A Christmas Present That Lasts The School Year

By Diana Stevens from the December 2009 Edition

The best Christmas presents last all year and maybe longer. Mapy Seidel, the new President of M.E.S.E., knows the value and importance of keeping children off the streets and in school. In 1992 she and Sandra Martin del Campo, who has now retired to Guanajuato, founded M.E.S.E. Since then, they have been quietly soldiering away to give street children the best present they will ever receive. M.E.S.E. stands for Minors in Extraordinary Situations and the home Mapy Seidel -0circumstances of these children are horrific. One or other parent may be a drug addict or alcoholic leaving the other struggling to keep the family together, some parents don’t or can’t work, some are single mothers, many are so poor that one finds up to nine adults and teenagers living in one room although all are working and some parents are driven to abandon their offspring. Obviously these children are at risk – and not just of dropping out of school.

M.E.S.E. works in conjunction with D.I.F. the family social work agency, whose Director is the wife of the reigning mayor, or Presidente. We are now in an interregnum where there is little money and no one fully in charge until the changeover in the New Year. However Mapy has already been in contact with the new Director, who has previous experience of cooperation with M.E.S.E. so apart from a change

of Coordinator on the spot the work can go ahead. The Municipality will continue to pay the rent on the M.E.S.E. House in the small town of Colomo and D.I.F. pays the salaries of the 3 psychologists and 2 social workers, while M.E.S.E. pays all the overheads on the house, the matron, three teachers and the cleaner.

Mapy’s role has been general fundraiser and “mama” to hundreds of kids over the years and they are obviously thrilled whenever she appears.. At the moment there are 37 young people in the scheme but at times there have been as many as 60 so there is scope for expansion and the need is great. Every two months Mapy hands an envelope of money to the proud child himself in front of all of the others and the many family members.

Scholarship Day is a great occasion with soft drinks and a performance of Hawaiian dancing by the children. The “beca” is for the parents to cover all the necessities for school attendance in Mexico – neat and complete uniform and sports wear, shoes, and all exercise and text books plus pens and pencils without all of which they are not accepted. In return, the families agree to a contract whereby the sponsored child attends school regularly, obtains passing grades and does not earn money during the week. The latter is allowed at week-ends.

M.E.S.E. believes that it is very important for children to stay with their families and their representatives work closely with parents to overcome their many problems.
There are two aspects to Mapy’s fundraising. The first is finding Sponsors (or “godparents”) for all the needy children picked up roaming the streets or selling bread etc. “to help the family” – which can of course mean to help Dad buy his drink. It costs 2500 pesos to keep one child or young person off the street and in education for one year. This small sum can make all the difference to that child’s life. Even two or three more years schooling open the way to a better job and a better future.

Mapy remembers well four pupils who have graduated from the local University enabling them to help their family more than they could ever have imagined and paving the way for the next generation.

The families are welcomed at the M.E.S.E. House. While the children are at school the teachers provide free workshops for the mothers in dressmaking, hairdressing and making piñatas – all ways in which they can augment the family income – and in beauty care for their own self-esteem. After school, the kids can come to the house to do their homework in reasonable surroundings and join the very popular Hawaiian dancing group. Special care is taken with sex education and trying to keep girls out of trouble until their education is finished and they are really ready to settle down. The enthusiasm and gratitude of the families needs to be seen to be believed. M.E.S.E. house is a thriving community.
The Christmas Party takes the form of a traditional Posada when Mary and Joseph knock on many doors seeking accommodation. Many family members, especially younger brothers and sisters, follow the donkey and sponsors or potential sponsors are very welcome to join the crowd. This great event will take place on Friday, 11 December 2009 leaving the M.E.S.E. House at 5.00 p.m. This year, for the first time, Mapy is selling beautiful Christmas cards. There will be a choice of five – all showing traditional Mexican Christmas scenes.

Mapy’s fundraising efforts are also devoted to the organisation of the fabulous M.E.S.E. Breakfast which will take place on Saturday, 27th February 2010 at the Hotel Tesoro. Tickets cost 250 pesos and breakfast is preceded by a sale of beautiful embroidery, patchwork, knitting and other hand crafted items plus a Silent Auction. The event finishes with a performance by the children. The money from this, M.E.S.E.’s only fund raising event of the year, pays for the upkeep of the House and for the services of the teachers. Should anything be left over, it funds a rare outing for the children (and families) – a bus trip to the Zoo in Colima or the Aquarium in Guadalajara.

You can see Mapy’s heart is in the right place. She loves the children she works for and turns to her many, many friends and all compassionate people to help change the future for as many children as possible.

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