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We’re launching our 10x10x10 campaign today! Are you asking yourself, “What is that??” With the 10x10x10 campaign, we hope to have 10 new monthly sponsors sign by October 10th (10-10). Why is this important? Recurring gifts provide a steady source of funding for our educational projects, allowing us to focus on the future! Help us reach our goal and become a monthly sponsor right now! Already a monthly sponsor? Share this opportunity with your network! Tell everyone what Friends of Pimpollo means to you! Even monthly gifts of $10 help to sustain our projects! Visit our donations page now or contact our office to get started today! Thank you for believing in the power of education!!

Oaxaca Kids Can – A Dream Bigger Than You Can Imagine

 
John Kerr with students 

If you were to ask Friends of Pimpollo founder, John Kerr, what his ambitions are with his “Oaxaca Kids Can” breakfast program, he would likely stop you right there and tell you that Oaxaca Kids Can (or OKC) is not a breakfast program. He would say this firmly, because it is an important distinction to be made within the organization he began 15 years ago.

Oaxaca Kids Can Students

OKC is, first and foremost, an education program. Breakfast just happens to be a key phase within the education program. Before anything else, prospective schools for OKC are evaluated based on several criteria in order to determine whether or not the program can be successful. The evaluation begins with school’s faculty—are they committed? Do the teachers truly care about teaching the students? Are they committed to helping them learn? If they are, FOP then looks to the community and the parents—are they similarly committed? Do they realize the opportunities that greater education provides for their children? Are they committed to fostering the intellectual growth of their own children as well as the children in their community? If all of these elements line up and the community fully supports the school and the faculty, then phase one can commence: daily breakfast.

This process first began in August of 2012, when OKC served their first breakfast to the students at Símbolos Patrios in Vicente Guerrero. At the time, about 78 students were coming to school every day, and thanks to a survey done by Sustainable Health Abroad, FOP discovered that 80% of those students were coming to school having either eaten nothing at all or only coffee and/or a tortilla. On a diet like that, developing children can hardly keep their eyes open long enough to be awake for lunch, much less be able to learn and retain knowledge throughout the course of a school day. But now, after implementing nutritious daily breakfasts, there are more than 140 children attending classes at Símbolos Patrios every day. On top of the increase in attendance, 75% percent of the students have raised their grades. Through the Oaxaca Kids Can program, Friends of Pimpollo is now providing a nutritional meal to more than 140 children at Símbolos Patrios, giving them the sustenance to not only stay awake throughout a full day of classes, but also providing them with the food necessary to foster learning and physical development.

However, what makes OKC more than just a breakfast program are the phases that follow after successfully implementing a daily breakfast program. Through OKC, Friends of Pimpollo has also built a computer center at Símbolos Patrios that opened in November 2014, exposing these children (and the entire community) to some of the wonders of technology, further expanding the reach of education for these students and giving teachers virtually unlimited resources for expanding curriculum to the children—and even the adults. There are now educational programs that reach from kindergarten education to adult education, effectively creating an entire community of educated individuals, from young to old.

New computer lab imagesThis program, as John will tell you, is based on the model of “Kenya Kids Can,” a program started by Steve Peifer and documented in his book A Dream So Big. Discovering Mr. Peifer’s work was an unforeseen consequence of boredom on John’s part. Having returned home from dinner and a movie with his wife, Karen, four years ago, John turned on the television hoping to find a basketball game. John proceeded to scan through the channels and serendipitously settled on a segment of “CNN Heroes” honoring Steve Peifer’s work with Kenya Kids Can. John immediately knew that he could take Peifer’s model (a proven success currently feeding and educating over 16,000 children in Kenya) and bring it to the extremely impoverished Vicente Guerrero community and its schools, which are situated around the perimeter of the Oaxaca municipal landfill.

That is where we are today, with ambitions to grow, much like Kenya Kids Can. We have identified and evaluated the next four OKC schools and are already providing breakfasts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the second school, Adolfo Lopez Mateos in Lomas de la Cuesta. Once we have the funding to proceed with daily meals, the next step for Lomas de la Cuesta is to construct their computer lab—the building site for that has already been determined. FollowingBreakfast at Símbolos Patrios that, OKC plans to also build and supply the community with a library—a phase that will be implemented into all of the OKC schools from hereon out.

After explaining all of this, John will then reiterate that this is not simply a breakfast program. Oaxaca Kids Can is actively changing lives. Vicente Guerrero is the poorest community in the Oaxaca City area, which is the largest city in one of the two poorest states in all of Mexico. Because of Oaxaca Kids Can, these children are not just getting breakfast five days a week—they and the entire community can pursue their dreams. So far, Friends of Pimpollo has helped the students of Símbolos Patrios to realize they now have an opportunity to succeed on a much greater scale. They are no longer a forgotten community, living among the landfill of Oaxaca City. They are learning. They are being educated. They have the opportunities they need to actively pursue their dreams.

Oaxaca Kids Can is not just a breakfast program; it is not even just an education program. Oaxaca Kids Can is a vehicle in which entire communities can realize and pursue their dreams. ■

By Ryan Bakken

OKC Students at Adolfo Lopez Mateos

Team 63 Update

 

Pouring Cement!Photo update from Team 63 in Oaxaca! They finished pouring the cement floors in the new school they’re building. Thank you Hope for sharing!

Team 63 is the first of two teams from Chemeketa Community College to visit Vicente Guerrero this month.

Progress In Motion – Celebrating 15 Years

Fifteen years ago, Friends of Pimpollo came to be. We are living proof of Progress In Motion. Check out our latest video to learn more about how we have progressed since we were founded in 2000.

A special thank you to Wavelength Studio, Foto Velázquez, and Julie Hoy for creating this video!

Pimpollo Reunion

Founder, John Kerr, with former children of Pimpollo  and their families at the reunion dinner.

Founder, John Kerr, with former children of Pimpollo and their families at the reunion dinner.

Last November, our founder, John Kerr, was fortunate enough to have a reunion in Oaxaca City with several children—who are now adults— who grew up at Pimpollo Home for Children. It was quite a special time for everyone, as most of them had not seen each other for a number of years.

Cheli, who was abandoned at Pimpollo Home for Children at the age of 6 and is currently working as an attorney, made the trip from Guadalajara and took several vacation days so she could join John in Oaxaca for the full week.

Aida, who also spent a number of years at Pimpollo Home for Children and is a college graduate with a degree in Industrial Engineering, came to the reunion with her husband and their two young sons. During the week Aida and her boys joined Cheli, John, and Boni in Vicente Guerrero.

In a recent conversation about his trip, John recalled how powerful the reunion was for him. Having been involved with this group as students at Pimpollo years ago, he noted that it was especially moving to see all of them as young adults and some as parents, with their own families—Aida in particular. He enthusiastically voiced how impressed he was by the woman and mother Aida has grown to be. That is not to say he was surprised, but the ability to see her full progression—from an intense and determined industrial engineering student living at Pimpollo and attending the university in Juchitan, into a wonderful young mother—validated all of the hard work Friends of Pimpollo has done over the years at the children’s home.

John also vividly remembered meeting Aida’s husband at the beginning of the dinner and thinking that he appeared to be preoccupied by something, almost as if there were other things he would rather be doing on that particular evening. But, after sitting with everyone and realizing the camaraderie and compassion that everyone shared, he mentioned to John before they left that he has a much greater appreciation for Pimpollo, both in the experiences it provided for Aida, and the significance it played in his wife’s life.

This coming year, with the help of Aida and others, John hopes to double last year’s attendance at the reunion, bringing more ex-Pimpollos together again.

Congreso de ECOSER

Last July, graduates and current members of the ECOSER program joined for the first annual “Congreso de ECOSER.” The goal of this congress, or conference, was to evaluate ECOSER as a whole, starting from the program’s humble beginnings in 2004 up to now. The participants of this congress discussed in detail the program’s successes while also making certain to take notice of the shortcomings of the program and where things might be improved.

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The members of this congress have high hopes that this generation is one of exciting and inspiring potential. During their meetings, they discussed current productive projects being done by current ECOSER students. One such project includes growing and harvesting mushrooms in the backyards at the ECOSER residencies and selling them to offset costs for the students. Students are also working on community service projects, teaching rural communities how to utilize rainwater catchment systems, pest management for avocado, plum and peach crops, and teaching indigenous communities how to grow and harvest mushroom crops for consumption and sales. They also worked on and discussed various ways in which they believe the program could grow, including the program’s visibility, social relations, different forms of financing and fundraising, as well as extracurricular functions of the program.

In conclusion, and on the final day of the congress meeting, the beneficiaries agreed to pursue the goal of establishing businesses and small companies based on successful community service and fundraising models in the past, in order to help foster the self-management of ECOSER. In doing so, they plan on developing a level of commitment for the beneficiaries of the program both past and present. They decided to enlist ECOSER graduates and their immediate available resources to implement a successful business model for mid-term and long-term work.

ECOSER Congreso Group Photo

 

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Students from Vicente Guerrero wish you a very happy new year!

Students from Vicente Guerrero wish you a very happy new year!

West Salem and Chemeketa in VG

This summer, students from West Salem and Chemeketa traveled to Vicente Guerrero. The highlight for many was serving breakfast at the Oaxaca Kids Can program and awarding diplomas at the Adult Education (INEA) graduation ceremony.

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Beautiful Lucy, Part 2

This is the fifth in a series of blogs from our Founder, John Kerr, reflecting on his recent trip to Oaxaca.

We are in day 4, approximately, in what is rapidly becoming one of the greatest trips to Oaxaca I have ever taken.  And I haven’t even gotten to talking about three wonderful highlights that will come later:  Cheli, our amazing law school graduate who spent her childhood at Pimpollo and took a week of precious vacation time to come down from Guadalajara so we could do this together; Aida, another Pimpollo, who is an Industrial Engineering graduate, living in the Oaxaca area, who took a large part of the week to join us; and third, our fun and lively party for all the Pimpollos living in the area that we could find.  Later on those three…back to my Rx of Two Flowers per Day for Two Days…

Everything was going great—really great—and I didn’t really think I needed any more medicine, but you are suppose to take it all, right? I certainly wasn’t expecting anything, but about 10:00 am we were at Símbolos Patrios and here comes Noemi, with her mom, Lucy, sister Arely (who is two years older than Noemi), and Noemi’s little brother, David.

Noemí in New Computer Lab

Noemi in the new Símbolos Patrios computer lab.

Noemi came up to me kind of like she was a representative of the whole family and gave me another flower, completing my prescription.  There were kids running around—I mean we are on a play ground at recess—but there were no words—just a cute, really cute little kid making 13 years of an old guy’s life worthwhile…that’s all.  Nothing more to it.  Yes, Noemi, I accept this rose—and it was a rose.  I think. (I still have it. I will ask Karen.)

So here I am, standing with this beautiful family. They are expressing their appreciation in the very best way they know how, and to me it is the absolutely very best way it could ever be done. Things go quiet for a moment—just long enough for me to reflect on what has happened on this site in the past 12 years.

This school has gone from three, pretty ugly tin shack schoolrooms on the outside (though beautiful on the inside because they were chuck-a-bluck full of cute kids!) with so few books and notebooks that it made my friend Ellen cry on our first visit.  Today, there are seven permanent, beautiful classrooms and a permanent kitchen where they serve a nutritious meal every day. In addition, the attendance has gone from about 78 kids to up to 140 since we started the breakfast program, and there is now a computer lab with 10 computers and beautiful tables and chairs.

The Símbolos Patrios story is an incredibly one and FOP has been in the middle of it from day one.  (Remember Ellen?)  I will write this story in greater detail soon so our donors, team members, supporters and staff can enjoy the remarkable accomplishments they have brought about at the Símbolos Patrios School.

Lucy’s oldest daughter, Arely, in the new computer lab.

But what about Lucy?

Having the opportunity to spend some time at Símbolos Patrios with Lucy and her family was an unexpected pleasure. Lucy and Boni were showing me the kitchen and explaining Lucy’s job, and then we just hung out for a while.  It was the day of the grand opening of the computer lab and the covered basketball court. There weren’t many classes going on. I noticed that Lucy was using a few English words—only a few—but we were able to communicate really well—my lousy Spanish notwithstanding.

Lucy has three children. Arely is now eleven, Noemi is nine, and David is seven.

Lucy works two jobs. At one, she washes clothes for a family that has money, but these jobs pay notoriously little. At the second, she is one of the cooks at our Oaxaca Kids Can program. She has these jobs so she can keep track of her kids and keep them in school. This is very important to her. And get this—she has found a way to enroll in accounting classes and she goes into Oaxaca for these classes!!! She is able to do this all while being a single mom.

It is heartwarming to see Lucy interact with her kids.  They are all very affectionate and it appears that they are a unit and lean on each other. I asked them who gets the best grades.  They all seemed pretty proud when they pointed at their mom and said, “Mama does. She get’s 9’s!”

Beautiful Lucy.

“It is not how much we do. It is how much love we put in the doing.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Beautiful Lucy

This is the fourth in a series of blogs from our Founder, John Kerr, reflecting on his recent trip to Oaxaca.

The user name for Noemi’s mom’s email is Bella Lucy, which translates to Beautiful Lucy, and that is the truth as far as I can see.  She is one of the three moms that serve the nutritious meal at the Símbolos Patrios Elementary School to the approximately 140 students who now attend. Although it pays very little by our standards, it is an attractive job to the moms who live by the landfill and Boni wisely rotates it among the responsible ones—those he knows he can count on to show up everyday—and this is Beautiful Lucy’s year.

As many of you know, before we started the “Oaxaca Kids Can” breakfast program, we had a study done and we discovered that about 78 kids attended the Símbolos Patrios School daily. 80% of those kids arrived at school having eaten nothing at all or only tortilla and coffee!!! Poor kids have hunger issues and frequently just do not attend school for a number of reasons.

So 20% of the 78 kids arrived at school prepared nutritionally to concentrate all day…and mathematical genus that I am…that comes out to just about 15 students prepared and ready to go…GOT IT!!!!  15 students of 78 are nutritionally prepared to concentrate for a full school day (the numbers are approximate of course).

OK…NOW…AFTER OUR OAXACA KIDS CAN BREAKFAST PROGRAM…THE ATTENDANCE HAS GONE UP TO NEARLY 140 EVERY DANG DAY AND 100% ARE GETTING THE NUTRITIOUS OKC BREAKFAST…100% ARE PREPARED AND READY TO GO…100% OF 140 IS 140!!!  AND THAT IS VS. 15 OR 16 STUDENTS BEFORE…140 NOW!!!  FROM THIS ONE SCHOOL APPROXIMATELY 125 MORE KIDS GOING TO SCHOOL EACH DAY THAT ARE PREPARED TO CONCENTRATE AND BE GOOD STUDENTS.  THIS IS GOING TO HAVE A HUGE IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY!

And, we have started our beautiful COMPUTER LAB AT THIS SCHOOL…IT IS COMPLETE AND IT IS BEAUTIFUL. AND THESE 140 PRIMARY SCHOOL KIDS WHO LIVE AND GO TO SCHOOL RIGHT ACROSS FROM A HUGE…HUGE GARBAGE DUMP…are also going to reap the benefits of technology like OUR kids do here!

Please join us in what is already becoming the most exciting venture in the history of Friends of Pimpollo!  We need your help as our generous donors are the central part of the success of this program…without you, of course, we can’t do much and they can’t do much…and we have 13 more schools yet to go as there are 14 schools total in the greater Vicente Guerrero area that surrounds the Oaxaca Municipal garbage dump.  With time and your help we can do something that is going to be incredible for some wonderful, deserving kids and families!!!

Call me (503) 881-0931, email me at juankerr@me.com and/or find me on Facebook if you want more info.  Or you can contact the FOP Office at info@friendsofpimpollo.org.

Oh, about beautiful Lucy.  I apologize for getting carried away…and all the CAPITAL LETTERS and !!!!!!!’s.  Lucy is a great story but this is enough for today.

Gracias!

John/Juan

Stay tuned for these upcoming blogs: “Beautiful Lucy Continued…Part 2” and “Juan Will You Accept This Rose? … Part One”

“Alone I can’t do anything…together we can do something beautiful for God.”    Mother Teresa