Giving shoes to the children on Isla Mujeres

I met Greg and Natalie Snider on Isla in Dec. or Jan. They told me about their shoe missionary (Zapatos Para Los Ninos; Shoes For The Children) and I knew that during some future visit I would want to join them to distribute shoes to those in need on the island.

I told my daughter, SIL and their friends that last October I introduced them to a new Isla experience, a baby turtle release and that this year I wanted them to experience giving shoes to those in need. Between my daughter, her friend and I we had probably 80 pairs of shoes, flip flops, tennies, sandals and other types of shoes. Two of my friends were on Isla and they wanted to participate too. They bought a bunch of shoes here locally. The shop owner of where they bought the shoes  thanked them and said now she could pay rent.

Today we met Greg and Natalie at Colonia Guadalupana (The Invasion) This had to be one of the most memorable experience I have ever had not just on Isla but anywhere. The only way that I can describe myself after this experience was giddy. Not many people would use that as an emotion to describe my usually more serious self. I love to give but this was just so much more than giving. It was truly a moving experience that I will never forget.

More photos on Webhsots.

Why I am a “giver”

Isla Gringo recently posted about his annual Christmas project, Project Warm Hearts. He wrote this about me.

I break out into a big smile whenever I even just think the name Jackie Conlon. This kind woman from Portland, and frequent island visitor, has so many points in her Karma bank that she could start making withdrawals anytime she wanted without touching the principle! This lady just gives and gives and gives. Not only here, but in her own community as well. The world should have more Jackies in it. So, thank you Jackie. From the bottom of my heart.

I give because I can, because I care and because I want to help others empower themselves to become more self-sufficient. In some cases the organizations I give to help individuals regain their self esteem. Take for example the women’s services org. that I now volunteer at. Their clients are women who had been living in a domestic violent relationship. Often these women don’t have the financial means to leave that relationship. With the aid of the women’s services they receive not only counseling but financial assistance and help to find a job if necessary.

I posted on Facebook yesterday:

Friends going to Isla soon – I brought beads to Isla for the Isla Women’s Beading Collective. Help the Mayan women support themselves and their families. They hardly take up any room in your suitcase. Recommended needs – “each pkg has 7.5 g which is about 1600 beads, so you can order different colors for each pkg. you can mix and match. silvers/gold/copper/purples/black.

My reason for this donation was simple. I did this one because “The Isla women are enormously appreciative of our efforts to help them be self-sufficient economically.”

I post these kinds of comments on Facebook and my blog so others can see how easy and often times very inexpensive it is to give to others in need. Whether that need is economical, spiritual or to help with education that otherwise would have been forgone. I don’t tell you this because I want praise for what I do. That is simply not me. It’s what I do. Ask my daughter to describe me in two words and she would tell you I am “a giver”.

A shameless plug for a good cause, supporting education on Isla Mujeres

La Gloria English School on Isla Mujeres is a non-profit organization teaching English to local residents, young and old.

“Isla Mujeres, Mexico, is a prospering tourist destination, but many of its native Mayan residents struggle with poverty. Learning English will help them to better support themselves now, and create a future for their children.”

My “Isla friend” Jana headed up a project to create a cookbook with recipes from some of the local island restaurants as well as from other Isla lovers. All profits from the sales of the cookbook will go to La Gloria English School.

I and many of my Isla friends have posted the link to Jana’s blog on Facebook so those interested in purchasing the cookbook can get details about ordering the cookbook.

If you love Mexican food and want to help a great cause at the same time check out Jana’s blog for more info about the cookbook.

Thanks Jana!!!

The first of many firsts

Tomorrow will be the first Mother’s Day without my mother. It has been hard the last couple of weeks hearing all the Mother’s Day commercials on the radio and TV. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be especially tough the first time around because my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer just before Thanksgiving and died three days after Christmas. Christmas was my mother’s favorite time of year.

I created the electronic invite to the memorial service for my Mother which is taking place next month on her birthday. It took me at least three tries to get it done because I had to stop when I started to cry.

This morning several members of my family participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. The walk is to honor breast cancer survivors, remember people we have lost, and raise funds and awareness to help end this disease. Making Strides is not a race; it is a celebration of survivorship, an occasion to express hope, and a shared goal to end a disease that threatens the lives of so many people we love.” Although my mother did not have breast cancer my sister Debi pulled together some family members to help out the cause. I donated enough $ yesterday to get them to their team goal.

Isla Mujeres Scholarship Program

What it is:

High School is not free in Mexico. The cost is approximately $50 per month and on an island where the average daily wage is $8, this can be a huge strain for some families.
We have matched up people who travel frequently to the island of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, (Islaholics) with students on the island to provide financial assistance for high school and college expenses. Many of our students not only excel, but have gone further with their education than they ever dreamed possible.
As sponsors, we are proud to help such deserving students and watch them succeed. The relationships that are formed between the sponsor family and the student family result an enhanced cultural understanding and a rewarding friendship.

From Maggie of La Gloria English School:

“Gabriela, David and Felipe are three high school students on Isla Mujeres who have been recipients of scholarship funds.  They are all graduating in June and are looking forward to next year.  They all want to go to college in Valladolid – about 2 hrs from Cancun in the Yucatan.  Gaby wants to go into “Education Science”, Felipe would like to study Communication Arts and David would like to study Tourism Administration (business Admin?).   All 3 seem motivated and are extremely hopeful that they will be able to continue their studies.

Here is what they need:
On Wednesday – they will need to pay the initial registration of $1200 pesos ($100) each to get themselves enrolled.  They are hoping they will get help with this, but I have told them to assume they will have to find the money themselves.  I said I would ask you for it, but not to count on it.

When classes start in August, it will cost them about $200 USD per month for registrations, tuition (they are separate here!) and living quarters.  On top of that will be all the living expenses including food, which they think their parents, can, help them with.”

I co-sponsor Alejandra who is going to university in Merida. I met her and her family last month while I was on Isla Mujeres.

One interesting thing that I learned about most Mexican university programs like the one that Alejandra is attending is that it is a strict 4 year program. There is no stopping in the middle of it. If a student drops then later wants to complete the program they must start from the beginning. This is very different from the USA college system where many students take much longer than 4 years to complete their  studies to receive a degree.

A good news story about a nice guy

The founder and owner of Bob’s Red Mill celebrated his 81st birthday February 16th. However, it was Bob who gave a birthday gift his company’s employees will always remember.

Bob gave them his business!

Bob and his wife moved to the Portland area in 1978 when he retired. But rather than retire Bob founded Bob’s Red Mill. Now 32 years later rather than sell the company he gave it to his employees. This is not a small time operation. In 2004 the company was estimated to be worth $24 million and has had very strong growth every year since.

I mentioned to my hairdresser this morning that I was going to eat lunch at Bob’s. She told me her cousin has worked for Bob’s since it was just a small company and he is still in shock over the gift Bob gave him and the other 200+ employees.

Everyday in the newspaper, on TV and radio news we hear all of the bad things that happen in the world. So to me this story stuck out as a good news, nice guy story.

There are more photos that I took back in June on another post about Breakfast at Bob’s Red Mill.

I finally met the Isla Mujeres student that I sponsor

Along with two other women I have sponsored Alejandra since March 2008. Alejandra has been going to university in Merida for 2 1/2 years. She is studying to become a kindergarten teacher because “everyone needs to start school.” Alejandra studies hard and has received excellent grades. While she was home on Isla for Christmas break one of my co-sponsors Wanda and I made arrangements with Maggie (La Gloria English School) to meet Alejandra and her family for breakfast. We met yesterday at Bistro Francais for breakfast with Alejandra, her sister Nidali and her mother Juana. Juana sells pareos on the road to Playa Sol. Juana works on 100% commission and was struggling to support Alejandra’s school and living expenses. Maggie has known Alejandra and her family for many years and reached out  for help so Alejandra could stay in school.

With Maggie’s help we were able to communicate quite well with Alejandra and her family. She plans on staying in Merida after she gets her degree and has already found a school where she would like to teach. Alejandra’s 17 year old sister also has plans to attend the same teaching program in Merida after she graduates from high school. 7 year old Nidali is  an excellent student too. She recently received a diploma for outstanding math scores.

One interesting thing that I learned about the university program that Alejandra is attending is that it is a strict 4 year program. There is no stopping in the middle of it. If a student drops then later wants to complete the program they must start from the beginning. This is very different from the USA college system where many students take much longer than 4 years to complete their  studies to receive a degree. This is why it was so important for Maggie to find sponsors for Alejandra. The $200 US that we give to Alejandra monthly helps her stay in school and takes much stress out of her mother Juana’s life.

Alejandra, Nidali and Juana

Maggie from La Gloria English School

We talked about many other things about island life but that is for another post.

If you are interested in finding out how you can help an Isla student stay in school please  email me.