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.

Workshops at Pimpollo

The children of Pimpollo have been participating in workshops, such as learning how to design and create earrings.

Other workshops include planting gardens, weaving hammocks, learning about recycling, reading traditional novels… and the list goes on!


Home to Heaven- Adrianita Guadalupe Herrera González

Pimpollo lost one of their sweet angels last week. Adrianita, who lived much longer than any doctor predicted, went home to Heaven. She blessed all who knew her and we know that she will be greatly missed.

Adriana Guadalupe Herrera González

Rest in Peace Adrianita

Here is a link to a beautiful blog about Adrianita written by Friends of Pimpollo Board Member Julie Hoy.



Pimpollo’s Recycling Project

The children at Pimpollo have been busy organizing a recycling project. Take a look at their hard work!

Depositing garbage was once a time-consuming, expensive task at Pimpollo. Now, waste is separated and many items are repurposed or recycled. This project is not only saving money, but is giving the children a sense of responsibility and understanding of why it is important to care for the environment.

A Couple o’ Great Kids!

Today was such a busy day, but it was busy with Pimpollo, so we didn’t mind. After spending a few days with the kids and updating our database, we will be ready to send child sponsorship updates when we get back. For now, I want to share a few quick photos and info about three great kids:

The young man in this photo is Geraldo, and he is one of the most attentive and responsible boys I’ve ever known. He attached himself to my side when we arrived at Pimpollo tonight, and then he hardly let me out of his sight. The electricity was out, and when we arrived, Geraldo ran up and asked if he could use my cell phone. I explained that it doesn’t work and asked why; he explained that someone needed to call the city electricians to tell them about the lights. He is eleven, hardly the oldest kid at Pimpollo, but he had noticed that no one else was calling, so he stepped up and did it. We played a few games of cards after the lights came back on, and he was so patient and careful as he taught me the rather confusing rules. When I won, he cheered for me. When he won, he apologized! How many eleven-year-olds do that?

This young lady is Daehena. She’s been at Pimpollo for a year, and she says that she and her brother Bryan are settling in. While the lights were out, Daehena sat next to me on the concrete front walkway and made shadow puppets with the light from my cell phone. When more kids gathered around, Daehena got pushed aside, but instead of whining, she just sat next to me again and leaned against me and started to chat about her life and my life and the future. She told me about her mom, working in Oaxaca, and how hard it is to be ten-years-old and only talk to your mom once a week, at best. She told me how much she wants to learn English, and proceeded to list the words she had picked up: dog, where, thank you, you’re welcome, table. Two days ago, I sat in the dining room and taught some of those words to a few older kids, but I had no idea Daehena was listening. It appears that she was not only listening, but she memorized them all! She really is a smart girl, and I certainly think she could make it all the way. I can’t wait to see what she becomes.

Susana has spent a lot of time in the last few days with an incredible kid named Isaac. Isaac is seven years old, we think, and is severely brain damaged. He still lives at Pimpollo, however, because the socialization helps him. He is currently attending school and going to physical therapy in Oaxaca. The PT seems to have helped a lot; last year, he couldn’t stand himself up, so he spent a lot of time on the ground. This year, he can stand up, walk alone, and balance himself so much better. He is also a really sweet kid, and I enjoyed the few minutes I spent sitting in the sunshine with him today.

There are so many more at Pimpollo who are growing and changing, but these three have touched my heart. If you’ve been down here and have special memories of a kid who touched yours, post a comment and share! If you’d like an update on someone, post a comment, and we’ll respond and let you know how they are. These are all great kids, and we’re proud of them!

Where fun is free

Over the course of the day today, I and others in the group discovered, again, a lesson we can and should learn from those we support:

Having fun doesn’t require money.

We’ve all learned this a thousand times. We receive an expensive gift for Christmas but have more fun with a worn deck of cards. We buy fancy easels and special paper for the kids to paint on, but they are so much happier with a bucket of sidewalk chalk and a stretch of concrete. (Or a living room wall and a box of crayons…) The amusement park makes for a fun vacation, but everyone laughs just as much on a family bike ride.

Having fun doesn’t require money.

The Pimpollos understand this better than anyone I’ve met. Julie commented today that they manage to have a great time doing nothing, using nothing. There are no expensive easels at Pimpollo, but a group of kids spent two hours making chalk paintings and loving it. The swing is made of metal and isn’t very comfortable, but that doesn’t stop them from giggling as they try to touch the leaves of the nearby trees. They don’t have a lot of material belongings, but their ingenuity and attitudes turn the tiniest piece of rotten fruit into a soccer ball.

We went to visit Juana’s family tonight, and I met another family that doesn’t need material items to have fun. We’ve written about Juana before, but just in case you’ve forgotten, she lives with her three kids, her sister, and one of our college scholarship girls in a one bedroom house here in Juchitan. There was space for us to sit, but most had to use the beds because they have no couch and few chairs. The walls are full of extention cords to carry electricity, and the “eaves” are insulated with cardboard. None of that mattered. We spent two hours having a grand time, telling jokes and stories and taking photos. Juana and her kids had laughter on the tip of their tongues, and it didn’t take much to get Manuelito rolling on the floor. The tiny house was quickly forgotten as the good times began to roll.

I went to the dollar store before I left and bought some gifts- bouncy balls, card decks, crayons, hair ties. Mostly games, and nothing special. I figured I could use them when we got bored, when we needed something to animate us. Tomorrow is our last day at Pimpollo, and I haven’t even touched them. We’ve spent our time swinging, dancing, teaching English words, taking pictures, drawing, having conversations, walking, holding babies, talking, talking, talking. Most of them want to play or talk with us, not get stuff from us. The most useful item in my suitcase is a small album of family photos that I threw in at the last minute.

No matter how many times I’ve learned about having fun with nothing, I always get home and return to materialism once again. This time, I’ve had amazing teachers I’ll never be able to forget. The next time I fret about money or buy expensive gifts, I think I’ll just have to remember Pimpollo, where fun is free.

Phase Two: Juchitan

Team 50 spent its first full day in Juchitan today, and what a day it was! We got to see three of our programs here: the Pimpollo Home for Children, the Disabled Home, and Casa Isabel. Here are some photos and an update from each one:

The Pimpollo Home for Children is where Friends of Pimpollo began twelve years ago, and it was great to go back and see some friendly faces. We didn’t see all of them because some of the kids were at school, but we are looking forward to getting a full update and passing that information and some new photos on to our child sponsors. Thanks to you, these kids are doing great!

We did see the little babies, though, and a few former Pimpollas who currently work part-time at Pimpollo or live their with their children. John was especially pleased to see Sara and Ellie, who were both raised at Pimpollo and have been very close to John for many years. We also got to meet their children- Diego, Alejandro, and two new babies. Despite the number of kids at school, there were an awful lot of little ones running around, and we had a great time on the swings and walking with them and dancing to the radio. Saludos from Luis Carlos, Guadalupe, Dulce, Issac, Juan de Dios, and all the rest!

Guadalupe recently arrived at Pimpollo- she is a sweetheart and seems to be fitting right in!

Little Luis Carlos is one of the cutest guys I’ve ever seen, and his friend Jorge is one of the most patient!

After lunch, we went to the Home for the Disabled Children, where Betty takes care of 8 former Pimpollos. This is a relatively new project for us, and seeing it running smoothly and with so much evident love was fantastic. As we drove up, Julie was hiding in the car. We tried to tell the kids that she hadn’t come, but when they peered through the window and saw her, their faces lit up with joy. “Julia, Julia! Mi amiga, Julia!” they called. For the rest of the afternoon, we ate ice cream with them, walked up and down the porch with them, sang songs with them, and drew pictures with them. It was a lovely afternoon of not worrying about Doing anything in particular. We spent our time just Being with them, and it felt great.

Jenny loves to walk up and down the porch at the Home for Disabled Children, and team member Susan walked with her all afternoon!

We had dinner at Casa Isabel, with Kristin Lietz, who has been involved with us for many years. Kristin now runs a home for girls in Juchitan, which has grown over the last six years and currently helps 15 girls to go to school, do service, and grow spiritually and emotionally. We saw the three students that Friends of Pimpollo is sponsoring, who are pictured below. We also had dinner with the rest of the girls and heard about what they are doing. Kristin requires each of her girls to participate in a service project, so in addition to studying Human Rights or Nursing or Information Technology, these girls have created and are running a project using day-old bread from the local store. They take the bread to the railroad tracks and throw it up to the immigrants who are riding the train. They also take it to a Center for Migrant Workers and to the hospital to feed people in the waiting room. The girls were very animated about their project, and it’s clear that Casa Isabel is fostering intelligent young people who are willing to give back to their community. We are proud to support them!

These intelligent young ladies, from middle school or college, are overcoming all kinds of obstacles and living far from home to go to school, and we are so proud of them.

As you can see, we had a very busy Tuesday but a very good one. We’ll have more Pimpollo images for you tomorrow after we spend more time there and have dinner with another recent grad, Araceli. Adios for now!

We Are Back and Better Than Ever!

Welcome back to FOP! We’ve been off the radar a bit, gracias a the transition to a new intern and a lot of people traveling/getting kids back to school. The 2010/2011 intern, Marina, has finished her full-time internship, although she’s still helping with our new Oaxaca Kids Can program (more about that below!) and we’re thankful for her help. My name is Rachel Mills, and I started as the FOP intern in July. When I first heard about Friends of Pimpollo from Lizzie Martinez, the 2009/2010 intern, two years ago, I thought it sounded like a neat little organization. Key word: little. In the last three months, in changing from the new hire to the intern involved in myriad aspects of the organization, in translating reports from Vicente Guerrero and Pimpollo and Tuxtla Learning Center, in brainstorming for events and keeping records and processing donations and planning for our November team, I’ve learned that there is nothing œlittle  about Friends of Pimpollo. As the leaves fall and we leave the sluggish summer behind, here’s an update on FOP, from the œnewbie’s  perspective.

Team 50

The countdown to Team 50 is almost into single digits, and the flurry of activity as we arrange lodging and agendas and transportation is giving way to pure excitement: we are sending out FIFTIETH team to volunteer in Mexico. We are an organization with one paid employee and 12 years of history, yet fifty teams of people have believed in us enough to give up their time and volunteer with our programs. That’s pretty darn awesome!

It is also exciting to note that this is our very first corporate team! Team 50 boasts a total of fourteen people, including myself, President John Kerr, Board Member Julie Hoy, and three long-time supporters of FOP, Roy Cook, Susan Castor, and Wayne George. In addition, we are partnering with Maps Credit Union for the Oaxaca portion of the trip. The Vice President of Development, Jill Nowacki, is the team leader for a group of eight, including the Board of Directors Chair Joe Phillippay and Director Tom Marks, as well as Barbara Cecil, Bobbie Concepcion, Paige Pena, Oscar Porras, and Stephanie Young. The majority of these group members are new to Friends of Pimpollo, and we welcome the wave of enthusiasm that they are bringing. We are excited to head down to Oaxaca with them and enjoy one another’s company for a week of work, education, enlightenment, friendship-building, and fun! I’ll try to keep blogging while I’m down there, so stay tuned  .

Wears My Shirt

We also have another exciting partnership in the works, this time with a T-shirt sales/marketing organization called Wears My Shirt. Basically, WMS works with nonprofit organizations to design T-shirts to sell online and in retail outlets, and on each T-shirt, they include a code that leads you to a website tied uniquely to WMS and the nonprofit partner.

Picture this:

You walk into Target and see a T-shirt with a design you like, so you buy it.

You go to your computer and type in the code from the shirt. This takes you to a special FOP website, where you spend hours exploring the

  • contests (for uploading photos or videos of people wearing our shirts)
  • map so you can mark where in the world you’ve worn the shirt
  • forums for comments or ideas
  • photos and videos of the kids getting an education because you bought a cool T-shirt
  • information about FOP, our mission, how to volunteer, and how to donate
  • links to our Facebook page, to our website, to our œstore  and products, and to our blog

You get (more) excited about FOP and tell your friends, so they buy T-shirts.

Someone wins an iPad or a trip to Mexico, you all get excited and start getting (even more) excited about FOP, and we send scholarships to (even more) deserving college students.

All of that, just from buying a T-shirt. Pretty neat, right?

Right now, our friends at WMS, including founder Josh Unruh, are working on some T-shirts and another project, a sugarlump. A sugarlump is the feeling you get when you do something nice for someone else, and the WMS sugarlump project is designed to teach kids about that feeling by helping them help others. We are planning to kick-off our partnership with WMS at the holiday party in December.

Oaxaca Kids Can and Building Healthy Habits

In the upcoming months, we will be starting two new projects in cooperation with the community center in Vicente Guerrero. One program is based on the project run by Steve Peifer, Kenya Kids Can. Peifer runs a program in Kenya where he began by serving breakfasts to students, because he found that kids weren’t able to focus on an empty stomach. He then expanded that program to include computer labs and teachers. (Check out Kenyakidscan.com for more info. It’s pretty neat!)

In Mexico, John Kerr, Marina Cheatham, and Bonifacio Hernandez are starting a similar program, which we hope to begin in January or February. Vicente Guerrero is such a low income community, and we believe that education can change that. Providing breakfasts will convince parents to send their kids to school, and providing computers will give the students incentive to come and give them access to the education that changes lives. Makes sense, right? We can’t wait to see how it goes!

Also in January, Lindsey Thomas, a health education major at Linfield College, will be moving to Vicente Guerrero to start a program called Building Healthy Habits. Lindsey plans to teach health lessons at the schools, focusing on prevention- teeth brushing, hand washing, exercise, nutrition, etc. She will also plan activities at the community center that will reinforce these lessons, ranging from sports teams to nutrition talks. Lindsey studied abroad in Oaxaca in the spring of 2011, and she saw firsthand the passion that the children had for learning and the social issues that keep them out of school. She hopes that her program will prevent problems and give the children the boost they need to succeed. FOP is working with Lindsey, and we are looking forward to watching her program come together in the next few months.

Portland Celebration

Last but not least, we want to recognize all of the friends who celebrated with us and supported us at the Portland Celebration on September 28. The program included an update on Vicente Guerrero from Cecelia Monto, a presentation from students at the Queen of Peace school, Loretta Brenner and April Edwards on their experience as the volunteers of Team 49, and John Kerr’s talk about the education scholarship program. Last but not least, Julie Hoy entertained us all with her music, beautiful as always. It was a fantastic night, and to everyone who attended, thank you!

If you weren’t able to come, live in the Portland/Salem area, and would like to attend future events, contact us via info@friendsofpimpollo.org and let us know.

FOP clearly has a lot going on, and even with it all, our programs are running wonderfully. We are celebrating two graduations, a successful summer program with 84 students, and a smoothly operating Pimpollo Home for Children. Your support is changing lives, and we thank you for it!

Juana & Family – Their Story…

Hello Friends of Pimpollo Supporters!

Below is an article that John has written about Juana and her family. It’s definitely a story worth reading. This family has gone through so much & we’re trying to help them get back on their feet. They receive a bi-monthly donation from Friends of Pimpollo, supported by wonderful donors like you. They use it for Ana Judit’s University tuition & fees; school clothes and shoes for Manuelito, Johanna, and Nayeli; and food for the whole family.

Juana & Family… And a few gringos…

I am excited to introduce you to this very special group of people!

The pretty lady in pink is  Juana, the teenage girl on the left in a darker shade of pink is  Nayeli, and the beautiful little girl in the photo on the right with her brother  Manuelito, is  Johanna.   They are Juanas kids and they are super cute, lively and affectionate.   Many of you know them.   They have been the subjects of some fabulous Mike Foland photography.

[Read more…]

Friends of Pimpollo