50 right now. We will more than 400 of these next year so last week, one of our volunteers went out and purchased 300 boxes at the current price to give us a start toward next year’s inventory. Thanks to her!

If you know you’ll be visiting Cozumel in the coming year and want to donate supplies to our effort to support 500+ students, do yourself a favor and purchase your supplies now so you can maximize your dollars. If you’re going to be on a cruise that stops through Cozumel it’s very easy to purchase a backpack and fill it with school supplies. Then when you stop in Cozumel, a local Friends of Cozumel volunteer will meet you to receive your donations. We once had a family of 14 on a cruise that brought us 14 backpacks, each filled with supplies. What a HUGE boost!

For a list of specific needs reference our website http://friendsofcozumel.com/education/school-supplies/THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

~ Larry from Cozumel and Florida

School supply distribution is a team effort—July 27, 2019

Months of preparation by Friends of Cozumel volunteers has come to paid off with a successful school supply distribution to more than 520 students from kindergarten to university level. The smiles and thank-you’s made the long days of work worth it.

The numbers:

  • 460 students received backpacks, supplies (pens, paper, protractors, dictionaries and so on), and shoes.
  • 60 or more will receive supplies at the CAM school for children with disabilities.
  • 180 volunteer positions were filled over a two-day period to work with each student and family attending the distribution.

The process:

  • First, families in need are identified by community leaders as well as the FOC leaders. 
  • They’re screened for financial need, sources of other support and special circumstances such as number of children in the family and disabilities.
  • Documents are also checked for the students’ grades and school registration. 
  • Thanks to local leaders Carla, Elena and Maria as well as Pastores Mariela and Salomon for helping FOC make sure all school supply and shoe donations get into the hands of people who truly need them.

Some students’ are also awarded a “beca” or scholarship, for tuition. Twenty three high school students and 14 university students receive FOC becas. This is a wonderful illustration of the program’s success since many of those students have been supported by FOC since they began attending school. Special thanks to scholarship recipients who pay it forward by also volunteering to help as FOC volunteers.

We appreciate all of our generous donors. Want to continue to help? Buy school supplies NOW for next year while they’re on sale. Watch for an updated list of needs to be posted soon. Your donations, big or small, make you part of this tremendous team effort. We certainly can’t do this without you. THANK YOU. 

~ Phyllis from Nebraska


Pool party delights and teaches — July 26, 2019

Emanuel and several other children went to a pool party with Friends of Cozumel volunteers. They played games, laughed and shouted, and had snacks. It looked and sounded like a pool party, but in reality it was water therapy for children with autism. 

FOC has an ongoing relationship of support with Centro de Autismo and FOC volunteers enjoyed working with their students yesterday. Spending time in the beautiful pool at the home of FOC volunteers Mike and Hettie was also a welcome respite from the heat.

The water therapy session was a step forward for two new friends, seven year old Emanuel and FOC volunteer McKala. 

FOC volunteers (from left) Liz and MaKala make friends with Emanuel and Jael.

Emanuel didn’t start school with other kids because he didn’t speak. He had some limited therapy traveling to Playa del Carmen on the mainland, but needed something more. Friends of Cozumel provided a “beca” or scholarship so that Manuel could participate in therapy several times a week without having to travel. Thanks to the therapists and programs at Centro de Autismo in Cozumel, he’s now speaking and attending a regular school. His mother Marta says the programs have also helped her learn a great deal about how to parent a child with autism.

MaKala from Texas couldn’t have been happier to meet Emanuel. She’s a recent college graduate and a first-time volunteer for Friends of Cozumel. She leaped at the opportunity to make a friend and also practice the adaptive aquatics skills learned during her study of recreational therapy in college. 

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard that this was one of our volunteer opportunities,” she said. “I was so excited.”

In the process, the children had a great time and event taught the volunteers a thing or two.

“It was nice to hear from parents how much FOC has helped. And the language barrier didn’t stop the therapy the kids got today,” said McKala. “I even learned the Spanish words for ‘jump’ and ‘take me there.’”

To learn more about Centro de Autismo, go to https://www.facebook.com/Centro-de-Autismo-Cozumel-1506168346267706/

~ Phyllis from Nebraska

Friends of Cozumel Holds Orientation for Mission Week – July 25, 2019

The living room of the Cozumel home was crowded as the energy of Spanish and English conversations continued to escalate. Returning volunteers were eager to greet friends they they hadn’t seen since working together at the previous Mission Week. First-time volunteers may have wondered what in the world they’d gotten themselves into. But they soon found out during the orientation to this summer’s Mission Week last night. 

They learned that FOC priorities continue to be education, support of children with special needs, serving the community and promotion of volunteerism.

This summer’s projects will range from school supply distribution to more than 500 students, to a water therapy pool party for students with autism, a Gran Bazar, eye glass distribution, and workshops.

To accomplish that, 57 volunteers have converged from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. 

Six volunteers are joining us for the first time. Sixteen are youth who in addition to receiving scholarship support from FOC, want to give back by helping out. There are also eight family groups amongst our volunteers, including one family with participants from three generations.

There’s a lot of work to do and we welcome you to follow our progress. Check out our blog or Facebook page during the next week to see how we’re putting your donations, encouragement and financial support to work.  

~ Phyllis from Nebraska





Volunteers Prep for Families in Crisis—Feb. 3, 2019

Imagine yourself peering into the open door of your refrigerator or pantry considering your snack options. You’ve done that many times, right?

Now imagine that your cupboard is bare. Literally. And the refrigerator is empty—or doesn’t even exist in your home.

New volunteers Laurie and Lynn helped shop for and sort emergency supplies for families in need.

That’s the situation for too many families in Cozumel.

Maybe the sole wage earner has been ill and out of work. Or maybe a family with many children has been abandoned by a parent. It happens.

Friends of Cozumel provides despensas, or essential food supplies to families in crisis. Several volunteers recently went shopping for many kilos of food supplies. They sorted the supplies into crates that will be distributed to 10 families in dire need.

Boxes of despensas typically include:

  • Rice
  • Dry black beans
  • Pasta
  • Tomato puree
  • Chicken soup base
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt
  • Canned tuna
  • Instant coffee
  • Boxed milk
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Toilet paper
  • Shampoo
  • Cleaning supplies

Want to help? Find out more here: http://friendsofcozumel.com/your-help/donate-volunteer-or-connect-us/

Hearing Assessment Continues at New Location–Feb. 4, 2019

Cozumel’s first booth for testing hearing was constructed by FOC volunteers in 2013.

In 2013, Friends of Cozumel built the island’s first audiometric evaluation booth for testing hearing loss. The soundproof audio booth was constructed for Manos y Voces (Hands and Voices), a nonprofit organization for hearing and speaking impaired youth and adults. For the first time, the booth allowed audiologists to assess people with hearing impairments on the island rather than having to travel to the mainland.

The audio booth has received a lot of use, but when Manos y Voces recently moved to a different facility they needed Friends of Cozumel’s help once again. They didn’t want to leave the built-in audio booth behind and lose the ability to provide that service. So, FOC volunteers salvaged the materials, redesigned the booth, then rebuilt it in its new, smaller location.

Gary and Ray rebuild the booth. in the new location.

 

“Using all new materials would have made the project go more quickly,” said Gary, a long-time FOC volunteer. “But we’re committed to sustainability and repurposing materials whenever possible. That’s part of the fun—or the challenge I should say.”

Manos y Voces is one of several nonprofit organizations that partners with Friends of Cozumel to help those in need.

Learn more about Manos y Voces on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Manos-y-Voces-AC-211591228968692/

 

Manos y Voces new location is Av. 20 between 5 and 7.

Fany, director of Manos y Voces, is happy to have the rebuilt audio booth.