Counting Backpacks, Leaders and Smiles

The 2015 summer mission efforts are coming to an end. Volunteers are returning to the reality of their other lives, and FOC island residents are sweeping up the remains of the storm of activity. Here are just some of the effects of the volunteer vortex. (click on photos to enlarge)

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Local volunteer Sami (right) has been developing leadership skills through FOC work for several years.

Local volunteer Nuria has been helping FOC with translation and other projects for many years.

Local volunteer Nuria has been helping FOC with translation and other projects for many years.

School Supply Distribution

“We finished up distribution on Thursday night and ended up with some very happy families,” said Larry, an FOC leadership team member and keeper of the inventory record. “There were higher numbers than we originally thought possible.” 

 • 415 Backpacks and school supply packets were distributed to students in kindergarten thru university. We exceeded our 350 student goal by 19 %.

• 300 pairs of tennis or black shoes were given to these school students.

“These are amazing numbers and could only be done with all the donors who help us buy, collect and haul the supplies here to Cozumel,” Larry said. “We haven’t yet established our goal for next year, but we did pretty much deplete our existing stock of school supplies here in Cozumel.  I hope folks will watch for those weekly deals in U.S. stores and grab some bargains for us.”

Local volunteer Elena (right) taught workshop participants to make tote bags.

Local volunteer Elena (right) taught workshop participants to make tote bags.

Local volunteers help price items and control the crowds at the Gran Bazar.

Local volunteers help price items and control the crowds at the Gran Bazar.

Support to Families

• More than 300 family members of all ages benefited from clothing, shoes and household goods from the Gran Bazar.

• 238 pairs of reading glasses were distributed—with the greatest need to replenish the 1.0-1.75 strengths.

• 15 youth and adults participated in the Learn To Snorkel program.

• 15 special needs youth with disabilities participated in aqua therapy.

• 200+ family members of various ages learned to sew or make crafts at the free workshops that were open to the public.

“Thanks to all the volunteers for this beautiful work that was done,” said Pastora Mariela (as translated from her Facebook page). “It was very fun for the families and their children.”

Jerry (left) and Byron constructed shelves for Vida Abundante.

Jerry (left) and Byron constructed shelves for Vida Abundante.

Local volunteer Victor (center) helped lead craft projects.

Local volunteer Luis (center) helped lead craft projects.

Ministries

• 100+ youth and adults enjoyed craft projects and refreshments as part of Bible School at Vida Abundante Church.

• 6 volunteers and 2 pastors provided a prison ministry program

• 7 youth and 7 mothers from Casa Oracion (a church in the jungle area) did a cultural exchange and dance performance with 7 FOC volunteers

• Wood shelves, a closet and diaper changing station were constructed for Vida Abundante

“(The prison visit) was interesting and humbling and sad and joyous and it was a very, very special experience for all of us,” said Lisa, an FOC volunteer from Maryland.

Alex (right) and Karen keep the records organized for more than 400 sets of school supplies.

Keeping more than 400 sets of school supplies organized wouldn’t have been possible without local volunteers like Alex (right) and Karen.

Local volunteer Maria (left) helped identify families in need of school supplies..

Local volunteer Maria (left) helped identify families in need of school supplies.

Collaboration and Volunteerism

• Of the 27 FOC volunteers this summer, 10 were first-time visitors.

• 13 local Mexican volunteers developed leadership skills by helping to identify and communicate with families in need of school supplies. 17 local volunteers helped price items and/or worked at the Gran Bazar.

• 8 organizations collaborated with FOC. Thanks to Centro de Autismo, Casita Corazon, Casa de Oracion, Chrysalis, Diamond Wishes Children’s Charity, Manos y Voces, Operation Backpack Cozumel, and Vida Abundante.

“It’s wonderful to have so many local volunteers involved,” said Karen, an FOC leadership team member. “They’ve been very responsive and have really taken their roles seriously. Many of them have been recipients of help from Friends of Cozumel in the past and now they’re giving back to their community.”

And how many smiles and hugs were exchanged between happy volunteers and the families they served? Suffice it to say there were more than we could count. The volunteer vortex has officially ended, leaving many positive after-effects in its wake. Thanks for your support and encouragement. It is appreciated by all. Hasta la próxima. (until next time). ~ Phyllis from Nebraska.

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