I returned last Sunday from my first work week at Project Amigo. You may of read in my last blog that I am on the Executive Board of Directors of this exceptional non-profit organization. In order to more deeply understand the work that goes on there, I volunteered to spend 7 days during the Literacy Work Week. During this time, thousands of donated books were sorted, labeled and delivered to remote schools and migrant camps in the area around Cofradia, which is a small village in the state of Colima, Mexico.
Over the past 30 years the founders and many talented volunteers have created a magical homebase to work from. The “Hacienda” is where all the meals are provided, with villagers preparing the most delicious and beautiful authentic fare imaginable. Of course, some of these gems will find their way onto the Jessie et Laurent menu! Meal times are when the volunteers bond, sharing stories and laughter- as well as a shot or two of tequila! Lodging is provided in ethically adorned dwellings that blend into the village-some owned by fellow contributors to Project Amigo.
We were 20 volunteers of ages ranging from 24 – 83. We came from six states in America and three countries, including Mexico and Canada. A diverse group indeed, but with one common goal. The real fun begins when we get to work. There is an air of purpose and mission. We have not yet met the children who will be given the books, but we have seen the cobblestone and dirt streets, the concrete floored homes and the lack of what we may call “creature comforts”, to know that what we are there for is going to be significant to those we are serving. Once the books are ready, we load up the big yellow school bus with freshly painted bookcases, hundreds of books and all of us…
Each place we visit, we are greeted by children hanging onto the wire fence with huge smiles on their faces. Seeing them ready, eager, hopeful and happy is so incredible. No matter how simple the school- whether it be a one room classroom with only 15 children on a lonely dirt road or a larger school of 100- the effect is the same. Even though they may have little in the sense of personal possessions, the children are neatly groomed and very poised. The teachers are near tears as they express their gratitude that someone has taken the time to come to them with armloads of new and beautiful books.
The children are invited to select a book and then to sit with a volunteer to read together for the time allowed. This was particularly humbling for me, since I speak barely a word of Spanish! Believe me, that did not stop them! Intently wanting to show you what they could do, they would sit as close as possible and look up at you with shining eyes for approval and comfort.
This is only one of the work weeks that Project Amigo offers during the year. There are 9 work weeks in all, which include; literacy, vision, dental and fiesta (where the village children receive a set of new clothes). I am very pleased that my son, Henri, now 17 years old- will be part of the teen work week in February.
It is encouraging for me to experience the common thread that binds us all. These children deserve to be given the opportunity to be educated, well nourished and cared for just as we do for our own children. Giving hope and caring goes so deep in affecting the human spirit. It is a wonderful feeling as I begin to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday…
If you are interested to know more, please go to: ProjectAmigo.org