A donation in Canadian funds goes a long way

Dear Friends,
It is jacaranda season in Oaxaca. Purple blossoms dangle from the big trees all over the city and the sidewalks are covered with the fallen blooms. On my daily doggie walk up the Cerro del Fortín I am joined by many residents, wearing masks, who are enjoying their park. It is great to see an increase in the number of people getting out and exercising during the pandemic.

The City fluctuates between “Semáforo orange or yellow”, depending upon the capacity at the hospitals. Most restaurants and stores are open, but the museums, galleries and theatres remain closed. There are NO calendas nor marching bands in the streets. The good news is that vaccinations have begun up in the remote, mountain villages. And government health officials notified residents on March 6 that eleven centres would be set up around the city of Oaxaca to deliver vaccinations March 9,10 and 11. Citizens and temporary and permanent residents over the age of 60 who have registered online are eligible to receive their first dose.
I have been so impressed with the response of donors to the pandemic. Non-profit organizations across Canada that are dealing with the immediate impact of the disruption to society have reported an increase in donations. At Canadian Friends of Oaxaca, we too have experienced in increase in the number of donors wishing to support projects. Many regular donors have been able to increase their support because they are not travelling or eating out as often.  All of the funds that have been transferred to Oaxaca have been wisely allocated by our partner agencies to keep the CANFRO projects operating and providing support to young people and their families. The Mexican government continues to deliver all education services virtually, with no in-person classes.This is expected to continue for all of the 2021/22 school year. Some students may be left behind due to the lack of cell phones, computers, TVs or radios in their homes. Our volunteer Project Managers are responding to this dilemma by working with our partner agencies to facilitate the purchase of the necessary mobile devices.  
My personal wish is that all of the Canadians who have visited Oaxaca will be planning to return again, once it is safe to do so. Your appreciation for the wonderful culture, climate, food and people of this special region will be much needed as tourism is THE major industry in the state. May you and your family be safe. May we all continue to be generous with our time, talent and treasure in an effort to make a positive contribution to the world.
Sandra Thomson, CANFRO President
PS  Are you looking for a little something to do from home? 
Here are some tasks that are not currently assigned to a volunteer (approximately two hours per month):
  • Grant writing: from your home, research potential Foundations, Service Clubs and International Aid Programs. Submit grant applications for the projects that meet the criteria.
  • Speech Writing: write a presentation that volunteers can deliver in their own communities to Service Clubs, Book Clubs and other organizations that may be potential donors.  We will then be ready once the pandemic is over to get the word out to other Canadians.

The Book Project

CANFRO´s partner agency, Libros para Pueblos, has continued to provide books to children as much as possible during the pandemic. Some libraries have been totally closed; others have been able to provide limited service. In some cases, library coordinators have been taking books directly to the children. Because it could not hold its annual conference during the pandemic, LpP has created eight training videos to be distributed to volunteer librarians and posted on Facebook. These will be a helpful resource well beyond the pandemic. For safety reasons this year, LpP staff rather than volunteers sorted the annual supply of books that they are now in the logistically challenging process of delivering to 74 libraries, many in remote villages. 

Four children´s libraries are currently in need of full or shared sponsorship. We are also hoping to purchase a computer and digital camera for each of the regional coordinators. Also, do you belong to a book club? We are piloting a project to connect Canadian book clubs with children´s libraries in Oaxaca. For more info, contact project manager Jeff Richardson.

The Education Project for Girls

Canadians are helping a record number of young women from remote villages through the Education Project for Girls. Formerly the High School Project, this program can also now support young women who go on to university. (CANFRO recently signed a new five-year agreement with partner agency Fondo Guadalupe Musalem to cover this expanded mandate).

The project pays a monthly stipend to cover room and board for the girls to attend school, and runs a monthly in-person weekend session for the students and their mentors. Other support includes supplies and repairs for the house where the students sleep, eat and study while in the city of Oaxaca and the salaries of support workers. Like many others during the pandemic, the Education Project is being delivered virtually to all the girls living in their remote villages, but we hope that by 2022 we can resume normal operations. We are grateful to our donors and proud of our partner-agency staff, and the students themselves. Of all the girls CANFRO has supported, 95% have graduated from high school—surely a life-changing achievement.
Sandra Thomson, CANFRO President, signing new agency agreement with Dra. Beatriz Xóchitl Ávila Curiel, President, Fondo Guadalupe Musalem

The Food Project

Pandemic-related needs on the ground in Oaxaca continue to steer CANFRO´S Food Project. When the daily provision of nutritious meals for students at our partner agency, the Centro de Esperanza Infantil (CEI), had to stop, dispensas took their place. These packages of essential supplies (rice, beans, cooking oil etc.) go to help about 600 families of CEI students—families whose livelihoods have been brutally disrupted by the pandemic. Project Manager Penny Hopkins works closely with the CEI board and its US partner, Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots, to coordinate relief efforts. While the Covid picture in Oaxaca shows some signs of improvement, in-person student meals won’t resume for some time. The dispensa program, generously supported by CANFRO donors, will carry on as long as CEI sees the need for it in the community.

The School Sponsorship Project

CANFRO donors currently sponsor 49 students through the School Sponsorship Project, creating educational opportunities that might be out of reach in the best of times. During the pandemic, over and above these sponsorships, generous donors have made it possible for CANFRO to send another round of cash gifts to families in time for Easter.  Regular school attendance has been a pandemic casualty, and the situation in Oaxaca is no exception. Classes are offered on television and online via computer or cell phone. Several students are using computers at our partner agency Centro de Esperanza Infantíl (CEI) daily for online learning, following safety precautions. It is challenging for everyone. Time will tell if some students become discouraged and choose to leave school because they are not able to regularly access online learning.

Even though they are not attending school in person, students have received their usual two pairs of shoes as well as school supplies provided through this project. In some cases, students have also had to pay school inscription fees—all covered by school sponsorship donations. Sponsors are eager to hear what next year will look like and how they can continue to provide support.
The Speech and Signing Therapy Project

Sadly, during the pandemic, our partner agency in Oaxaca, CORAL, has not been able to bring hearing tests to remote villages. This means that some children in need of help have not yet been identified. However, the Speech and Signing Therapy Project continues to provide educational and emotional support to families who were already registered prior to the start of the pandemic—via Facebook, Zoom, emails and phone calls. The isolation has been difficult. One issue that has arisen is that of course the children cannot lip read when people are wearing masks. In spite of these challenges, the Project remains strong thanks to the generosity of our donors and the “can-do” spirit of staff and students. We are hoping that, when the pandemic ends, Canadian donors will help support the psychological counselling that the parents of deaf children require as well as for the children themselves.
The Tutor Project

Our partner agency, The Oaxaca Learning Centre, continues to deliver the tutoring and mentoring services of this project virtually during the pandemic. At the present time, about 110 high school students are meeting with their university student tutors online or by phone. In February, the fourth cohort of students graduated from the Learning Centre´s English language program. Thirty-nine students are attending its program preparing them for their university entrance exams.

Looking beyond the pandemic, the Learning Centre has launched a project to build new classrooms on top of its existing building, which it owns, on Murguía. Due to growing need, the Centre had rented space a few years ago in another building, but now sees the opportunity to save on rental costs, bring all services back into one location, and create workshop, classroom and counselling spaces that truly support the students´ needs. Construction will begin in May or June and is expected to be completed by December. Donations to this vital project made through CANFRO are tax-receiptable in Canada.
Sandra Thomson, CANFRO President, signing new agency agreement with Jaasiel Quero, President, The Oaxaca Learning Centre
Vice President Finance: approx. five hours per month
Working with the President, the Treasurer, the Project Managers, the CRA and others to ensure:
  • compliance with CANFRO’s existing financial policies and procedures
  • development of new financial policies and procedures
  • smooth and transparent operation of all financial matters
  • analysis of fundraising results and recommendations for future efforts
Skills required:  Business background, Financial planning, Fundraising and Non-profit management
Communications Chair:  approx. five hours per month
Working with the President, Board, Communications committee, and webmaster:
  • Develop and advance an overall communications strategy for CANFRO
  • Convene meetings of the committee
  • Recruit and provide orientation for new committee members
  • Delegate tasks and projects to committee members
  • Delegate tasks to WebMaster
Skills required: Strategic thinking, volunteer coordination, writing and editing
Thank you for your support of the health, education and wellbeing of Oaxacan children and youth. Donations to CANFRO receive a tax receipt in Canada.

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