Monthly Archives: June 2014

Colorful Necklaces Benefit Oaxaca Learning Center: Computers for Students

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.

The Project: Necklaces for Computers



“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.”

Order necklaces online at
 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 tintobugambilia 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.

How To Order

Order necklaces by sending an email to 
Fran can fill your order from Mexico or the USA. The price in Mexico is 100 pesos. In the U.S. the necklaces cost $10 each, plus shipping.
All gifts are tax-deductible because the Learning Center operates as a U.S. non-profit organization. Think of this as a meaningful gift.

Back to Oaxaca, Mexico: A Brief Personal Essay

Next Friday I will be returning to Mexico for an extended stay. At this moment it is difficult to know for how long. By the time I return to Oaxaca, I will have been gone for almost two months.

Sunset at Las Cuevitas, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

You have not heard from me in a while for many reasons. I have been in North Carolina to pack and move, and in the process sort through the collections of life — art treasures from around the world, family photographs, paintings and pottery, chef’s accoutrements acquired when I owned a gourmet cookware shop, cooking school and cafe so many years ago in South Bend, Indiana.

The accumulation of thirty plus years is daunting. There were boxes in the attic I hadn’t opened since two moves ago.  I found vintage La Grange County Amish dolls that I at once gifted to the Indiana State Museum and complete set of 1940’s Ohio-made Blair Gay Plaid pottery that I hauled to Replacements and sold.

I am the keeper of my son’s vintage Tonka trucks, infant clothes, and university diploma.  I am the keeper of copper cookware bought in Paris in 1984, every tax return since 1990, and every university program and proposal I ever developed and wrote during my career.  I made a pile in the yard and started a fire.  Friends came to help me push through, sort and eliminate. I couldn’t have done it without them. Then I drove a fourteen-foot U-Haul truck to a 5′ x 15′ storage unit and with the help of two wonderful Latino men who I picked up at the day labor gathering spot, completed my move.

Goodbyes are not easy, even as I look forward to spending most of each year in my beloved Oaxaca with friends there. I know that change is constant, nothing is forever, experiences matter, and staying open to possibility is essential.  I have closed the door to the home on the pond that I built and shared with another.  I have said goodbye to dearest friends.  North Carolina is still home, yet when I return, it will be to another place. Friends there and around the world are my constant source of caring and support.

Guacalotes-6 FlyingShuttleLoom2-11

As all this was going on, I organized more Oaxaca workshops, wrote and published a personal essay in Minerva Rising Literary Journal, sold one of my photographs to a consulting company, had a skin cancer surgically removed and a pre-cancer treatment on my face as a result of too much youthful sun-bathing on Southern California beaches where I grew up.

Here, now, in this northern California beach town, I am with my ninety-eight year old mother who sleeps in the next room, and my dearest sister who lives just a mile away.  Each moment matters. It is a great lesson in how to live life.

See you in Oaxaca.