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Bowen-Burns-Richey Family Cruise & Donation Delivery–Dec. 30, 2010

Bowen-Burns-Richey FamiliesYesterday was a GREAT sunny, warm day here on the island! It was especially FUN meeting the Bowen-Burns-Richey family from North Carolina who combined volunteer efforts with snorkeling, diving, beach relaxation and shopping during their port-of-call in Cozumel. All 14 members of their family cruise group are shown in the photo with Juan, their local friend and Papa Hog’s divemaster.

A couple of months ago, Kristin Bowen shared with us their family was planning a cruise over the holidays and offered to deliver donations to Cozumel. Kristin’s parents, Bill and Leona Burns happened to be going to Iowa for a relative’s wedding and so we were able to hand off 9 backpacks filled with a total of 90 pounds of school supplies that they delivered on their cruise. This was a HUGE help in getting these donations provided by other donors to Cozumel. Their “sherpa” efforts support the School Supplies project that will benefit over 100+ children from families in need during 2011.

Kristin, Bill and Leona will be returning to Cozumel in February as volunteers for the Mission Trip sponsored by Friends of Cozumel.

Together we have brought JOY, LOVE & HOPE–December 17, 2010

Carries Heart LogoIt has been a wonderful experience for Friends of Cozumel to partner with Carrie’s Heart, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the education, community involvement and overall quality of life of children with disabilities.

Carrie Conn, President of Carrie’s Heart, sent the following holiday greeting to THANK supporters. Working together we truly are changing lives!

JoseImagine if your whole world consisted of a dirty plastic chair. When we first meet Jose, his world was literally his chair. Jose’s family is our most challenged family economically and socially. The family lives in a collection of small shacks and structures on a piece of land that they have squatted on for many years. The family runs electricity to their home from a neighbor and they have no running water.

Despite the overwhelmingly impoverished living conditions, the family has done their best to love and care for Jose. A committed group of Carrie’s Heart supporters and mission volunteers have worked to improve the quality of life of Jose and the other twelve children who live with him.

Jose todayJose now sits in a chair specially made for him and plays with toys. He has a jogging stroller, a mat for therapy and a new bed. His family now has a basic kitchen with a new stove so that the children are no longer breathing in smoke from the cooking fire. With improved nutrition and physical therapy we have seen changes in Jose that we never imagined possible.

Together we have opened up Jose’s world and brought JOY, LOVE and HOPE into his life.

“Where there is love there is life.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

As we celebrate peace and joy of the season, Carrie’s Heart is extremely thankful for the generous and ongoing support for our mission . . . Carrie Conn

Today, December 17th, is a special day that will bring JOY to many Cozumel children. Carrie’s Heart is sponsoring their annual Holiday celebration at the CAM School for children with disabilities. The children are receiving a gift especially selected for them based on letters students wrote to Santa last month.

Read more about Carrie’s Heart and the Valerie Project benefitting children with disabilities in Cozumel and throughout the Yucatan

NUAFA Holiday Greeting & Thanks to Supporters–December 16, 2010

EloisaEloisa Buenfil Rivero, Founder and President of NUAFA, recently emailed a holiday greeting to THANK donors and volunteers. Eloisa asked that we share her blessings and heartfelt appreciation with all Friends of Cozumel supporters. Excerpts of her translated message follow . . .

Hello, Hello from Cozumel . . . Casa del Alfarero NUAFA. Blessings.

Good day to you all from Jesus Christ. For me it is an honor I can write you this message.

Today is a special day. We have life and health. I am very happy and thankful because through each one of you God permits us to walk and each day to be more strong. Many thanks for all your support, your donations of money, work and effort. I want to tell you that it has not been in vain. Many family homes have benefitted and many children have been nurtured with our care, attention and food.

Many, many donor “Friends”, benefactors and supporters have been working tirelessly. God bless you greatly. God gives us life on this land. May it be a blessing for all your family’s generations in sustenance, shoes, homes and everyday goods that are our human needs but above all are the things we keep in our heart. Our God gives us the Holy Spirit to walk with him. Many thanks.

Many thanks and happy celebrations for everything that God permits us to do. Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Cozumel and the world needs us to be the lookouts for where each one of us lives. We are lit by the light of our father Jesus Christ. Blessings, Blessings, Blessings.

Note: Remember Joshua 1: 9; “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Thank you,


Nebraskans Escape Frigid Midwest & Deliver Donations–December 15, 2010

EloisaWell SOMEBODY has to deliver donations to Paradise . . . That’s their story and they’re sticking to it!

Avid cruisers Becky & Mike Gomez and Roger & Diane Hoy delivered four backpacks of donations to Cozumel yesterday filled to the brim with school supplies, tennis shoes, personal hygiene products, first aid supplies, batteries and other goodies for children and families in need. April Koss, local Friends of Cozumel volunteer, met them at Punta Langosta Mall to receive the donations. Some of these items will be given to families in Christmas “care” packages next week. The tennis shoes and school articles support the School Supplies Project and will be distributed this coming summer to help 100+ children continue their education. And much needed first aid supplies and batteries will go to non-profit organizations like NUAFA that focus on helping families.

The Hoys and Gomezes were recruited as “sherpas” by Gary and Phyllis Larsen, long-time Friends of Cozumel volunteers. We’re always amazed by the generousity and willingness our informal network of family and friends demonstrate to support Mexican families in need. Roger and Gary are cousins so conversations at family gatherings naturally include updates on Cozumel community service and mission efforts.

Getting donated goods transported to the island is one of our greatest challenges. Offers from cruiseship passengers to bring things in backpacks or in luggage with visitors vacationing on the island are greatly appreciated.


Ironman Winning Smiles–December 14, 2010

Ironman winner Andy Potts I was lamenting I didn’t have a chance to snap any photos of volunteers in action during the Ironman on November 28th when Sandy, good friend and fellow volunteer commented, “Hey . . . I’ve got THE photo!” “I mean, if you’re only going to get one photo, go for the gold, right?!”

Here’s a great photo of Cozumel Ironman Winner, Andy Potts, with Red Cross and Friends of Cozumel Volunteer, Sandy Ham.

Andy finished the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile marathon run in 8:15:57. Sandy was working as a volunteer in the Recovery area after competitors crossed the finish line where she met Andy and offered assistance. It wasn’t until sometime later Andy mentioned to her he was the Ironman winner. You can tell this photo was taken early in the day . . . those of us who volunteered for later shifts until 1 a.m. didn’t look this “fresh” nor was the recovery area so clean and sparkling.

This year’s Ironman triathlon “sold out” with 2,304 registered competitors ages 18-72 from 53 countries. Read more at ironmancozumel .

Serving as a volunteer for the Ironman was an incredible experience . . . incredibly inspiring to meet athletes from all over the world, incredibly humbling to hear their stories of overcoming odds or life changes that spurred them to compete, incredibly hectic to ensure participants experiencing post-race health issues received needed treatment, incredibly positive that so many of these visitors commented on the warmth and friendliness of the local people and yes, it was incredibly tiring. Our legs and feet ached for a couple of days along with every other volunteer with whom we talked afterwards. It is hard to imagine the recovery some of the athletes face after this physically grueling event.

Would we volunteer again? Definitely! Consider joining us as volunteers next year. The Cozumel Ironman will be Sunday, November 27, 2011.


Friends of Cozumel Full-Time Residents, Sandy & Ray Ham– November 28, 2010

Ray and Sandy HamOur informal network of families, friends, colleagues, donors and volunteers known as Friends of Cozumel continues to grow. Sandy and Ray Ham are now part of the volunteer team along with Karen & Larry Pedersen, Phyllis & Gary Larsen, and Ilene & Byron Kendrick that coordinates efforts to benefit children and families in need. Sandy and Ray have participated in several mission project work weeks and special projects throughout the year. Their knowledge of the island and connections to people and resources is a tremendous asset to Friends of Cozumel! About the Hams . . .

Ray and Sandy Ham’s journey to Cozumel began with a high school graduation trip to Cancun for their daughter Toni in 1990, that included a day trip to Cozumel. They began coming to the island once, twice, three times a year after that and fell in love with the people, the beautiful Caribbean and the astonishing world of diving. The Hams began construction of their home on the Island in 1998. Ray retired from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Sandy as Administrator of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and they made their move to full time retirement on Cozumel in 2004.

Sandy has been involved in non-profit and volunteer activities for over 25 years in the U.S in addition to community service efforts since relocating to the island; consequently she and Ray have become deeply committed to helping the community, especially the children in need.

With a lot of construction experience under their belts (including personally designing and constructing a two-story addition to their home in Indiana), they enjoy the hands-on work needed in many of the projects. As full time residents, they are happy to provide connections to new friends and resources, and help expand the reach of the Friends of Cozumel.

Utah Visitors Volunteer & Donate During Thanksgiving Vacation–November 26, 2010

Sara and Cody McArthurSara McArthur recently wrote to this website “My husband and I are traveling to Cozumel for a family vacation and we would like to do some volunteer work while there. Either gathering supplies and bringing them for donation or volunteering our time and resources . . .” They are spending their Thanksgiving vacation here on the island snorkeling, diving, relaxing on the beach and devoting a few hours to volunteer work. Sara commented “Many people don’t realize you can spend a couple of hours doing a volunteer project during your vacation. It doesn’t have to be a whole week . . . you can make a difference in just an afternoon!”

Sara and her husband, Cody, served as Cruz Roja (Red Cross) volunteers at the Ironman Expo today sharing information about services available to the competing athletes, their friends and families.

Crus Roja VolunteersSpecial THANKS to Sara and Cody for bringing very generous donations to help Cozumel children from families in need. They brought new clothing for boys and girls that will be shared with local families during the holiday season. In addition, they donated 60 children’s underwear and 60 pair of socks that will be distributed by Friends of Cozumel as part of the School Supplies project.

Sara and Cody are excited to begin their family with the birth of their first child in January. When we met to receive their donations today they explained they come from families who are accustomed to giving to others, especially during the holiday season. Families helping families . . . that’s what it is all about.

Karen and Larry Pedersen

Cozumel Gears Up for Ironman — November 23, 2010

Ironman Competition 2009Athletes from around the world and their support teams are arriving on the island to prepare for the Ironman triathlon on Sunday, November 28. Over 10,000 visitors are expected including this year’s “sold out” registration of 2,300 participants. Competing athletes will swim 2.4 miles (3.8 km), bike 112 miles (180 km) and run 26.2 miles (42.2 km). Read more information

We’re excited to serve as Red Cross volunteers. A number of Friends of Cozumel volunteers who live on the island are scheduled to help as well as a visiting family group from Utah who contacted us through this site looking for volunteer opportunties during their vacation.

Cruz Roja EmblemCozumel’s Cruz Roja (Red Cross) is coordinating an army of volunteers to work in a variety of roles including the pre-race Expo, information/communication during the event to provide family members and friends participant status, finishline triage, recovery and medical tents. Cruz Roja is responsible for certain emergency services during the race to be provided by professional lifeguards, divers, paramedics, ambulance drivers, doctors, nurses and dispatchers from Red Cross delegations throughout the state of Quintana Roo and other states, local hospitals, clinics and from the Ironman organization.


Meet Our October Mission Volunteer Team–October 20, 2010

WOW . . . the Friends of Cozumel Fall Mission Trip officially scheduled for October 1-8 actually began September 25 with a 5-day marathon pre-trip painting project and ended with final project modifications on October 11 . . . 16 days in total! While we weren’t able to post blogs during our project work, we’ll share reflections and photos in the coming weeks.

We worked hard! We enjoyed fellowship
of sharing experiences within our group of mission volunteers and with local people. We learned new skills and developed a deeper cultural understanding. Together we accomplished a great deal to benefit children, families, and community organizations.

THANKS to our Mission Volunteers . . . a diverse team of 12 travelers from the US and island residents.

April and Alfredo Working at Bazar April Koss DiPasquale (CZM) is a local host volunteer who claims she doesn’t “do” projects . . . but cooking IS her talent so she keeps us well fed with wonderful lunches, hosts special suppers, provides transportation, serves as cashier for Gran Bazars, donates to families in need, is a shopper extraordinaire for special supplies and does a great deal of behind the scenes support for mission projects…..Alfredo Rosas (CZM) is a long-time personal friend of “Amigos de Cozumel” volunteers. He participated part-time (weekends/ evenings) around his full-time accounting work. Alfredo’s bilingual capabilities are a HUGE asset in translating. In addition to being an outstanding Gran Bazar cashier, Alfredo painted, sanded and discovered the fun of using power tools!

Byron Kendrick at WorkByron Kendrick (TX) took a three week sabattical from his RV repair business to come early to prepare for the Mission Trip. We won’t let Byron forget he discovered the old paint peeled off the NUAFA daycare walls which launched a 5-day scraping, sanding and painting marathon BEFORE the Mission Trip began! Byron has four Cozumel mission trips under his tool belt and enjoys working on shop projects.

Gail Applying WallpaperGail Lewis (TX) felt a calling to participate in this mission work so on a leap of faith she creatively found the necessary resources and invested a great deal of time beforehand to ensure payroll responsibilities at work were covered. Gail did sewing and craft projects, shared her passion for sewing with local women taking sewing classes, donated fabric, wallpapered to decorate a daycare and packaged food supplies. GRACIAS, Gail and the Sadler Baptist Church for their generous donation to support a local church and youth education.

Ilene and RayIlene Kendrick (TX) rarely relaxes as captured in this photo during a Mission Trip outing to the east side of the island. She’s constantly “on the go”. Co-hosting four mission trips to Cozumel, coordinating annual cruises for SAIL (women’s bible study cruise group), initiating the Bible Blessings ministry and continually seeking donations demonstrates Ilene’s energy and commitment to a mission partnership with the community. If home is where the heart is . . . Ilene is definitely “at home” in Cozumel…..Ray Ham (CZM) is a retiree living on island who is very involved in the lives of two special girls, Nuria and Sami, who are like adopted daughters to him and Sandy. The girls often help with Friends of Cozumel volunteer activities. Ray is a wealth of information about the island, knows where to go to find things or whom to contact in addition to being handy with woodworking and other projects. Thanks to Ray and Sandy for their tireless efforts “schlepping” volunteers, supplies and mission projects from place to place.

Jaydee Painting NUAFAJaydee Williams Ferguson (CZM) is an island resident who has been searching for meaningful, FUN volunteer work. She jumped right in to painting the daycare and hung shelves. Jaydee’s love of crafts led her to help with a mission trip project at the CAM school for children with disabilities. As a result, she volunteered to coordinate an ongoing crafts effort for the school and is working with family members in the US recruiting donations. THANKS to Jaydee for buying and donating sports equipment for CAM’s 100+ disabled students.

Karen Help PaintKaren Pedersen (CZM) coordinates the Friends of Cozumel informal network of volunteers and donors, identifies needs with local organizations, plans mission/service projects and ensures donations reach the intended audience. Karen connects people to benefit the community. She focuses on learning opportunities for youth and women, encouraging volunteerism and developing leadership skills.

Larry and Edwin at workLarry Pedersen (IA/CZM) loves woodworking as a hobby so looks forward to planning projects and spending time in the shop during mission trips. Larry works “virtually” whenever visiting the island to support his computer services business in the US. He is teased relentlessly about the number of daily trips he makes on his bike to the hardware store and often laments “If we had a table saw we could . . .” Larry actively recruits future mission trip volunteers in hopes that justifies acquiring more tools, including a table saw…..Edwin Gerardo Fernandez (CZM) survived his first mission experience working incredibly hard by scraping, painting, sanding and varnishing for days before and during the Mission Trip. Edwin learned to use power tools, packaged food supplies, used his bilingual capabilities to translate and was willing to try anything. He especially enjoyed the fellowship with “experienced” volunteers (code for the rest of us are a generation older)! Edwin is a volunteer teacher for Catholic youth education and is initiating a trash pick-up program.

Sandy HamSandy Ham (CZM) is one of the most positive persons you’ll ever meet! She and Ray have participated in three mission project work weeks as well as volunteering for ongoing Friends of Cozumel activities. THANKS to Sandy for coordinating the huge NUAFA daycare painting project, wielding a drill to hang shelves, assisting with the Mexican cooking class and helping coordinate efforts to avoid duplicating resources that benefit the community.

Treva Repairing Sewing MachinesTreva Mahan (TX) visits the island annually with SAIL, a women’s bible study cruise group that has developed a mission partnership with several organizations. Her love of sewing led her to make/donate five new curtains for the daycare, organize storage for NUAFA sewing class supplies, service sewing machines, sew a custom seat cushion for a disabled child and lead craft projects at the CAM school. Special THANKS for the wonderful donations Treva brought . . . school backpacks, beauty salon class supplies including wigs, fabric, craft supplies.

Support Children’s Education By Helping Us – August 22, 2010

THANKS to our dedicated team of Super Shoppers, we’re well on our way to reaching the goal of providing school supplies for 100+ children! Larry is maintaining a spreadsheet of donations received to date as well as supplies we’ve been informed have been purchased in Iowa, Nebraska and Texas. The three highest priority needs from this week’s specials are: 12-pack colored pencils–need 70+, scientific calculators–need 25, and highlighters–need 70.

Best weekly deals through Sat., August 28:
Please keep receipts for donated supplies – Required for Customs


Sharp Scientific Calculators- Model EL-501WB-BL (Limit 2) – $1.00
Compasses (Limit 3) – 25 cents
3-Pack Erasers (Limit 3) – 25 cents
Pencil Cases (Limit 3) – 1 cent
2-Pocket Folders (Limit 10) – 1 cent
Rulers (Limit 3) – 1 cent

WALGREENS–With coupon in weekly print ad available in stores
12-Pack Colored Pencils – Penway Brand (Limit 3) – 39 cents

5-Pack Bic Highlighters (Limit 2) – 50 cents

12-Pack Crayola Colored Pencils – Buy 1 Get 2 Free
10-Pack Crayola Markers – Buy 1 Get 2 Free

KMART–Need variety of sizes for boys & girls ages 4-12
Fruit of the Loom Boys’ 6-Pack Underwear & Girls’ 9+1-Pack Underwear – $3.88
Fruit of the Loom Boys’ & Girls’ 6-Pair Socks – $4.88

Thanks to everyone for your continued support!

Larry and Karen

Support Children’s Education by Helping Us – August 18, 2010

Hello Super Shoppers,

We’re accumulating a good deal of the school supplies needed thanks to everyone’s generousity! We are raising our goal from supporting 75 children to hopefully helping 100+ kids in addition to providing supplies for two Christian Youth Bible School Programs and a school supply donation to the CAM school for youth with disabilities.

This may be the last week of advertised deals as some local schools began this week or will begin next Monday. The newspaper and online ads contained very few cheap weekly “deals” so we personally visited each of the 7 different stores to check out unadvertised stock and prices . . . thus the delay in sending out the list.

Best weekly deals through Sat., August 21
Please keep receipts for donated supplies – Required for Customs

Vinyl Storage Pouch (Limit 3 per household) – 5 cents
Translucent Calculators – $1.00

Calculators – $1.00
Girls’ or Boys’ Hanes 6 + 1-pk Socks (need various sizes) – $3.79
Girls’ Hanes 9 + 1-pk Underwear – $5.00

Vinyl Supply Pouch Ross brand – 25 cents
12-Count Crayola or CrazArt Colored Pencils – 75 cents
Back to School Calculators – $1.00
Girls’ or Boys’ Hanes Socks 12 pr for price of 10 – $5.87
Women’s Hanes Socks 8 pr for price of 6 – $4.87
Women’s Hanes Cotton Briefs Sizes 5-6, 8 pr for price of 6 – $5.27
Girls’ Hanes Underwear Sizes 6-16, 10 pr for price of 9 – $4.87
Boys’ Hanes Boxer Briefs Sizes S-XL, 4 for price of 3 – $4.87
Men’s Hanes Socks Sizes 6-12, 8 pr for price of 6 – $4.87

Support Children’s Education by Helping Us – Sunday, August 8, 2010

 NUAFA children received their new backpacks and school supplies

Children were given backpacks and school supplies at NUAFA

 Older children received new backpacks with supplies on Aug 7th

Older students received their new backpacks on August 7th

Help us shop/donate the weekly specials on school supplies! Invite your friends, neighbors, family or work colleagues to grab their spare change and make a stop or two during the week . . . the more we can add to our army of shoppers, the more children we can help continue their education. The supplies we are buying now will be for next school year, August 2011!

Friends of Cozumel volunteers from Iowa, Nebraska, Texas; Mission Trip participants, and the SAIL cruise group transport items to the island. Questions? Email

Last night we finished distributing backpacks filled with school supplies to 75 children from families with very limited resources. The children and parents are soooooo appreciative! Click here to read more about the School Supplies Project

Best Weekly “Deals” Sunday, August 8 – Saturday, August 14
Most are while supplies last, no rainchecks
Please keep receipts for donated supplies–required for Customs

OFFICE MAX–Buy the limit of all three items for only 96 cents!
2-Pocket Folders – 1 cent each (limit of 6)
24-Count Crayons – 5 cent each (limit of 3)
8-Pack Washable Markers (fine or broad line) – 25 cents each (limit of 3)

Tug 2-Hole Pencil Sharpener – 5 cents (limit of 3 per household)
5″ Schoolworks Point Tip Scissors – 25 cents (limit of 3 per household)
6-Pack Sharpie Accent Pocket Highlighters – 75 cents
Free backpack with $10 purchase if you have other items

Package of 2 Elmer’s Glue Sticks – 19 cents
Package of 2 White Correction Fluid – 99 cents

High Trails Backpacks – $3.99 (Note: We need backpacks to give each child. These are very basic, inexpensive ones at a GREAT price. Last year we waited until AFTER school started in the US and made the rounds of stores and were able to buy quantities of these same backpacks on sale for $1.25 each)

24-Pack Crayola Crayons – 25 cents
Package of 2 Elmer’s Glue Sticks – 25 cents

24-Pack Crayons – 25 cents
Package of 3 Papermate White Erasers – 50 cents
12-Count Color Pencils – 50 cents

DOLLAR TREE – Not a weekly special
Basic Calculators – $1.00
Scientific Calculators – $1.00

Plan a fall or winter “Vacation with a Purpose” – August 6, 2010

Come visit Cozumel and enjoy the island’s natural beauty . . .

Have fun and lend a helping hand by joining these mission efforts & projects . . .

Participate in a Mission Trip–Volunteer for 1 or all days:
October 1-8, 2010 (4, 5 & 7 day options)
February 23 – March 2, 2011 (Option to stay for Cozumel’s Carnaval)
View Photos of our Last Mission Trip
Options for Participating, Volunteer Roles Needed & Projects
Future Mission Trips – Details for Oct. 2010 and Feb.-Mar. 2011


SAIL 2010 Visits Vida Abudante

SAIL 2011–Women’s Bible Study Cruise
Cozumel Mission Visit + Jamaica + Grand Cayman
January 16-23, 2011 on Carnaval Conquest
Hurry . . . only a couple of spaces open for group of 20

SAIL General Information
SAIL 2011 Details
SAIL’s Cozumel Mission Efforts
SAIL Previous Years

Shoes & School Supplies Support Education for Children-Aug. 4, 2010

The island heat and humidity is stifling, but we’re having a very “cool” experience . . . giving shoes and school supplies to children of families with very limited resources.

 Children anxiously wait their turn to be fitted with tennis shoes donated by the SAIL group

Children anxiously wait their turn to be fitted with tennis shoes donated by the SAIL group

 Children in Jose's family receiving their backpacks

GRACIAS to all of the donors for providing backpacks for these children


Friends of Cozumel sponsor an annual School Supplies project to provide basic resources children need to continue their education. Attending public schools is “free”. However, families must furnish the learning supplies (very expensive to buy locally) plus purchase required uniforms and shoes. Families who can’t afford these expenses for all their school age children, may have to decide which children to send to school or what basic needs to go without (i.e. food, rent/utilities, health related expenses) to pay for school supplies.

Larry and I made a home visit Saturday evening to distribute two backpacks with school supplies to a single mother “in need”. Her sole source of support for herself and two teenage children is doing alterations she learned in a “taller” sewing skills workshop and other odd jobs. She was holding back tears as she asked us to share her appreciation with ALL those who have provided donations and she declared, “It’s like Christmas in the summer!”

Watch for other photos and updates about the School Supplies Project over the next few days.–Karen

Early – Mid July Happenings on the Island – July 9, 2010

Sunday, July 4th was declared a “dry” day (no alchohol sales) due to local and state elections. Elections results:

Governor of Quintana Roo: Roberto Borge
President (Mayor) of Cozumel: Aurelio Joaquin
District VIII Representative (Diputado): Freddy Marrufo

Friday, July 9 officially begins school vacation for Cozumel students and teachers. The school year runs longer than in the US due to the frequency and length of holidays and celebrations throughout the school year. Classes for the 2010-11 school year will begin in mid-August.

 Nuria with Sandy at CAM School

Nuria-left with Sandy at CAM school

KUDOS . . . Special congratulations to Nuria, age 16, local student whose excellent grades and outstanding test scores resulted in her being excused from the last month of school! She was the envy of her classmates. Nuria has a special family relationship like an adopted daughter with Ray and Sandy Ham, local Friends of Cozumel volunteers. Nuria joined us for a few February 2010 Mission Trip activities . . . setting-up the “Gran Bazar” and visiting the CAM school for children with disabilities.

Bible School programs open to all children in the community begin next week at NUAFA, followed by week-long sessions sponsored in various locations by churches and mission efforts. –Karen

The Impact of Education (or lack of) – July 6, 2010

 Miriam hopes to keep her younger children in school

Miriam hopes to keep her younger children in school

I recently made a home visit to the Gutierrez family to talk with Miriam, a single mother whose husband died a couple of years ago. Miriam and her children are survivors, having experienced both a great deal of sadness and life changes. Miriam’s oldest son, Ariel—a child with severe disabilities sponsored by Carrie’s Heart, passed away in August 2009.

After her husband’s death and Ariel’s passing, Miriam became increasingly uncomfortable and didn’t feel welcome living with her in-laws. Yet she was dependent on them for shelter, childcare, to share food and other aspects of their life. Miriam took a giant leap of faith they could make it on their own and moved her six children to a modest one-room rental. Her second oldest son, Erick, lost interest in school after his father died. Erick quit school before he was 12, the “obligatory” school attendance age that is not enforced. At the ripe “old” age of 13, Erick is now working to support himself and his grandmother with whom he is living.

Miriam is young, bright, very responsible and a caring mother but she confided she doesn’t have much formal education. As a result, she can’t read, write or even spell her children’s names. I discovered this when I asked if she needed assistance with the children’s school supplies next month and requested her help in compiling information about their ages, school, grade levels, etc. She’s learned to “cope” and brought me her file with their birth certificates so together we created the needed information. Her family will be part of the ~75 children receiving backpacks and basic needs sponsored by the Friends of Cozumel School Supplies project.

We often assume illiteracy is primarily an issue for seniors or those with special challenges. However, there are many people like Miriam, often women of all ages, who didn’t have the opportunity to learn the basics of reading and math. The impact on their lives is profound. For example, during my visit with Miriam, all the children arrived home from school. They LOVE school! After exchanging greetings, they excitedly got out their notebooks to show me what they had learned that day. A family friend arrived about the same time. He comes daily to help the children with their homework. Imagine not being able to read to your child, notices from school or their report cards!

Miriam wants more for her younger children ages 5 – 11. Her dream is to keep them actively involved in school at least through age 12 and hopefully beyond so they get an education. Although Miriam’s lack of formal education has limited her ability to read and write, her LIFE education and perseverance is a positive role model for her children. Although they still experience sad times, in the past six months their family has become self-sufficient and Miriam proudly shared with me their life is happier and less stressful. –Karen

Learning to sew leads to jobs & saves money – June 25, 2010

NUAFA Sewing Class

Part of the 2010 Summer Beginning Sewing Class sponsored by NUAFA

A small group of eight women gather three times a week for a couple of hours with their instructor to learn basic sewing skills. This week they completed 2/3 of a three month sewing class. They have already learned how to make their own patterns and completed a blouse, skirt and dress.

When I visited the class to take the photo above, they were ALL very excited about what they are learning. Only one of the women had any previous sewing experience. Most plan to use their skills to sew for their family and a couple of them are hoping to get jobs as seamstresses making school uniforms and basic alterations.

Sewing classes are one of the “Los Talleres” (means workshops in Spanish), an educational program sponsored by NUAFA (Heart of Family Support). This summer class is smaller than the normal class size of 10-20 participants but these women have been anxiously looking forward to learning and promised to attend consistently so they could graduate before school begins in August. Other women’s job training classes will begin in the fall if NUAFA is able to obtain donor sponsorship.

Los Talleres has a positive influence on the participants, their families and the community. What is the impact?

  1. Women learn new hands-on skills
  2. These skills enable them to support their families by preparing them for jobs, to begin home based businesses and/or use the skills to save their family money.
  3. It encourages self-sufficiency and contributes to breaking the cycle of poverty.
  4. Increases self confidence
  5. Provides a positive support network to meet other women who are improving their lives.
  6. Provides information about community resources to help their families. Participants are expected to attend other educational programs in addition to their skills classes.

Special THANKS to the donors of this class . . .

Diane Schroeder, Donor

Diane Schroeder, Iowa donor, visited NUAFA Jan. 2010

Candi & Eloisa with Indira Moreno of SAIL

Candi & Eloisa Buenfil, NUAFA Co-Founders with Indira Moreno, SAIL

Diane met with NUAFA staff, Elizabeth Chan (Instructor), and several previous sewing class participants when she visited this winter. Diane’s personal interest in sewing led her to provide a very generous cash donation that is paying for the instructor’s stipend.

The 2010 SAIL Group provided in-kind donations of fabric and other sewing supplies for use by sewing class participants when they visited Cozumel in January. Previous SAIL donations included new sewing machines purchased in the fall of 2008.

Donor sponsorship (both financial and in-kind resources) is critical to providing learning opportunities. Friends of Cozumel is seeking sponsorship for classes to begin this fall. Click here to see the Wish List of needs for Los Talleres–Karen

NUAFA Celebrates Preschool Graduation – June 18, 2010

Children at Graduation

Listening to Eloisa share their accomplishments and antics

Eloisa Buenfil - President and founder of NUAFA speaks to the graduates and their families

Eloisa Buenfil - President and Founder of NUAFA addresses the graduates and their families during the ceremony

Over 50 family members gathered at NUAFA Friday evening to celebrate an important rite of passage . . . four year olds “graduating” from preschool daycare. Although all these families have very limited resources, they pooled their collective resources and recruited sponsors to provide a memorable event.

It was an honor for me the mothers of the children and NUAFA Co-Founders requested I be the “madrina” (godmother) for this year’s graduation. Friends of Cozumel has been supporting NUAFA for 3 and 1/2 years since this age group of children began daycare. It was great fun seeing each child beam with pride as they were individually recognized and received their diploma.

Dr. Lourdes, a respected doctor, was the speaker for an program for parents just prior to the graduation ceremony. Eloisa Buenfil, President & Founder of NUAFA, is the smart volunteer leader of this non-profit organization who looks for every opportunity to educate parents.

It is always amazing to me how things come together the moment an event begins. For example, the mothers and staff planned to make white togas for the graduating children to wear but a last minute change resulted in the children having actual graduation gowns complete with mortarboards and tassels (some clearly were drapery tie-backs “borrowed” from homes of employers or friends). Local folks are very resourceful! Quantities of donated food appeared. Like many local celebrations, refreshments consisted of pasta, pop (all types of soda), and “pastel” (Spanish for cake).

NUAFA 2010 Graduating Class

NUAFA 2010 Graduating Class

Eloisa Buenfil addresses the graduation group

A graduate is very proud of her certificate

NUAFA Daycare is growing – June 17, 2010

Slowly but surely the word in the community is spreading about NUAFA’s high quality educational daycare and as a result NUAFA is growing!
The number of daycare children ages 1-4 has increased to 25

Nearly all are from families with very limited resources and qualify to receive “becas”, food scholarships from SEDESOL (a federal government oversight agency) for two nutritious meals + snacks daily

The number of employees has increased to 6 (4 young women daycare assistants + 2 Co-Founders: Eloisa Buenfil, President, and Candi Buenfil, recently changed her role to serving as full-time cook)

Anticipating “Graduation”

Tomorrow, June 18th will be a very special celebration for 4 years olds who are “graduating” from daycare to begin kindergarten in August. Celebrations are taken VERY seriously here in Mexico! A visitor might think preparations were underway for something the magnitude of a high school or college graduation. Mothers of the children and NUAFA staff are preparing food, white togas for the children to wear, special “headgear”, graduation certificates and have issued invitations to other family members.
As the “madrina” (honored sponsor or “Godmother”) for this event I was asked to provide the cake which I am glad to donate as it is one of the more expensive items these families cannot afford to purchase. It has required three personal trips to the grocery store bakery just to get someone willing to take the order and then a prolonged conversation about the merits of ordering chocolate vs. tres leches (three milks), THE traditional celebratory cake. We’re starting a pool for how fast this 3 kilo cake will melt once we leave the AC in the grocery store to deliver it to NUAFA in the 90+ degree temp and 100% humidity here . . . winnings will be donated to NUAFA of course!

“Saludos de Cozumel” Greetings from Cozumel – June 13, 2010

Volunteer efforts during the Spring 2010 Mission Trip benefitted numerous organizations and families. We’ve taken a break from posting here to focus on follow-up for these mission projects and to help local organizations plan and access resources needed for the coming months. We’re resuming frequent postings to share updates.

Vida Abundante Christian Outreach Ministry deeply appreciates ALL the volunteer and donor support received recently.

I attended their weekly Sunday evening Celebration Worship service . . . just stopped by unannounced because I wanted to see Pastora Mariela and observe how the new worship platform was being used.

What a wonderful experience . . . all 2 and 1/2 hours! Yes, it is true. . .that’s about the length of a normal worship service. Nothing is a “rush” here and no one glances at their watch. The generousity of donors and tireless hours mission volunteers have invested in supporting Vida Abundante was acknowledged four times throughout the service by the pastor and a number of church members.

Pastora Mariela encouraged everyone to look around at their outdoor worship center and notice all the things provided by donors . . . the metal roof shielding us from rain during the service, the bibles from the Bible Blessings project initiated by the SAIL group, and especially the beautiful new worship platform built during the Spring 2010 Mission Trip. They asked me to extend their greetings, blessings and THANKS to brothers and sisters in the United States.

Sometimes people ask, “Why spend your time and energy helping people in Mexico when there are so many that need help in our own country?” It’s simple . . . the local people of Cozumel (and throughout Mexico) are sooooo appreciative! They don’t have a sense of entitlement.

They are especially proud of the new platform as it is the focal point for worship services three times a week, children’s programs and other special events. This project was a partnership between the church (Pastor Jose identified design elements and church volunteers applied the special paint); donors from First Christian Church in Lincoln, NE, and mission volunteers. Photos tell the story best . . .

View of worship platform before

BEFORE – Worship Platform assembled from available materials

The platform was unsafe

BEFORE – Unsafe platform made of reclaimed wood pallets

Worship Platform Construction

DURING – Sturdy construction built in sections

The Construction Continued

DURING – Designed & built by mission volunteers

The Construction Completed

AFTER – Construction is completed by volunteers. Now ready for painting

The Construction Completed

AFTER – Special industrial paint used at airports resists dirt & water


Check back often for Cozumel news and community service updates.