Category Archives: Uncategorized

Good news from Cozumel

We’re on week 7 of stay-at-home and other strict health measures implemented here on the island. We’ve had our curfew lifted from 5pm to 7pm this week and the good news is that it is working. No additional cases have been reported for nearly two weeks on Cozumel. Although there may be many more unreported cases among the general population, data from health institutions are not showing an increase as of this posting. 

There is still a long way to go, but it is very encouraging to know that the restricted mobility, social distancing, mask requirements, limitation of one person per vehicle to do essential errands for food or medical reasons has made a significant positive difference in containing the Coronavirus.


We have been blessed with donors who have contributed financially or dropped off food/supplies to support families in need. Thanks to them 230 adults and children have benefited from support provided by Friends of Cozumel since March 30:  

  • Most of them have received food, cleaning and sanitizing supplies.
  • 6 received financial support for medication and/or transportation to doctor appointments.
  • 12 babies received formula, cereal, wipes or ecological diapers.
  • 2 out of work parents with special skills were employed to earn money for their extended family of 11.

Thanks to the community out-reach effort that has been facilitated by Vida Abundante church (whose recipients start lining up about 3 hours before the distribution time, respecting social distancing marked with cones, wearing masks and bringing their own carry-out containers), we have contributed to:

  • 456 family-size portions of prepared take home meals (benefitting 1,558 adults and children) for families out of work.  
  • In addition, the pastors’ family has distributed 215 kilos (450+ pounds) of fresh tortillas to the community donated by a local tortilla shop. 


We have also been collaborating with  Vida Abundante to facilitate a homework center to help students during Coronavirus. Although we haven’t maintained a count of students, a significant number of youth from kinder through university are regularly coming to the church to use the free internet access, laptops and/or copier to do homework assignments while school classes are cancelled.  


Janete is a mother of 4 children including a three-month old baby.  She and her husband are out of work with no other source of income to support their children.  They are a new family for Friends of Cozumel support and will be added to the school supplies distribution list this summer.    

We are so happy to share this update on the goings on in Cozumel. While times are tough for many, with the help of all of you, we feel privileged to help. Thank you for reading and supporting the people of San Miguel de Cozumel, Mexico. To donate go to our page how to make a donation or via PayPal

Medical help during Coronavirus

Enabling those who are most vulnerable to maintain their health during the coronavirus is critical. Our experience is that many families prioritize their most basic needs for food over healthcare. Sometimes we only discover they are not taking needed prescriptions or canceling critical medical appointments when we deliver food despensas to their homes. 

To better serve the community, we make a point to ask them about their health situation if we have developed a personal relationship with them over time. Thanks to generous donors, we have a modest health fund to provide prescription medication, transportation costs for those who need to go to the mainland to see specialists and for specific health diagnostic studies not covered by free government health services available to the general population. Below are some  examples of those receiving medical help during the coronavirus:

Teresa and daughter with despensas that Nelly delivered
  • Teresa has a rare blood disease that requires frequent travel to Merida for blood analysis.  She is a single mother of three; two teenage boys and her daughter pictured here.  Although Theresa’s health is currently stable; she isn’t able to work consistently as a result of the disease.  She qualifies for paid  medical consultations, but cannot afford the necessary travel. Thanks to donations, we are able to pay for transportation to the mainland.
  • Jhoana has a tumor in her throat (see the swelling at the base of her neck).  She, her teenage sister and two young cousins are being raised by their 70+ year old grandmother, Rosita, who has no steady source of income.  The children were abandoned by their parents years ago. Normally, Rosita gathers recycling to sell for a few pesos and searches for odd jobs.  Due to the stay-at-home restrictions she cannot search for ways to earn income. 
Jhoana and Rosita

The five of them live in a modest concrete room about 10’ x 6’ with little ventilation. Friends of Cozumel is providing food despensas, a special soft diet for Jhoana including nutrition supplement drinks because she cannot swallow solid food, transportation costs to Playa del Carmen to see a pediatric throat specialist and prescription medication to try to shrink the tumor rather than invasive surgery.  The good news is that a biopsy has shown the tumor is benign.  Rosita is easily confused and overwhelmed with managing Jhoana’s medical needs so they frequently miss appointments and follow-up.  

Special thanks to Nelly Cervantes, our Friends of Cozumel coordinator, for providing personal follow-up  and going to some appointments to ensure Jhoana is now receiving the medical help she needs.  Sometimes these special families just need a ”hand up” for a short time to get them on track.

  • Another young girl with severe asthma needs costly inhaler prescriptions monthly.  She is one of four children being raised by a single mother who normally has work as a maid.  She was able to pay for the prescriptions but is temporarily out of work since her employers are not working as tour guides for cruise excursions.   

Again, it is thanks to generous donors that we are able to provide these services to the community. We, and they, are thankful for those of you that make this possible. Thank you for reading and supporting the people of San Miguel de Cozumel, Mexico. To donate go to our page how to make a donation or via PayPal

Meals for those in need

90% of Cozumel’s economy is based on tourism.  Nearly all local families are directly or indirectly affected by the shutdown of tourism,  beyond the immediate health impact of COVID-19.  Many families are out of work or hours have been cut to part-time.  We don’t expect this situation to change until international flights have been restored and cruise ships are arriving on a regular basis, likely months from now.

 The church is located in the heart of Colonia Emiliano Zapata, a neighborhood with some of the highest rates of suicides, theft, addiction challenges and family issues on the island.

Centro de Restauración Vida Abundante church pastors, Salomon and Mariela, along with their three teenage sons (Jefte, Jabes and Salomon) initiated a breakfast program to support families out of work.  Although the church is closed for services and other activities, they are preparing and serving meals to those in the community.  None of the families participating are members of the church. The church is located in the heart of Colonia Emiliano Zapata, a neighborhood with some of the highest rates of suicides, theft, addiction challenges and family issues on the island.

Pastor Mariela on the meal program “We had a lot of sadness when we closed the church for the pandemic.  Sometimes at the time we don’t understand God’s plans until later.  We knew it was time to serve in another way in the midst of bad times (well, we have always known) but it hadn’t presented itself to this extent . . . “

Family representatives start arriving 3 hours before serving and patiently wait in line marked by cones respecting social distance guidelines.

Friends of Cozumel provides behind the scenes support by receiving donations, shopping for some meals and occasionally helping prepare meals to give the pastors a break.

Jabes and Pastor Salomon transport hot chicken sandwiches prepared by Friends of Cozumel volunteers.

3-4 meals are provided weekly for 20-30 families representing  about 120 persons on average for each of the meals.  Since March 30, they have served meals 16 days.  The budget has been raised to $1,300 pesos per day ( or $60 USD; about $0.50 per person).

Social distance guidelines are marked by cones outside the church, only one family member may come, must wear a mask and bring their own plate to take the food home. They arrive sometimes three hours before serving and patiently wait in line.

Pastors Mariela and Salomon serving sandwiches.

The church has received donations of 110 kilos (242 lbs) of fresh tortillas from a local tortilleria as well as a few other food donations, but the majority of the funding has come from donors who want to help the people of Cozumel.  At this time we have enough financial support to continue the meal program until the end of June. 

The government recently distributed food/supplies boxes to most (but not all) families so the meal program may be suspended temporarily for a short time when families receive government despensas so they can use the dry goods they received and to stretch our resources further for the meal program. 

Thanks for following along with our activities, and if you haven’t had the chance – read though our previous blog posts. Our site also features details on how to make a donation, or donate via PayPal

Ecological Diaper Program & Loaner Baby Equipment

We continue to support babies during Coronavirus with formula and wipes and have added support of two other babies, bringing the total of babies supported to 12. To ensure health and safety for the most vulnerable, we have been developing two additional programs: Ecological Diaper Program & Loaner Baby Equipment. 

Ecological Diaper Program

In February, Friends of Cozumel initiated a pilot program to provide ecological diaper kits to families with babies. Six families with babies of various ages are in the pilot program: 3 parents with older children and 3 new parents.

Diaper kits for newborns to 2+ years

Using cloth diapers isn’t a new concept.  However, the investment required to buy washable, reusable diapers is beyond what families with limited resources can afford.  Many of the families Friends of Cozumel supports only have funds to buy a small packages of disposable diapers or sometimes only a single diaper at a time for a few pesos at a local shop near their home.

Each diaper kit contains two commercially made leakproof, washable diaper covers that adjust for newborns to 2+ years and 18-24 soft flannel diapers that are folded in several layers to go inside the diaper covers.  The flannel liners can be washed and hung to dry rapidly in the island’s humid climate. 

Cost per kit is $20 US when volunteers make the flannel diapers (equal to buying an 84 pack of disposable diapers at Sam’s Club) or $30 US if we pay a local seamstress to buy the fabric, cut the liners and stitch around the edges (which provides an income to help support our seamstress’ family as her husband is out of work due to the suspension of tourism activities).

Even with only 6 babies in the pilot, it significantly reduces the number of diapers going into the landfill that won’t break down for a long time.  

Special thanks to Hettie Legg for bringing and donating the set of diaper covers from the US to start the program and Ilene Kendrick for sewing the initial set of 200 liners.

Loaner Baby Equipment

Baby Fernandita

In addition, and with the support of generous donors, we have started to provide loaner baby equipment. Four month old Fernandita received a loaner baby walker to learn to stand and walk this week. 

She also received a Pack’n Play to ensure her health and safety for sleeping and playing. She had been sleeping in a hammock, but that was becoming dangerous as she began to move around on her own.

Special thanks to Kandy Stahl and Chuck Long for donating baby equipment to low resource families several years ago.  This equipment has been loaned to benefit many babies  and rotated among families in need. 

Thanks for following along with our activities, and if you haven’t had the chance – read though our previous blog posts on the support that we are providing during the pandemic. If you can, please consider contributing Friends of Cozumel. Our site features details on how to make a donation, or donate via PayPal

Supporting Babies During Coronavirus

Hello fellow Friends of Cozumel and supporters. We are writing today with details on a new service that we are engaging in on the island. The economic impact of Coronavirus has created the need to support babies; or babies “at risk” without basic needs of formula, diapers and wipes. Many parents have been impacted by losing their jobs, and we have stepped in to help with the following:

  • We have been supporting 10 babies with basic needs of formula, ecological (cloth/washable) diapers and/or wipes.   
  • Parents of 6 of the 10 babies have received FOC scholarships; parents of the other 3 babies are members of Vida Abundante Church.
  • 1 is a new family with 4 young children whom we met this week. The father is out of work due to business closures during COVID-19.
Mama Blanch, Baby Fernanda & Edwin

Mama Blanch, Baby Fernanda, and Edwin are a young family struggling to make ends meet after Edwin was laid off from work at the Cozumel Airport due to COVID-19.  Blanch was the first in her family to graduate from Prepa (high school) several years ago. Many Friends of Cozumel volunteers and donors have known “Blanca” for years. She and Edwin have assumed the role of coordinators of her extended family’s decisions, resources, school needs and care for the grandparents.  They just made a bold move from living in a very cramped part of a room in the extended family’s rustic homestead on the transversal to a modest rental room in town. Fernanda will now have more space as she learns to stand and walk.

NAN1 and wipes provided by our donors

Formula is needed here by many babies because mothers can’t produce enough milk to breastfeed. This is a result of lack of a nutritional diet and adequate hydration. Formula contains the dietary supplements babies need to fully develop their immune systems and for healthy growth.  However, formula is very expensive and often costs more than a week’s wages for parents earning minimum wage. Thanks to generous donors, we’re able to provide formula and baby wipes.

Coming soon… News about ecological diapers Friends of Cozumel is providing for babies. We’ll keep you posted!

Helping the most vulnerable with basic needs

Elsa Marina Maldonado

Friends of Cozumel is focused on helping the most vulnerable families with basic needs of food and medicine. Highest priorities include:
• Seniors who don’t have family to support them
• Single parents out of work
• Persons with serious health conditions who need medication or specific foods to boost their immune system
• Families with special needs/disabilities
• Babies in need of formula, diapers, etc.

Elsa was all dressed up and eagerly waiting to receive despensas at her home.  She and her husband are in their 70’s. They do not have a pension, regular income or family to help them.  Their only source of money comes from walking the streets and picking up bottles/cans to recycle and receive a few pesos each day.  Staying at home means they cannot be self-sufficient.

Cristina and Evelyn

Mama Cristina and 5 year-old daughter, Evelyn, appeared at our gate over the weekend to ask for help because they had no food.  Cristina is deaf and mute. Children are not supposed to be away from home but Evelyn came to communicate on behalf of her family of five.  They received despensas and a gift card to use at Chedraui grocery store. Victor, Cristina’s husband, lost his job as a waiter when restaurants closed.  Later that day we received a phone message from Victor explaining he was very grateful for help and he didn’t come because he was embarrassed to ask for help (again).  

During the two weeks March 22 – April 4 Friends of Cozumel helped 37 families (98 people) with food, medicine and/or temporary work to earn money.  Thanks to many donors who are making these efforts possible.   

There has also been some great news – This week the government began distributing boxes of food despensas to families in their homes using a grid approach street by street.  It is unknown if there will be enough resources for everyone on the island but we are encouraged as we see live news coverage and read messages from families we know personally.  We may be able to suspend providing food for a while and will begin again as needed.   

Thanks again for your support and stay tuned as we report on conditions in the community. 

Serving during “Social Distancing”

It’s quiet here on the island.  No cruise ships, few (if any) vacation visitors and many part-time residents have returned to their home country.  Closure of the port, beaches, bars, many non-essential businesses, schools, churches, restaurants (except for take-out) and a dramatic reduction of flights, ferry/cargo services are resulting in soaring unemployment in this tourism based economy.  Night curfews are being enforced.  Families are expected to stay home unless they are working or need to go out for food, supplies or medical treatment.

We see a “good news” story amid the grim reality of COVID-19 even though the initial phases are just now beginning to impact Cozumel.  The spirit of local people is truly amazing.  Of course they are concerned about the health and well-being of their family.  However, they are resilient, value time spent with family during this stay at home period, focus on what they do have vs. what they don’t have and are willing to help/share what little they have with others. 

The need to support families now is greater than anything we’ve seen in recent years, including past severe hurricanes because people knew once the hurricane was “over” the rebuilding could begin.  The uncertainty of the COVID-19 timeframe and the impact is unsettling.  Friends of Cozumel has identified 5 ways we can help families by providing:

  • “Despensas” of food, cleaning and disinfectant supplies.  The government has announced their intent to help all families with basic food needs in April.  The supplies FOC is providing will help bridge the gap between now and implementation of the government program.
  • Baby formula, wipes and ecological/reusable cloth diapers (a new initiative).
  • Medication and transportation financial assistance to required medical appointments on the mainland.  Limited to families we currently support and does not include $ to pay for treatments/operations.
  • Temporary project work with modest wages for selected local individuals to support their families (i.e. sewing, basic carpentry, sorting/organizing donations normally done by our volunteers).
  • Computers, internet access and printing services (free) to students for online learning in collaboration with Vida Abundante church.

Our weekly goal is to help 5-10 families impacting an average of 30+ family members.  Priorities include helping families with the greatest need:  single parents out of work; families with special needs, disabilities and/or ongoing health issues; seniors whose families cannot support them during this time, etc.  We are working quietly “behind the scenes” one-on-one to deliver food and supplies in a way that demonstrates social distancing and educates families.  We do not have the capacity to take on a major new initiative to help masses of people in need but we’re confident the steps identified above will make a positive difference in enabling some families to survive and thrive with basic necessities during this time of uncertainty. 

Thank you to donors and volunteers who have contacted us and offered to help.          If you would like to contribute to this effort click here

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 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

~ 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:

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:


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.