Category Archives: Uncategorized

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)


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 – : Elmer’s Disappearing Purple School Glue Sticks, Washable, 7 Grams, 30 Count : Office Products
  2. Black Pens – : 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 – : 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 – : 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 – : 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 – : Madisi Highlighters Bulk Pack, Chisel Tip, Fluorescent Yellow, 84 Count : Office Products
  7. Scientific Calculators – 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 –
  9. 16Gb USB Drives – 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


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.


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


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


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.


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.

Stronger Together . . . Chrysalis Merges with Friends of Cozumel

Messsage from Amethyst Amatista, Cozumel Chrysalis Group Director…..

After over 25 years of service to the community, Chrysalis is now merging with another fine organization here on the island, Friends of Cozumel. Friends of Cozumel began about 15 years ago, also helping students from low-income families. Their focus has been on school supplies, and their numbers are impressive. In recent years they have been supporting over 500 students. I have known the founders of Friends of Cozumel, Karen and Larry Pedersen, for close to 20 years. They are very much hands on and have a great team of volunteers to help. There is no one on the island I would trust more or would even consider working with. The Chrysalis office has been emptied into the Friends of Cozumel bodega and is now closed. The owners of the property that has been the Chrysalis office, simultaneously chose to re-purpose this house, so this all came together at a good time. What does this mean for Chrysalis? I will continue to work to raise funds, coordinate donations dropped off at our locations on the island, and volunteer alongside Karen and Larry as my time permits. It does mean that we will also focus just on school supplies, as we have done for the past two years. We will no longer supply shoes or uniforms as we did prior to the pandemic. I look forward to continuing our joint mission of serving the Cozumel community.

Amethyst – Cozumel Chrysalis Group/Friends of Cozumel

Busy Assembling School Supply Packets

It’s that time of year again! We are busy assembling packets that will be distributed in August to 700+ students in Cozumel. Each student will receive a new backpack, white & colored paper, notebook(s) along with a packet that includes items required for their grade level. Having willing volunteers help us prepare all of these individual packets makes the job go quickly. If you are coming to the island to visit in the future, we will continue to look for donations of school supplies. You can refer to our list of needed supplies or contact us directly ( for more information and to arrange a dropoff.

Community Clothes Closet Reopens

Mexico uses a “Traffic light” model as an indicator of Covid risk and to manage occupancy levels during the pandemic.   Highest to lowest risk rankings are red, orange, yellow and green.  States within Mexico may have different rankings.  Quintana Roo is the state where Cozumel is located and includes cities on the mainland (Cancun, Tulum, Chetumal and Playa del Carmen, etc.). 

Bras are extremely popular items

The island had achieved green status a number of weeks ago.  However, as the Omicron variant spread and more tourists arrived for high season, the number of covid cases and hospitalizations spiked resulting in a return to orange status.  We suspended operating the Community Closet until this past week when Cozumel returned to “YELLOW” (75% capacity for restaurants and many services). NOTE: As of February 21 the status for all of Quintana Roo will be “GREEN” (100% occupancy)!

Even men enjoy shopping

The job market is gradually opening back up providing some families with work to provide the basics they need.  The Community Closet is stocked with gently used clothing, shoes and household items in addition to cleaning and hygiene products like shampoo, soap, antibacterial gel, feminine products at  greatly discounted rates. 

On Thursday, February 10, twenty families (limit of 2 persons per family) were invited to visit the closet during scheduled 30 minutes sessions.   Families are given a coupon for 100 pesos of credit depending on the number of persons in their family so they can use the credit to purchase the items they need.  They also have the option to purchase additional items beyond their credit if they have money to do so.

We extend a HUGE THANKS to the many people who have donated clothing and household items for this project and to the volunteers who help monitor the families as they arrive.  All the families have been vetted by community leaders who help us identify families with the greatest need.

Diana’s Smile: Honoring Diana Marcela Pedersen Vance, Sept. 16, 1987-Sept. 16, 2021

Being part of a close-knit family was always something a young Diana Marcela longed for. Although she was born into difficult circumstances in Sonson, Colombia, her wish came true when she was adopted at age 11 by her parents, Karen and Larry Pedersen. She lived a life of joy and kindness until her death on her 34th birthday from complications of a stroke and pancreatic cancer. 

Diana’s presence always lit up a room. Her laughter was contagious, especially with her brothers around the family dining table. She was also determined, and maybe a bit stubborn, but the quality that consistently stood out to everyone who knew her was her smile. 

Diana was a hard worker. She had to learn English and a whole new way of life when she came to the U.S. She graduated from Waukee High School in Iowa and attended Des Moines Area Community College, became a Certified Nursing Assistant and a certified SCUBA diver.  She and the boys relocated from Iowa to Florida three years ago.  She was a valued employee at several jobs while also serving as the U.S. Friends of Cozumel Coordinator receiving donations, handling bank transactions, and buying supplies to be transported to Cozumel, Mexico. Although Cozumel was like a second home to her, Diana was fiercely proud of her native country and being a citizen of both Colombia and the U.S. 

Being a single mom wasn’t easy, but Diana was always more likely to look for people who needed help rather than to ask for help for herself. She began volunteer mission work with youth in Mexico at age 13 and continued throughout the rest of her life. She traveled to Mexico two or more times a year, volunteering her bilingual skills to translate for Friends of Cozumel missions, gathering and distributing school supplies and food to people in need, and helping with Bible school and educational workshops. 

One of her greatest joys was being a mother to Braylon and Camilo. Diana loved creating family fun days and was a master at preserving memories by taking hundreds of photos with the boys and her friends. She was the queen of selfies, a natural beauty.

Diana had great faith in God and a loving and generous heart. One of her passions was helping other single mothers. She began donating in-kind home goods to Sheridan House to help single moms in South Florida set up their own independent living situations. Her family will continue supporting Sheridan House by donating home goods. 

The relationships with her sons, family and close friends were the parts of life Diana treasured most. She is survived by sons Braylon Tindrell and Camilo Young, parents Larry and Karen Pedersen of Cozumel, Mexico and Weston, Florida; siblings Christian and Maggi Pedersen of Des Moines, Iowa, Van Pedersen of Denver, Colorado, sister Patricia Grisales of Medellin, Colombia, as well as close friends she chose as sisters; and godparents Gary and Phyllis Larsen of Lincoln, Nebraska. Family was everything to Diana and she adored her many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents and dear friends across the U. S., Mexico and Colombia.

Diana’s sons were always her first priority and many people have stepped forward to make sure they will be well cared for. The boys have recently transitioned to the care of their fathers in Iowa and Diana’s family will collaborate with their dads to continue being an important part of the boys’ lives. The family is setting up trust funds for the boys to help with special daily needs and to ensure they have future educational opportunities or job training.   

Diana’s giving heart and her positive impact will continue through Diana’s SMILE, the Single Mothers Independent Living Endowment. Memorial gifts will create a fund to benefit single moms in Cozumel through support for medical expenses, food, and job training that will help them learn skills to support their children. Memorial contributions may be made in three ways: 

1) Online, log into; pay to; add a note: Diana’s SMILE.

2) Make checks out to Friends of Cozumel. Note in the memo line: Diana’s SMILE. Mail to: Friends of Cozumel, 2783 Kinsington Circle, Weston, Florida 33332.

3) Make a U.S. tax deductible donation with a check payable to Nacogdoches Community Church (not Friends of Cozumel).  Note in the memo line: Friends of Cozumel—Diana’s SMILE. Mail to: Friends of Cozumel, C/O Hettie Legg, 817 N. Mound Street, Nacogdoches, Texas 75961. 

Although her family and friends are heartbroken to lose her at such a young age, they feel incredibly blessed to have had Diana in their lives. Celebrations of Diana’s life will be scheduled in the Weston, Florida area and Des Moines, Iowa. Dates are still pending but are expected to be mid-November to mid-December. Small informal gatherings will also be held In Cozumel, Mexico and a visit to Diana’s sister and others in Colombia is planned for 2022.  

Back to School Plans 2021

August 30 officially marks the beginning of Cozumel’s 2021-2022 Public School year.  This will be a flexible school year that may involve distance learning, in-class options on selected days of the week and/or daily in school classes when schools are ready to accept students.  

Some schools begin today with distance learning.  Others will make decisions this week when classes may start.  We anticipate it will take several weeks after their decisions to accomplish needed repairs, cleaning, and teacher preparation, etc.  Schools have been vacant for 18+ months during covid.  Some schools need to install all new water pipes, repair damage caused by storms and/or replace items that have been stolen. 

Distributing school back packs and supplies is one of Friends of Cozumel’s major annual efforts to support education for youth in kindergarten through university.  Our goal is to support approximately 550-600 students from families in need.  We are taking a “just in time” approach to giving supplies this year so the timing will be delayed until mid-to end of September or perhaps later.  We don’t want the school supplies to be lost or families tempted to sell them to ease their economic situation.  

Distribution will follow covid safety protocols . . . require masks, safe distance, and may restrict distribution to 1 or 2 representatives from each family rather than all the students coming to receive their supplies.  

Call for volunteers:  We are looking for island residents and visitors who will be here in the general timeframe of September 17 to October 3 to help distribute supplies.  The distribution will be organized in 2 or 3 hour shifts and completed in 2-3 days.  We are now creating a list of potential volunteers.  Please send your name and contact information (phone #, email or Facebook private message info) to one of the following:  Nelly Cervantes, 987-107-2244 OR Larry Pedersen US cell: 515-249-9241 via WhatsApp or text; OR Karen Pedersen via email: or Facebook private message. 

Check back soon to learn about Friends of Cozumel’s scholarship program.