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HAMMERING OUT A FUTURE
By Ed Tasca
The men and women at Lakeside whom I admire the most are those who can give so generously of their time to help others (without expecting anything in return), and Lakeside seems overrun with them.
One such humanitarian organization is Have Hammers…Will Travel. (Okay, so it’s not the most original name, but it’s certainly true to its original TV namesake, Have Gun, Will Travel—featuring the selfless law enforcer who would go anywhere to help people.)
Have Hammers…Will Travel is a traveling “machine shop” like the one we all remember from high school, which sets up tents in specific locales in the Lakeside area, and invites boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 14 to learn about carpentry. The instructors are all volunteers, chiefly retirees from all over the globe.
“Have Hammers” is the brainchild of Richard (Ricardo) Williams. Richard doesn’t wear a snazzy black western outfit like Paladin from Have Gun, Will Travel, but he certainly has the courage and commitment to get out there and bring his and his associates’ expertise to bear to teach interested kids a valuable craft, a craft the children have come to associate with one of the holiest of men.
For two hours once a week, children are instructed on how to learn the carpentry craft. Each class starts with healthy snacks and juice. And each child gets hands-on training and supervision from a half-a-dozen instructors/ volunteers.
Richard even has a translator named Alfredo Rico, who is also a classroom instructor and the group’s web site coordinator. Once the children become familiar with tool usage, actual projects are set up, so that each child becomes the proud builder of a carpentry product.
These range from colorful birdhouses to handsome bookends to hat racks and more. (The Lake Chapala Society has already commissioned HHWT to construct 50 bookends for its renowned Neil James library.) At the end of every class, the children for 15 minutes use the tools and supplies to create their own projects.
Children are notified through their schools of the opportunity to enroll. The first class is free (offered as an introduction), and after that, the cost is 50 pesos per month for each child. Classes are limited to 16 students. Parental permission is required in writing.
Rick’s pilot project took place at Mission San Pablo, a Catholic orphanage for boys located in Cedros. The program was such a success that it has been expanded to several areas, namely Hope House in Ixtlahuacan, and most recently, two new programs at the Lake Chapala Society, one on Monday mornings and another on Friday afternoons, to coincide with the two half-day school periods, morning and afternoon.
One of the biggest boosts Richard and his colleagues have received for this effort are the contributions—in the form of tools and time—made by a local expatriate New Yorker, Joe Schwartz, who’d lived in Ajijic some 25 years. Eventually, he donated all the tools and even went to Texas garage sales to buy as many tools as he could find and donated them as well. In honor of Joe, the workshops have been named The Joe Schwartz Memorial Workshops.
Additional volunteers are needed, as are workbenches or doors that can be used as workbenches. Hand tools and materials such as drill bits, jig saw blades, safety glasses and anything a carpenter can make good use of are also welcome. Since the project now has three locations with 60 kids in four workshops, another critical need would be a small pickup or van to transport tools and materials to the workshops.