Marla Jensen wrote to me to ask if I can help put the word out for help to support The Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots. This is the USA-based, 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit that provides funding for Centro de Esperanza Infantil in Oaxaca. Some of you know it, located on Crespo Street. Marla knows how generous our readers are because you have been so supportive of The Oaxaca Mask Project. I invited her to write a guest post to tell us why help is needed during these Covid-19 times. I hope you read through this! It is worthy of our generosity.
By Marla Jensen
They say: Give children pesos on the street and you feed them for a day. Give them an education and feed them for life.
Oaxaca is a magical destination for so many of us who love Mexican art, culture, food, history, and adventure. These charms sometimes mask the reality that Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico, with the poverty rate nearly three times the national average.
About 24% of Oaxaca people live in extreme poverty. Oaxaca’s population is about 58 percent indigenous, with many living in relatively isolated rural locations with marginal services such as electricity and clean water. Getting an education is only a dream for many children. We have seen young children in the city working all day and late hours to earn money for their families.
Families try to survive on an average daily wage of $6.00-$7.00 USD. Their future is dim without the promise of an education. Current conditions with Covid-19 make the conditions much worse for poor families.
Your support matters because we give kids a start here. Many go on to graduate from college.
As visitors or expatriates, how do we give back to a place that gives so much to us? Our tourism dollars help, we buy the beautiful crafts, and try to respond with donations to those on the streets. But what about giving a child an education?
How Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots Started
After many years of helping children in Oaxaca, in 1996 a couple from the U.S., Jodi and Harold Bauman, along with friends and supporters, created a non-profit 501-C called Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots (OSCGR) with the mission to help get children off the streets and into school. To facilitate the work in Mexico they partnered with Centro de Esperanza Infantil, which does the work on-site in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots has a volunteer board in the United States dedicated to supporting and providing funding to Centro de Esperanza Infantil. The Centro has a small staff and volunteer help who provide continual services to about 700 children and youth.
The Centro de Esperanza Infantil is a warm welcoming center on Calle Crespo providing social services, a daily meal, some medical and dental services, tutoring, a computer lab, and library. If you drop by the Center, you will see happy kids, a beautiful environment, international students volunteering, and lots of energy.
Children attend public school with the donated funds. The original goal was to serve children who had never attended school and for them to complete sixth grade. Now, they serve the poorest children who need support to remain in and complete school. OSCGR takes students all the way through university. There are now almost 600 students enrolled in the program from elementary through high school. An additional 104 are enrolled in technical, university and graduate school programs.
In the Spring of 2020, they celebrated their 100th university graduate!
Marla’s Personal Story
I first visited Oaxaca in 1986, following my interest in folk art. For almost 35 years I have returned regularly and deepened my relationship with this magical place. My sister Sharon and I learned of Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots in the 1990’s and together we sponsored an 8-year old child, Bryan Flores Vallejo. We met his family, took him with us when we visited sites, and introduced him to our families. He graduated from high school and now runs a successful business. I love the relationship we have had as his madrinas.
Sharon and I operated La Sirena Oaxaca Gallery for several years, buying and selling folk art, and donating a percentage of profits to OSCGR. We invited friends to Oaxaca with us, bringing along donations of clothing, toothbrushes, and school supplies.
Sadly, in August 2019, my sister Sharon passed away from metastatic melanoma cancer. As a way to honor her memory as a teacher and lover of Oaxaca, I gathered a group together and we sponsor Sharon’s Children. What a meaningful legacy……to educate five children!
I am so pleased to turn a personal loss into something positive. I have recently joined the Board of Directors of Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots and am hoping to spread the word about this wonderful program.
Covid-19 is taking it’s toll in Oaxaca as around the world. The lack of tourism greatly affects the economy and already marginalized families are struggling. Oaxaca Streetchildren has put out requests for additional donations and the response has been tremendous, but it is still not enough!
The Centro has been able to give out several hundred “dispensas”, or food packages. There has been additional help given as needed for utilities, water, medical needs. The center has been modified to provide physical distance and safety so services may continue.
There are several ways to support Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots. Your donation of $250 a year will enable an individual child to get an education. A $500 -a-year-gift will support a university student. You will be assigned a specific child and receive information about them and their academic progress. You will be able to visit and develop a relationship if you choose.
Your donation gives the child a pair of shoes, a pair of tennis shoes, a school uniform, a P.E. uniform, a backpack, school supplies, inscription fees, guidance and counseling. In addition, the child may come to the center for a daily meal, use the computers, library, take extra classes, get tutoring and help with homework.
You may also donate to the general fund and the gift will be used for children who do not have a sponsor or for other program expenses.
Please make a gift. Your support has a direct benefit to make a difference in a child’s life. And, your gift is USA tax-deductible.
Together We Will Change the World Through Education!