Who would ever think that putting together metal washers and colorful ribbon would result in stunning necklaces and a successful fundraising project for The Oaxaca Learning Center (TOLC)? That’s what volunteer Francine LaPorte did to help the Center recently raise almost $2,000 USD to buy computers for its students.
“Everything about TOLC moved me, she says. There are dedicated and inspirational young people working so hard as students, tutors and coordinators, all together as a respectful community.”
“While in Oaxaca this year, I learned how to make a deceptively simple yet elegant necklace composed of washers and ribbon. At the same time, Armando badly needed to replace his almost dead, six-year-old computer,” Francine said. An idea was born.
How the Necklace Project Started
Francine was talking with a friend the need when the friend spontaneously handed her a gift of 500 pesos, saying only, ʻI want to help.ʼ Earlier that day the friend had complimented Francine’s necklace, so in thanks Francine gave her a necklace as a gift. “Voila,” Francine said, “an idea was born: Collares Por Computadoras.”
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Order from Mexico or the USA. The price in Mexico is 100 pesos. In the U.S. the necklaces cost $10 each, plus shipping.
Since that epiphany moment, Francine has made and sold hundreds of necklaces and donated the proceeds to the Learning Center. She is a regular customer at the local fabric shop where she buys yards of rainbow-colored ribbon. The neighborhood family-owned hardware store is her source for metal washers that she buys by the kilo.
“I have shown the necklaces to friends, along with the TOLC brochure and personal photos of the young people needing financial help. I show them the three shades of red – or, as I have named them, vino tinto, bugambilia and jitomate. Any color from the spectrum can be ordered, including red, green and white for the Mexican flag. She has also developed a pink one in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.
Recently Francine and Tracy Roach, another Oaxaca Learning Center ESL volunteer teacher, hosted a workshop with three scholarship recipients. Together they made 39 necklaces one Sunday morning. This will develop into a peer-directed, non-profit social business to build on TOLCʼs mission to provide financial support for tutors and staff. The new entity is called “Porte de La Porte”. They have new ideas and marketing strategies, as well as designs for men that include bracelets and belts.
How Francine Got Involved
Francine comes to Oaxaca for the winter from Tenants Harbor, Maine. A former Teacher of English as a Second Language, she discovered the Learning Center during an Internet search about Oaxaca. “I wanted to use my TESOL skills as a volunteer,” she says. “I became involved with the Center during a stay in 2010 as a tutor working with Armando Carmona Cruz and Mirell Duarte, members of the senior staff who were both on scholarships given by the Cambridge Academy to study English.” From that moment, Francine became an ardent supporter of the Center.
Bravo! for this project, for the sustainability of the Oaxaca Learning Center, and in honor of founder Gary Titus’ 80th birthday.
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