Niños de Chapala y Ajijic
By John Bingham Munroe
Boy Gets Second Chance at an Education and a Better Life
At 13, Sergio is a bright, lively, friendly boy, joyful in the day, small for his age. Five and a half years ago, he had to drop out of school after the second grade. Money for his mother, Consuelo, had been hard to come by and keeping Sergio in school was out of the question. In Mexico, “free” education isn’t free. Today, although his mother has a small income, the family continues to live from day to day. His father, who lives about a kilometer away, has his own problems and does not contribute to the welfare of his family.
Sergio shares his home with his mother, three sisters and a brother (another sister lives with her father). His house in Chapala is one of several in a family compound situated at the end of a field overlooking a stagnant, junk-filled stream (effluent from the bathroom and the kitchen area empties into the stream) that floods to the house during the rainy season. There are aunts and uncles, cousins and dogs of all sizes everywhere. The house is a cinder block structure, basically two small rooms, one on the other. The small family room also serves as the family bedroom where his mother and sisters sleep on the bed with the boys on the floor. There’s a small porch overlooking the stream with two broken plastic chairs and a small patio table that serves as an eating area. The room on the second floor is unused and unfurnished, the stairs being used for storage. The house and the others in the compound give the appearance of a shanty town. Strangers and unwanted visitors do not have easy access to the area. Entering unnoticed would be impossible.
To bring in extra money, on Sunday mornings his mother has been traveling to St. Andrews Anglican Church in Riveras with Sergio to ask for donations from the parishioners as they enter the church. Over time, some of the parishioners, including Ken Jones and Larry Simpson, have befriended the boy and have gotten to know about him and his plight. Lately coming by himself, he has been invited into the church to join them and participate in the service, following along in the Spanish translation of the Common Book of Prayer. He also has been invited to join the coffee hour and a bi-lingual Sunday school where he can participate more fully with the Sunday morning worship and fellowship. A parishioner describes Sergio as a “wonderful little boy” and a “total delight” who “beams when he comes to church”. Ken and Larry help him and the family out with bundles of food, taking Sergio and his bundles back to Chapala after the service (he takes the bus to get there). Parishioners are impressed by his concern that his family get enough to eat.
Last summer, his new friends realized that Sergio was not in school and hadn’t been there for quite some time. Aware of the boy’s intelligence, academic potential and desire to improve himself, Larry and Ken contacted los Ninos de Chapala y Ajijic (NCA), where they enrolled him in their program and became his sponsors. Sergio is now back in school in the third grade. The NCA is looking into the possibility of having him tested to move him nearer the level of his peers. Ken and Larry plan on getting Sergio tutors to help him catch up to his grade level. Also in the works is a bunk bed for the boys in the room upstairs so that they don’t have to sleep on the floor anymore (Sleeping on the concrete floor is “cold”, Sergio says).
For the first time in his young life, this valiant boy now has options and possibilities for a better future. You too can make a difference in a needy child’s life. For as little as 23 US cents a day ($85 a year), you can help keep a child in school or help him get back as Ken and Larry have. Of course you may decide to give more or much more as many sponsors do.
There are few losers in this story and no villains; there are many heroes, fighters, dreamers and winners. If you’re a dreamer and would like to be one of these heroes, please visit the NCA site on the web at Lakeside Ninos.org. or give Lara a ring at 376 765 7032. She’ll be happy to hear from you. At this writing, there are 75 deserving children in the NCA program who need your help. Take an interest in the life of a young child like Sergio, and change it for the better, as Larry and Ken did.