An Abundance of Gratitude

Dear Friends,Thank You Gracias

‘Tis the season for sharing what we are thankful for, and I am filled with an abundance of gratitude–and that’s not just because Thanksgiving is quickly approaching! For me, each and every day offers its own unique opportunities to give thanks and express gratitude. However, I just recently returned from my first visit to Oaxaca, where I had the chance to visit some of our programs and meet many incredible people. Since the timing happens to coincide with Thanksgiving, I would like to share my appreciation for the people who inspire and sustain me in my work with Friends of Pimpollo.

  • I am grateful for everyone who helps to make the Oaxaca Kids Can Program the tremendous success it is. Here at FOP, we are beyond excited to announce that a third school, Porfirio Diaz, is launching the OKC breakfast program three days a week for 56 students.
  • I am grateful for the parents in the communities we support who take initiative and work hard so their children (and they themselves) can benefit from opportunities that can come with education.
  • I am grateful for all the teachers who give of their time and energy so that they can plant the seeds of knowledge and encourage curiosity in their students.
  • I am grateful for all the members of our 66 teams who have accompanied the communities we work with and who have shared their experiences and our mission with others upon their return.
  • I am grateful for the hard work and dedication of all of our program coordinators in Mexico.
  • More than anything, I am grateful for all the students in our programs, whether they be a preschooler just starting their educational journey, or a 70-year-old grandmother receiving her certificate from the Adult Literacy Program. Your motivation to learn and grow inspires me every day.

I firmly believe the future looks brighter when the present is filled with education, and we couldn’t do all we do without the incredible support of people like you. Thank you. Please know that I am abundantly grateful for you.

All the best,

Laura Ruggles
Executive Director

October 2014 Newsletter

Have you been wondering what’s been happening in the Friends of Pimpollo world the past three months? Well, then, it’s your lucky day! Check out our October 2015 newsletter here!

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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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