The Rotary Club of Vancouver Sunrise will be hosting a Day of the Dead party to fundraise for their international project of the year, Project Amigo, which provides educational assistance to impoverished students in Colima, Mexico.
According to Carlos Obregon, former president and current member of the Rotary Club, the club’s mission is to partake in projects both locally and internationally and to foster friendships between members. After another member, Sheila Anderson, spread the word about Project Amigo, the Vancouver Sunrise chapter of the Rotary Club decided to take it on as their international project this year.
Founded in 1984, Project Amigo is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for disadvantaged youth in Colima by providing financial support and access to education. Colima is on the west coast of Mexico and Anderson says the area has a high population of uneducated migrant workers employed in the sugarcane industry. The state is also home to Volcan de Colima, one of the most active volcanos in Mexico.
Education for everyone
Anderson, a retired lawyer, heard about the project when she was part of the Nanaimo North Rotary Club – another member was going to visit Colima, Mexico. As she and her husband enjoy travelling to Mexico and were going to be in the area at the same time, they decided to drop by and participate in part of the Christmas Work Week, a week spent both working and playing, exploring Mexican culture as well as experiencing the people’s needs first-hand.
“We fell in love with the project and have been supporting it and visiting and donating ever since,” says Anderson.
Anderson says teachers from the local elementary schools will ask their brightest students to apply for the Project Amigo scholarship program. If they are selected for the program, the scholarship will provide them with books and schools supplies, school uniforms, tuition and transportation to school. The students must also commit to maintaining a certain GPA, monthly community service and attend a homework club hosted by the project.
“The homework clubs make sure the kids are doing well and that there are no problems at home,” says Anderson.
For the students attending university, Project Amigo has their own housing facility within walking distance from the University of Colima.
During Anderson’s first visit in the winter of 2003, she spent 5 months as a volunteer coordinator.
“It’s overwhelming in some ways how much good was being done. I have gotten to know so many of the kids personally and it’s almost like family,” says Anderson, who has visited every year since.
Project Amigo also allows volunteers to visit for a Work Week. Volunteers can assist with projects such as installing mini libraries, English tutoring or repair and construction work while simultaneously immersing themselves in the local culture and community. To participate, volunteers pay a fee that covers food, accommodation and transportation for the entire week but does not include airfare. Other ways to participate include sponsoring a child or donating funds towards scholarships.
“I wasn’t expecting such a long commitment, but it was just one of those commitments that you make and when you see the results you can’t not continue,” says Anderson.
In hopes to raise $5000 for Project Amigo, the Rotary Club will be hosting a Day of the Dead party at the Hellenic Community Centre on Oct. 21, 2017. The event will feature Mexican food, live music, a 50/50 draw, a silent auction and a live auction. One of the live auction items will be a Work Week. All proceeds will go towards supporting students in the Project Amigo program.
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