My long-time friend and retired nurse, Vicky Flores, has for many years collected and redistributed donations and contributions to the poor of the region. Cash donations are converted to food and medical supplies. Last fall, she donated a computer to a nearby school. She is able to provide through her dispensary food, clothing, medical supplies and school supplies to our neediest families and communities. One of Vicky’s regular contributors of collected donations is Sandra Bell of Victoria, B. C. Last fall, Vicky, Sandra and I made a donation visit to the primary and secondary schools of Divisadoro, a few kilometers north of La Peñita. Among the clothing was a set of donated soccer jerseys. The uniforms were an immediate hit and soon a futbol game broke out on the playground, kicking around their tattered ball.
I posted a picture online and my son commented that he had read of a company in California that makes a weatherproof, leak-proof soccer ball for donation around the world, promoted as virtually indestructible with no pumps needed to inflate them. I researched the One World Futbol Project (http://www.oneworldfutbol.com) and figured I could bring 10-12 balls with me as carry-on when I returned in March. And so I did!
Vicky drew up a list of 28 schools that we should target. I had brought 5 standard size and 5 youth sized balls, the smaller ones for the primary schools. We would give one ball to each of 10 schools this season as well as other donated school and personal items and see how the kids and staff reacted. We were not disappointed!
One of the teacher we visited commented about how his kids loved soccer but they went through 10 balls a year and didn’t have a ball pump.
In the past couple of weeks we visited schools in Divisadoro, Puerta de Lima, Mesillas, and Las Piedras. All are near the Highway 200 corridor north of La Peñita. We still had one more school to choose. I had a suggestion.
In the fall of 2011 a teacher in the little mountain town of El Charro above the Rio Grande de Santiago heard through another teacher that a woman in La Peñita had a dispensary that donated to poor communities and schools. That teacher got in contact with Vicky. Vicky wasn’t sure how to get to the small town. It is not on any map we had, but she thought I should drive!
We loaded up her CRV and with her friend , Damian, we left early one morning for Jala, then north to Rosa Blanca at an elevation of about 6500 feet. We would be going higher. The next 25 miles were 2.5 hours over dirt, gravel, and rocks.
“Unimproved” some maps would label such a road, if they bothered to show it at all. Ours didn’t and there were no signs.
We made it and the teachers, students and their families we so appreciative of the supplies we brought. I was told I was the first Gringo (my term) to ever visit their little town, and that seems very likely.
So now, a year and a half later, where but El Charro should we take our two last futbols? Sandra was excited. This past Tuesday we loaded up my Honda Element including a walker and wheel chair and headed 100 miles to the northeast. The Element’s 4-wheel drive would be handy, its low road clearance not so much. We made it! The two schools were closed for an extended Semana Santa holiday, but soon enough the entire community was gathered around. Besides the items already mentioned we had medical supplies, toothbrushes, condoms, shoes, sandals, clothing, reading glasses, baseball equipment, toys and a watermelon. Before we left a traditional corn tortilla and rice lunch was prepared for us over a wood-fired adobe stove.
The next day in a Facebook posting Sandra wrote:
“While we had been giving out the goodies a couple of the women had gone and started making tortillas and rice. Why is it the people with the least, are the happiest and so giving. Even as I write this my eyes tear up. All the way home I kept thinking about things they don’t have that I take or have taken for granted: Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, diapers, just the basics not to mention the extras.
They make their own butter, there is no delivery of goods, the fruit and veggie man comes once a week, that is it. Sorry to go on and on but it was a powerful day, and I want everyone to know all donations are so appreciated. Please keep saving everything, clothes for all ages, shoes, toys, they want and need it all. Thanks for listening to me and thanks for all the donations. Nothing is too little.”