A NEW TYPE OF “RUNNER” BRINGS ITEMS ACROSS THE BORDER

In February we received a message from Sharyn Friesen.   “I know that at times it is difficult to get all of the school supplies you need delivered.    I have found an attractive price for a roundtrip flight from Houston to Cozumel and I would be willing to bring you two checked bags of school supplies if that would help out.”

We were thrilled at this idea and Sharyn’s generosity so we gladly accepted and immediately made a wish list that donors could purchase from and ship the supplies directly to her.   Sharyn arrived in Cozumel on May 12 with 100 pounds of school supplies which included 86 Backpacks, 60 boxes of colored pencils, 390 pens and 250 pencil pouches.  The pencil pouches are hand-made by the women from Volunteer Christian Builders (They have provided us with pencil pouches every year for 8+ years for a total of over 4,000 pencil pouches a well as other market bags, gift bags, and other items).  Sharyn also brought us cash donations which will be used to purchase a number of supplies from local merchants here in Cozumel.

As planned, Sharyn was here for less than 24 hours and on May 13 she was at the airport to return to Houston. She left us overjoyed with our latest donation and the fact that she plans to return in July to personally help us with this year’s distribution to the children!

We now have a new title . . .  “School Supply Runner”

Thank you Altrusa!

We enjoy hearing from people whom we have never met and are inquiring about donating school supplies towards our annual distribution.   This was the case when we received an email from Mary Powlen, President-elect of the Garland, Texas chapter of Altrusa, a non-profit organization dedicated to service projects that improve the educational, economic, and quality of life outcomes of communities around the world. Mary explained to me that Shirley Raymer, the District governor of Altrusa for the state of Texas, is a frequent visitor to Cozumel and their chapter was interested in contributing to our School Supply Distribution project.

We are very grateful for this wonderful donation of calculators, highlighters, dry-erase markers and pens! Thank you to Altrusa for your support!

HOW TO HELP US OBTAIN SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Do you want to help with our school supply program but are not traveling here anytime soon or you don’t have space in your luggage?   Here are three ways that you can help.

CASH DONATIONS

  1. You can receive a year-end statement for tax deductions by mailing your check to a church that passes 100% of the money to Friends of Cozumel.  Make the check payable to “Nacogdoches Community Church” and note the purpose (i.e. “School Supplies”) in the memo line.   Then mail the check to:

2. If you want to donate without the ability to deduct it on your taxes,make the check payable to “Friends of Cozumel” and note the purpose (i.e. “School Supplies”) in the memo line.  Mail it directly to our U.S. address.

DIRECT PURCHASES

If you are not traveling to Cozumel or don’t want to pack it in your luggage, you can order through your Amazon account by using amazon.com.mx.   You can ship to one of their drop off sites that include Donasusa stores, Estafeta and DHL Express.  When you receive notice from Amazon the product was delivered, forward us that notice plus the QR code for us to pick it up in Cozumel.

Steps to add a drop-off location in Cozumel to your account’s address book

  1.  Go to www.amazon.com.mx/ulp
  2. Enter “Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico” in the search box
  • From the list of locations we recommend either location #2 (Estafeta) or location #5 (Donasusa nueva Cozumel 1).

Now that this is in your address book, you can purchase on the amazon.com.mx site and notify us regarding delivery.

If you have questions about this information please contact Larry Pedersen PEDERSENLL@HOTMAIL.COM / 01-515-249-9241

SCHOOL SUPPLY NEEDS

As we head into 2024 we are preparing for the distribution of school supplies for the 2024-25 school year.   In the coming weeks we will begin assembling school packets for this year’s distribution which will take place in July 22 & 23.    Last year, we were able to provide backpacks and school supplies to over 800 students and we hope to do the same for the upcoming year.  In order to do so, we still need additional supplies.

Here is a list of items we need.   If you are coming to Cozumel in the coming months and are willing to put some supplies in your suitcase or backpack we are providing a description as well as links to Amazon’s site with some of the best prices we’ve found.  You can contact Larry Pedersen (PEDERSENLL@HOTMAIL.COM) or via phone (515) 249-9241.   We will make arrangements to meet you if you are visiting on a cruise or coming to vacation in Cozumel.

REGULAR SIZE GLUE STICKS – NEED 100

Amazon.com : Amazon Basics Purple Washable School Glue Sticks, Dries Clear, 0.24-oz Stick,60-Pack  

BLACK PENS – NEED 300

Amazon.com : Rarlan Highlighters, Chisel Tip, Fluorescent Yellow, 72 Count Bulk Pack… : Office Products

BLUE PENS – NEED 200

Amazon.com : BIC Round Stic Xtra Life Blue Ballpoint Pens, Medium Point (1.0mm), 36-Count Pack of Bulk Pens, Flexible Round Barrel for Writing Comfort, No. 1 Selling Ballpoint Pens

YELLOW HIGHLIGHTERS – NEED 200

Amazon.com : Thenshop 100 Pcs Yellow Pocket Style Highlighters Bible Highlighter Gel Highlighters Highlighters for Bible Pages No Bleed Thin Highlighters for Adults Kids Highlighting in the Home School

SCIENTIFIC CALCULATORS – NEED 80

Amazon.com : RENUS 8 Packs, 2-Line Engineering Scientific Calculator Function Calculator for Student and Teacher 16 AAA Batteries Included  

ENGLISH/SPANISH DICTIONARIES – NEED 40

Amazon.com: Merriam-Webster Webster’s Spanish-English Dictionary for Students, Second Edition (English and Spanish Edition): 9781596951655: Editors of Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster

BACKPACKS  We are also in need of backpacks for July’s distribution.   Specifically, we need the following

55 Small backpacks for Kinder–3rd grade boys

25 Small backpacks for Kinder-3rd grade girls

110 Large (19”) backpacks for Secundaria (Middle School) – University boys

115 Large (19”) backpacks for Secundarai (Middle School) – University girls

Breaking Barriers 

Meet Veronica Pool, an amazing single mom who works cleaning homes. She is determined to earn her prepa (high school) degree. Veronica is an excellent role model for her three children (one in primaria/elementary; two in secundaria/middle school).  She attends Saturday classes at Bachilleres, a Cozumel prepa known to be one of the best academic high schools to prepare students for college.  Veronica receives a “beca” scholarship from Friends of Cozumel to help pay tuition.  Many of our students who receive becas are truly breaking barriers by being the first generation in their families to attend high school and university.

Sixty-nine students received becas this fall semester; 51 high students and 18 college students.  Most of these students receive becas from the general FOC Scholarship fund; a few selected students also receive private scholarships from donors. 

Prepa student becas are $1,300 pesos (about $77 USD @ FX 16.8) per semester.  High school students are required to pay “inscripcion” (tuition) fees each semester. Their high school will automatically enroll them to receive a government scholarship that their family will receive in November or December so the students can use this to pay for tuition and other school expenses until they graduate.

University becas are $1,800 pesos (about $107 US) per semester for full-time tuition or some students use becas to pay for internet service at their home since much of their work is online.  Friends of Cozumel supports a total of 63 university students with school supplies; 65% are young women.  Examples of careers university students are using the becas to achieve:  accounting, bio-medical engineering, food/beverage, business administration, nursing, nutrition, teaching, tourism, etc.

Becas are also available to students of all ages to take English classes that supplement what they learn in school.  The ability to understand and speak conversational English is a huge advantage here to get a job supporting the tourism industry. 

Special THANKS to our donors who fund the scholarship program.  It is a wonderful investment that enables individuals and their families to become self-sufficient.     

2023-24 School Supply Distribution Results. . .A Record Breaking Year

1. 826 students (kinder – university) received school supplies

  • 20% are special needs students with various disabilities
  • 627 received backpacks with supplies for their school grade/year  
  • 199 received packets of basic supplies
  • All students are from families “in need” known by one or more of our local community leaders.  These families have been screened and pre-identified for their financial situation, “special needs”, health complications in the family, etc. It is not a program open to the public.  Families with students who receive backpacks and school supplies must complete an inscription process showing their grades in school or proof of school attendance.
  • 2 changes in student profiles over the years:  1) # of females vs. males attending prepa (high school) is now 65% female/35% male; and 2) Increase in # university students is 60+ this year.
The significant growth in 2022/23 was due to our collaboration with Chrysalis of Cozumel

2. Community Outreach . . . Other non-profit organizations’ families benefitted 

  • CAM primaria (elementary) and secundaria (middle school) students (150 total).  CAM Schools are dedicated to education to students with various special needs
  • Centro de Autismo and CRIM (rehabilitation therapy) selected students
  • Circle of Friends 12 families
  • Mujeres Guerreras (Women Warriors – mothers of severely impacted children with disabilities – their siblings)
  • Ranchito Project

3. 57 adults received free reading eyeglasses

4. 40 volunteers participated (38% local citizens)

ATTENTION SUPER SHOPPERS…PART 2 SCHOOL SUPPLY NEEDS

The challenge . . . Help us gather the top 10 GREATEST SCHOOL SUPPLY NEEDS

Now that most schools have begun, managers in stores are marking down prices to clear out their inventory to make room for holiday merchandise. If you are an online shopper, especially Amazon user. . . . see the links below.

These needs are the items we have the lowest inventory of going into next year.

  1. Glue Sticks – Amazon.com : Elmer’s Disappearing Purple School Glue Sticks, Washable, 7 Grams, 30 Count : Office Products
  2. Black Pens – Amazon.com : BIC Round Stic Grip Xtra Comfort Black Ballpoint Pens, Medium Point (1.2mm), 36-Count Pack, Perfect Writing Pens With Soft Grip for Superb Comfort and Control : Office Products
  3. Blue Pens – Amazon.com : BIC Round Stic Grip Xtra Comfort Blue Ballpoint Pens, Medium Point (1.2mm), 36-Count Pack, Excellent Writing Pens With Soft Grip for Superb Comfort and Control : Office Products
  4. Red Pens – Amazon.com : BIC Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pens, Medium Point (1.0mm), Red, 12-Count Pack, Stick Pens for Office Supplies (GSM11-RED) : Rollerball Pens : Office Products
  5. Correction Tape – Amazon.com : 36 Pack Correction Tape Eraser, original Correction Tape White Wide Tape Wipe out Easy to Use Applicator Translucent Dispenser Shows for School Office Note Journal Scrapbooking, 0.2 Inch x 39.4 Feet : Office Products
  6. Yellow Highlighters – Amazon.com : Madisi Highlighters Bulk Pack, Chisel Tip, Fluorescent Yellow, 84 Count : Office Products
  7. Scientific Calculators – Amazon.com: 2 Line Engineering Scientific Calculator Function Calculator Calculator Large Display Math Calculator for Student Teacher Classroom High School College School Business Offices Black (10 Pieces)
  8. Spanish/English Dictionaries – Webster’s Spanish-English Student Dictionary Edition 2: Merriam-Webster: 9781596951655 – Christianbook.com
  9. 16Gb USB Drives – Amazon.com: 10-Pack Enfain 16GB USB 2.0 Flash Memory Stick Swivel Thumb Drives for Universal Data Storage at Home & The Office (Black) : Electronics
  10. Backpacks – Small size for kinder-3rd grade and large size for middle school (secundaria), high school (prepa) and university.

We can ALWAYS use other basic items like blunt scissors, dry erase markers, coloring books (for kinder) and good quality pencil sharpeners that have space for shavings.

Important tip: Please keep the receipts for items purchased to show when you pass through customs.

THANK YOU for being part of our volunteer/donor “village” that makes this project possible!

Attention Super Shoppers – Part I Backpacks

The Challenge . . . 400+ backpacks are needed in 11 months

Every year we wonder if we’ll have enough backpacks to give to 625+ students?  Our amazing SUPER SHOPPERS and SHERPA volunteers who visit Cozumel throughout the year have always filled the need.

This is the time of year when you can score the greatest discounts on backpacks for next school year.  After Labor Day in the US, store managers want to clear out their inventory to make room for holiday seasonal items.  Our volunteers have had success in asking for a manager for a discount on purchasing backpacks in quantity, at their local Walmart, Walgreens and office supply stores.  They may have 5 to over 200 backpacks available at $3.00 each or even less.  Be sure to keep your receipt to bring through customs. 

We group backpacks in three sizes according to grades:  Kinder – Primaria (elementary) grades 1-3; Primaria 4-6; and Secundaria (middle school) through University.  Thankfully we already have enough for Primaria 4-6 for next year. 

Our GREATEST NEED is 300 backpacks for secundaria – university (60 % female/40% male).  The next need is 100+ backpacks for kinder – primaria 1-3 (50+ girls; 50+ boys).  Colors/themes or prints that are unisex are very helpful.  The culture here has been very traditional in terms of male/female colors although we see that changing over time.  We also have online sources to order backpacks in cases of 24 that can be shipped to someone’s home who is coming to the island. 

If you know you will be visiting the island but shopping online or in person is not your thing . . . but you are willing to bring some backpacks when you visit the island, let us know your travel dates so we can funnel backpacks or supplies for you to bring.

Please check back often for the following series of postings:

  • Calling Super Shoppers – Part 2 School Supplies Needed
  • Results of 2023-24 School Supply Project
  • Scholarships and University Students
  • Volunteer Opportunities October-November 2023
  • Save the Dates – Pre-Holiday Project and 2024-2025 School Distribution

SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND DROP-OFF LOCATIONS

Backpacks and supply packets are sorted and ready for distribution

We are in the process of renewing registrations of families for the 2023-24 school year.  We have nearly all the basic supplies to help 800 students on our list from last year.  Financial donations are used to purchase paper products locally.  Donations received from now until the distribution in August may allow us to add some families on our long waiting list. 

Thanks to our collaboration with the Chrysalis organization, there are several drop off sites located downtown, mid-town and south of town.  Drop Off Locations – Cozumel Chrysalis Group  Or feel free to contact us to meet you personally to receive your donations.

Special thanks to Jacqui Sargeant for her donation of backpacks.

BLESSED TO RECEIVE MORE SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Last week, we received another fantastic donation of 17 backpacks and school supplies from COZUMEL BAR HOP.   They are a wonderful supporter of education for children on the island as they collect donations on our behalf from their clients.

We are busy preparing for this year’s distribution of school supplies which will benefit nearly 800 total students.

GREATEST NEEDS:   While we gladly accept all supplies, the biggest needs for this August include:

  • Backpacks for high school students (19” high x 5-6” deep)
  • Yellow highlighters
  • Black dry erase markers
  • Geometry sets (full sets with protractor, compass, ruler, triangles)

Stay tuned for a blog detailing our drop-off sites.   If you are visiting by boat or plane, for a week or only a day, contact us and we will make arrangements to get any donations into our hands and ultimately the hands of the children for the coming school year.

Backpacks, Blankets, Bike and More

We are blessed to receive a variety of donations to support Cozumel families in need.

Thanks to donors who recently brought backpacks to be distributed this summer to students in kindergarten through university.  Guests of Paradise Beach recently donated both backpacks and various school supplies.  Kim Trethewey brought a case of 24 backpacks we ordered and shipped to their home to bring on their Cozumel vacation.    

Rosy Vargas, co-owner of Pepe Scuba, provided a very generous donation of 100 meters of fleece fabric.  Friends of Cozumel volunteers will cut the fleece in lengths to the size of throw blankets to distribute next winter.  Many families we support live in very modest 1 or 2 room homes that do not have protection from strong winds or are not completely enclosed.

Armand Gautron and Leanne Pauch donated a good condition bike and helmet that we matched to a single mom with 5 children.  She is a hard worker and now has a full-time job cleaning at one of the hospitals to support her children.  She is one of the mothers who receives a “hand-up” through Diana’s SMILE (Single Mothers Independent Living Endowment) with the goal of helping her family to become self-sufficient.  The bike will provide transportation to/from her job and for the family to use for errands.  

Coming soon . . . our next posting about personal hygiene products provided to a special group of mothers.

High Season Visitors Benefit Cozumel Families

It is high “tourist” season here and visitors are giving generously to the community.  Cozumel expects 35 cruise ships this week.  Full flights with families on spring break arrive daily.

A growing trend is adults of all ages coming to the island for longer stays of 2 or 3 weeks to 4+ months during the winter to enjoy tropical weather and volunteer their time.  Friends of Cozumel hosts Volunteer Thursdays, a 2-3 hour commitment a couple of times monthly.

Thank you Cozumel Bar Hop!

A special shout out of THANKS for these recent wonderful donations . . .

  • 6 backpacks of various donations from Volunteer Christian Builders delivered by cruisers Richard/Brenda Crosby and Friesen family
  • 35+ backpacks filled with school supplies donated by Cozumel Barhop visitors
  • ~300 backpacks donated by Bob/Linda Choura; delivered by Debi/Randy Bartkoski; Richard/Christine Underwood; Jerry/Ann Peters and Don/Ava Quinn
  • 39 backpacks, color pencils, scientific calculators, brought by Larry/Karen Pedersen
  • 50 scientific calculators by Tracey Kirsling-Hendricks & John Hendrickson
  • 3 bags of reader eyeglasses from David Ritchie
  • $ ongoing donation from Jamie/Doug Brown
Part of a 300 bag purchase arrived in Cozumel
Even more backpacks arrived in February

“Thank you for being a friend. . .”

Remember this theme song from the old TV series “Golden Girls”?  Celebrating love and friendship is the focus for Valentines Day in Mexico.  In a troubled world with natural disasters and so much negative daily news, it is important for us all to reflect on the blessings and inspirational stories that have and will continue to occur.

Our heartfelt thanks on behalf of Cozumel families. 

Your love and generosity enabled Friends of Cozumel to achieve these results in 2022:

  1. Provided school supplies to ~800 students; 20% students have special needs.
  2. Increased scholarships to benefit 56 high school and 14 university students.
  3. Continued covid family support through spring 2022
    • Meals:  Collected and administered funds for meal program served 3 times/weekly by Vida Abundante; 60,000 meals served during the pandemic
    • Food:  Distributed nearly 1,300 “despensas” dry food boxes during the pandemic to 120 families
    • Medicine/Medical treatment:  Paid prescriptions, diagnostic exams and transportation costs for families seeking treatment on the mainland
    • Community Clothes Closet opened 1-2 times/weekly serving 20 families/week; then transferred to Vida Abundante
  4. Installed new technology for safe drinking water systems for 50 families; 154 systems in use
  5. Expanded support to the most vulnerable people including seniors and disabled adults confined to their homes; babies received formula and ecological diaper kits; and complex family situations served through Diana’s SMILE (Single Mother’s Independent Living Endowment)
  6. Changed volunteer involvement from 3 week-long “mission” experiences a year to short- term volunteer work sessions throughout the year; 50% are now local volunteers; hosted multiple visiting groups with long-term relationships supporting Cozumel families.

Karen and Larry, Cozumel

School Supply Donations Continue to Arrive

This month, we have been blessed to receive two large donations of school supplies as we build our inventory levels in anticipation of the annual distribution in July or August. Last year we increased the number of students to approximately 800 that would receive school supplies in collaboration with the Cozumel Chrysalis Group. We knew it would be a challenge to procure the quantities that would be necessary to do the same number of students again in the 2023-24 school year. However, donors have once again proven that we should never underestimate the generosity of people who visit this island that we all love.

Donation from Cozumel Bar Hop

Cozumel Bar Hop has been a strong supporter of the Cozumel Chrysalis Group for a number of years as they collect school supply donations from people who go on their tours. January was no exception as we received the supplies that are in the photo above. A huge THANK YOU is due to COZUMEL BAR HOP for their continued support.

Donation from family and friends of Mike Larsen

Last December, we received a message from Mike Larsen that a group of approximately eleven people would be visiting Cozumel in January and their tradition is to bring school supplies to wherever they vacation. We met with them and were overwhelmed by the generosity of this group. They travel to various destinations in the Caribbean and support education in this way. We are blessed to make new friends that often become repeat donors.

If you are visiting Cozumel in the coming months and would like to help us out, here is a list of our greatest needs.   If you don’t have room to bring supplies we gladly accept dollar donations that enable us to purchase paper products locally.

  • Blue Ink Pens
  • Correction Tape
  • Yellow Highlighters
  • Dry Erase Markers (Black preferred)
  • Scientific Calculators
  • 3-Ring Binders 1 ½ – 2”
  • Coloring books

NEVER UNDERSTIMATE WHAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED

The first batch (90 backpacks) has arrived – only 210 more to go!

Last August we had our largest distribution (~800 students) ever.  Distributing supplies to this many students over two days requires a lot of coordination and a LOT of volunteers.    Bob and Linda, a couple who helped us for the very first time with school distribution are committed to see this succeed in the future and told us they would be actively looking for school supplies for 2023.  

In November we received a call that they had purchased 300 backpacks at a very special price as a local Walmart store that wanted to clear out inventory after back-to-school sales.   Now, the only challenge was to find a way to get them to Cozumel.  We then reached out to another volunteer/donor couple who lived in a nearby state and would be visiting this winter.   Debi not only agreed to find people to bring these backpacks to Cozumel, but also found someone who was going to be traveling through the other state and could pick up the backpacks.  She also found people to donate luggage.   Debi and Randy brought the first group of 90 backpacks (and 50 dictionaries) the first week of January.   It just shows how you can never underestimate the creativity and power of a network of donors.

If you are visiting Cozumel in the coming months and would like to help us out, here is a list of our greatest needs.   If you don’t have room to bring supplies we gladly accept dollar donations that enable us to purchase paper products locally.

  • Blue Ink Pens
  • Correction Tape
  • Yellow Highlighters
  • Dry Erase Markers (Black preferred)
  • Scientific Calculators
  • 3-Ring Binders 1 ½ – 2”
  • Coloring books

CAM CELEBRATES CULTURE  

Day of the Dead and All Saints Day (Nov. 1-2) is a special time on the island when loved ones who have passed are honored by their families and friends. 

CAM school students, parents and staff had a wonderful celebration recently.  Friends of Cozumel (FOC) was invited as a special guest at this celebration in recognition of the ongoing support our volunteers and donors provide to the primaria (elementary) and secundaria (middle school).

CAM serves youth with various disabilities and include an early identification program for infants through preschool.  FOC provides school supplies to 140 CAM students and teaching material for the staff. 

Hurricane Preparation . . . A Moving Target

Products purchased and ready to distribute when needed

Hurricanes are in the news across Canada, the US and the Caribbean.  Friends of Cozumel with the aid of our local volunteer leaders proactively prepared to help 140 Cozumel families with emergency mini-despensas in the event of a category #2+ hurricane.  Despensas are dry food products.  The food was purchased when “Ian” was forming in the Caribbean.  Since then, Hurricane Ian’s path has changed to have the greatest impact on Florida. 

Although we will not distribute the mini-despensas now, they are stored and ready to distribute from two locations whenever needed just before a hurricane. Families on our list will be advised via whatsapp to come to:  1) Vida Abundante Church or 2) Amigos de Cozumel bodega (our storage location) on a certain day/time and bring their bag. The mini-despensas include enough food for 1-2 days:  4 liters drinking water, tuna, mayo, crackers, spaghetti, tomato puree, precooked pouches of refried beans, canned mixed vegetables, powdered chocolate milk, a candle, matches, and cloro (bleach) to clean after hurricanes.  Volunteers will deliver the mini-despensas to home-bound families.

Items that make up the “mini-despensa” for hurricanes

The most economical brands of products were purchased from various stores. Each despensa cost 188 pesos ($9 USD) per family . . . a great “investment” to ensure families in need have food/drinking water during a hurricane.  This is one example of how monetary donations we receive for “Greatest Needs” are used. The despensas will be stored until the island is forecasted to have a category #2+ hurricane or the end of the season.  If not used by November; these despensas will distributed to help families during “low tourism season” when many jobs are affected.

Although local families with low resources may lack the funds to cover windows with wood panels or hurricane shutters; the process for preparing homes for those with resources provides temporary work/income for local families.  We salute the families Friends of Cozumel supports who are very creative in using whatever they have to prepare their homes for hurricanes.   

Smiles of Gratitude: School Supply Distribution, August 2022

Students and their families dressed in their best clothes and arrived on foot or clinging together on a moto. They waited patiently, masks in place, to receive their school supplies. But beneath their masks they were smiling. They saw piles of brightly colored backpacks to choose from and stacks of notebooks, pencil pouches and geometry sets. The long list of supplies required by schools would no longer be a barrier to attending school. 

Breaking Records

After a two-year hiatus for Covid-19, students are back in school with face-to-face learning. Nearly 800 Cozumel students recently received a fresh supply of the tools they need to continue their education. It’s been a record-breaking year. The expanded number of students served required a carefully organized effort: connecting with the families, shepherding them through the inscription process, and staffing the distribution of backpacks stocked with the specific supplies needed for each grade level. A total of 51 local and visiting volunteers helped 790 students through the process. Twenty percent of those students have special needs.

“While we may have been able to do this with fewer workers, we chose to include local volunteers—27 of the 51—primarily to involve students and/or parents who benefit from this program,” said Karen, an FOC leader.

A few years ago, growing this program to help 500 students in need was a dream of Byron’s, one of the regular volunteers from Texas. His idea of a dramatic increase in the number of students served was not readily embraced by the other core volunteers.

“My head is still spinning from the 800 number,” Byron said. “But as I recall, the reaction to my proposal of 500 was everywhere from ‘that’s funny,’ to ‘how on earth could we manage that’?”

But FOC did indeed manage 500 plus nearly 300 more.

“It just takes, faith,” Byron said.

Shifting Trends

• The number of students served overall has increased. Numbers jumped from 179 in 2013 to 504 in 2017 to 790 in 2022. 

• Students appear to be staying in school longer. Students were mainly in primary grades in the early years while this year 44% were in grade 7 and above. 167 students are now in high school and university programs.

• Students are interested in higher education, but often have to choose between going to school and working to support their families. FOC provides financial becas (scholarships) to all first semester prepa (high school) students and selected university students. 

• Parents and older youth value the ability to read, but some have trouble seeing. As a result, FOC provided reading glasses to 63 people during this year’s school supply distribution. 

24 Years and Counting

Friends of Cozumel founders have supported education for more than 24 years. We began working with Chrysalis in 1998 and expanded to support NUAFA in 2002. At this time, Friends of Cozumel was formed with goals to encourage education and offer support to families in need. These early partnerships with other established nonprofits helped chart a course for what eventually became FOC. Although NUAFA ended operations and Chrysalis recently merged with Friends of Cozumel, our focus on education, support of families and community, and volunteerism has not changed.

You Make a Difference

Donors provide in-kind contributions of school supplies while others make financial donations that are used to purchase paper products and other items locally. Many volunteers bring small sized donations in backpacks via cruise ships while others come to vacation and assist us in service projects. 

Bob and Linda from Oklahoma have donated school supplies in past years, but this was their first time to come help with the distribution process. 

“We said we ought to go help. Sometimes the Lord prompts us to do that,” said Bob. 

Linda agrees. “We saw the need and it’s been exciting to see the kids pick out the backpacks they want. The looks on their faces—you can tell they’re trying to tell me thank you. I think they really appreciated the help.”

Now Collecting School Supplies  

This year’s distribution is complete, but work has already begun to collect enough school supplies for next year. A list of needed supplies can be found here, but these items are especially needed:

Large (19”) backpacks for women

Scientific calculators

Spanish only dictionaries for elementary students

Spanish/English dictionaries for upper level students

Black dry erase markers

Yellow highlighters

Special Thanks to Supporters

Whether it was a handshake, or thanks spoken in Spanish or English, the smiles from students and their family members said it all. We’d like to pass their appreciation on to you. 

“It’s our wonderful donors throughout the year make this project possible,” said Karen.

Muchisimas gracias from 790 students, their parents and from all of the volunteers who appreciate your support.

2022 – 23 SCHOOL SUPPLY DISTRIBUTION HAS BEGUN

Today we were honored to provide school supplies to CAM Primaria and CAM Secundaria schools in Cozumel for the upcoming school year that begins on August 29.  Friends of Cozumel provided individual supplies for each student, a quantity of pens, markers and other supplies for the teaching staff plus four cases of white paper for the administration.  The CAM schools in Mexico are established to serve children with special needs of all types.   We are proud of our partnership with the CAM schools.

140 CAM Students will receive supplies

This weekend, we will be distributing individual backpacks, school supplies and paper products to over 630 children from families with limited resources.