Manos de Amor
On one of our first nights in La Crux, all the way back in January, a group of local kids came and participated in one of the kids events. Victoria and Alexander played tag with some of the kids, they all loved on and played with Ranger, I practiced my limited Spanish while they practiced their equally limited English as we chatted about nothing, one of the little girls braided Victoria’s hair and we all just had a nice time. As the event ended we all said our goodbyes. I walked over to the event coordinator and asked if they were from a local school or club. She told me that those kids were from a local kid’s shelter. The shelter takes in kids who do not have an adult to care for them or a safe home environment. Basically it is one step before an orphanage. When she told me this my knees almost buckled and my heart went out to them. So I did what I do best. I turned Ashley loose to find out more. Ashley found the shelter’s website and contacted the volunteer coordinator. We told her that we will be in the area for the next few weeks and would like to do what we can to help. Karen is the coordinator and she told us that the kids clothing, food and toy needs were mostly met by the local community. However, the workload that is placed on the 4 fulltime employees that care for over twenty children is immense and that any help in that arena is both needed and appreciated. Also, any time the kids have new, positive interactions with adults and kids it is good for them. We said that we are in and that we would do anything that she needed. She told us to come on Wednesday during their open tour to see if it looks like something we wanted to do. We went and immediately felt compelled to help. She said Saturday was a full day of working on laundry and cleaning but also a day where the kids have a little more free time to interact with Victoria and Alexander. On Friday night, we sat Victoria and Alexander down and told them that tomorrow will not be a play day but a work day. That is nothing new to them, however, this time it will not be working on our boat but working in someone else’s home. We went on to explain what the shelter was and that those kids you were playing with did not have a traditional home and family life. Victoria and Alexander both quickly saw that we were going to spend the day helping so they were on board. Alexander pointed out that we will be doing one of our family tents. Murphy tenet #2 is: Help PEOPLE, animals and the environment. Ashley told the kids that we were not there necessarily there to “help” the children but instead, to ease the burden of those that do help the children. So for the next 6 weeks each Saturday morning we got up early, packed our things, hired an Uber driver to take us to the town of Bucerias and visited Manos de Amor. We would spend the mornings stripping bedding and getting the piles and piles of laundry started. Next we would sweep and mop all the rooms and bathrooms. By the late morning we would clean the common areas and playground area. We had Victoria and Alexander working for the first two hours each day and then they could go play with the kids. Both Alexander and Victoria cooperated beautifully and always had positive attitudes. Sometimes the kids would help Victoria and Alexander so they could get done early and play sooner. It was really wonderful to see. All throughout the various cleaning jobs was the laundry, the loads and loads of laundry. Saturday is the day they wash the bedding which is why Karen asked us to come on Saturday. The Shelter does not have a dryer so they have to hang all of the bedding and clothing on the roof to dry. Did I mention that there are over 25 beds? We asked if we could get them a couple of dryers but were told that they would not be able to afford the added electricity costs (not to mention the added heat to the building). Once the cleaning was all done and in between hanging and folding laundry loads we would all go and play with the children. Sometimes it was roller skating or doing a puzzle. Sometimes we would go to the park down the street and play soccer. We played on the swings, we played games, and Alexander played with the boys and all their toys. Victoria made bracelets with the girls and they liked to braid her hair. Soon all four of us all had helpers getting the work done so that we all could play sooner. Only one person in the entire house was fluent in English and Veronica’s day off was Saturday. So for the most part we all had to figure it out when it came to communication. But that did not keep the work from getting done and it definitely did not stop the fun from being had. Over the six weeks we worked at Manos de Amor we each developed close relationships with the children. Victoria and her friend, Mirari, were inseparable. Alexander and his buddy Ekel, were always finding new games and things to play with. Many of the kids have no positive male role model so I bonded with many of them. Ashley says it is also because I am basically a big kid. I would spend hours and hours giving piggyback rides, holding hands for beginners on roller skates, doing puzzles, pushing on swings, playing soccer, reading books in English and Spanish, and all the time watching my children doing the same. Our time at Manos de Amor is without a doubt our favorite part of our adventure. We will forever remember and cherish our time getting to know the children, the staff, and director, Veronica, of Manos de Amor. We are definitely leaving a piece of our hearts here in Bucerias at Manos de Amor.
Now, it’s time to shamelessly ask for your help. Manos de Amor really needs money. The shelter operates on approx. $50,000 US / year. That is to house, feed, clothe, provide therapists/therapy, and staff for the home for over 20 kids! In Mexico there is not a social worker or foster care system. Manos de Amor receives no funding from the government and they have to pay taxes as though they were a business.
Here is a bit about the wonderful staff we’ve met during our time here. Veronica is the director. She is known as Mami Vero and the kids love her so. She almost always has a child attached to her in the sweetest way. She has most of their time scheduled out and ensures the kids give thanks for their day each morning when they wake and when they go to bed each evening. Sonia is the house mom and she is there 24×7 with her husband and 2 boys. She keeps the house running and the kids on schedule. They are quite busy every day with routines, school, events and classes. Did I mention she makes sure the girls have amazing looking hair. She is so good at braiding hair! Anita is a wonderful woman that cleans and does laundry 7 days a week, her 2 kids are often at the shelter, whether it be after school or on the weekends. There is also someone that does the cooking and a tutor is there after school each school day. These are paid positions.
There are many volunteers that come as they can and a few that are there often. Some of the volunteers include a computer teacher that holds classes on Saturday, he is a local lawyer. English is taught by volunteers 3 days a week. While the positions are volunteer there are items that the shelter needs to hold these classes (computers, tablets, etc). The school the kids attend does not provide any computer or English classes. In this area of Mexico, in particular because of the tourism industry, these are extremely useful skills and ones that they would not have otherwise. The high school graduation rate in Mexico is 40-something percent. Most that do graduate do so from private schools and there just is not budget to send the older kids to private school. There are a few of churches, clubs and organizations in Canada, the US, and Mexico that assist with the needs of the shelter but it is never enough. Often the projects they assist with are the larger needs such as solar panels to reduce energy costs, a roof for the play area, and building improvements. It would make us so happy if you could reach into your pocket and donate to Manos de Amor. There are a few ways to do so.
One is directly through Paypal at this link: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=zEg92Y3PUiMEta5UU4kWqFkcucnp6nC6a2uKFhDume75Se2ZIZM4RWdYkBtV4zGBn3dLBm&country.x=MX&locale.x=MX
If you would like a tax receipt donations can be made through Orphan’s Lifeline International, make sure you specify Casa Hogar Bucerias from the drop down menu to ensure your donation makes it to this great organization. https://www.orphanslifeline.org/general-form
Some specifics about Manos de Amor can be found on their website at: https://manosdeamor.com/
Facebook Page: http://web.facebook.com/pg/Manos-de-Amor
Give the Facebook page a “like” to stay informed of what is going on for them as well as help increase awareness.