Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jane Fellows. I live part time in Campbell River, Vancouver Island, BC, and the other part of the year, in La Peñita, Nayarit, Mexico.
My father, Bill Fellows, discovered the small fishing village of La Peñita in 1979 and felt he had gone back in time to the 50s. At that time there was one telephone in town, but the operator also sold fruit, so you may or may not be allowed to make your call that day. The same woman had the only fax machine in town. She posted received faxes on a clipboard, which hung on a rusty nail, on the main street for all to see. La Peñita has grown and changed in many ways, yet it still remains the quaint fishing village that it has always been. To cut a long story short, my dad fell in love with the way of life here and lived happily, year around for 30 years, until he was tragically killed by a drunk driver, five years ago.
I visited my father here for those 30 years and since his passing I have been living here for six months of the year.
One day in January of 2011, I was walking by a kinder school, near to where I live (Zaragoza) and there was a notice on their gate asking for paper and pencils and a volunteer English teacher. I thought to myself, “How hard could that be,” and I naively walked in and volunteered. That is the beginning of my story.
There are 120 four and five year olds at this school and my Spanish is far from adequate, but I jumped in with both feet and fell in love with the children and staff. I asked family and friends for donations and help, and soon the children had school supplies and all the black boards were sanded and repainted. I volunteered for two mornings a week and enjoyed every minute of it.
Then in April 2011, a Mexican national friend of mine, Maricela Penazola, took me for a tour of 4 other kinder schools in the area. This tour included meeting the directors, teachers and all the students! It was much more than I had anticipated but it certainly provided me with an education as to the haves and have nots.
The least fortunate of all the kinder schools I viewed was Jardin de Niños: Luis Pasteur on Morellos Avenida, La Peñita. It’s a one-room schoolhouse with 25 children and one teacher. They have never had an English teacher there, so I promised that in November when I returned, I would be their English teacher. I was appalled at the lack of basic necessities. First and foremost, the school is built into a hill and they have no access to town water, so they pay $25 dollars for a truck to deliver water twice a month. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Last week was the first time I have been there when there was water! There are two blue toilet stalls built quite a ways from the school, however IF there’s water an adult has to go up the hill, turn on a tap and fill a bucket with water, release the toilet valve and try to flush the over-flowing toilets. This may take more than one bucket.
Downhill at the schoolroom, there is a shaded area where the volunteer mothers make snacks for the children. This consists of noodle soup or sliced cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables that the mothers have provided. There is absolutely no water supply there. Obviously, the food, the food prep area, nor anybody’s hands are washed. There is a five-gallon container of distilled water available to drink, however plastic glasses appear to be unwashed and reused.
The teacher and the parents of the students have realized the need for a kitchen with water. So far, they have conducted a “bazaar” or yard sale where many of my friends donated items. They have been able to buy a small stove and a large propane tank. They have saved approximately $300 Canadian dollars.
In January 2012, I spoke with a reputable contractor, Manuel Rodriguez, who was a close friend of my father’s. He provided a quote for a very basic kitchen including cement floors and counters, brick walls, electricity, plumbing and roofing, with labour. I have not been able to secure a quote for city water and sewer, as the government officials may need to be involved. I have emailed a contact regarding this, but at present I don’t know where to begin.
This past fall I put an article in the local internet newspaper requesting school supply donations and a replacement volunteer English teacher for the kinder school that I was leaving. To my surprise, I received emails from five women wanting to volunteer to teach English! With the help of a retired teacher, Kate Baron, who lives here full time, we have all these ladies placed in different kinder schools in the area and they too are enjoying every minute. Kate continues to act as trainer and mentor to these ladies.
In January 2012, I received an order of 100 desk calendars, with scenic photos of the area (that I had designed at an earlier date). With the help of friends, we sold all the calendars at a profit of $900 Canadian dollars. More cash donations have been gratefully received and the HUGE block party fundraiser at Petra’s Restaurant has allowed KinderAide to reach its goal!
I am proud to report that due to generous, kind hearted people, KinderAide has the funds to build the kitchen!!
We are however, lacking the funds to bring town water and sewer lines to the school. I have asked Miguel Lomeli Payan, a local legal assistant, to make some phone calls to government officials to inquire about this matter. To date, he has no information for me.
Update: Local water has been brought to the school, however during high season, the school still needs to buy water. There is an existing cistern there but it is not connected to anything and will require a pump. KinderAide’s 2nd Annual Street Dance hosted by Petra will be February 3, 2012, and all donations will go directly to this cause. KinderAide proudly continues to help local children in their quest to learn English by providing donated school supplies and volunteer English teachers to five La Peñita kinder schools with approximately 300+ eager students, ages 4 to 6.
If anyone is driving to the area from Vancouver Island, and has room for school supplies and Christmas gifts (small stuffy toys), OR can take an extra bag on WestJet from Comox (FREE), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the KinderAide link below.
About KinderAide: KinderAide was established in January of 2011 by Jane Fellows. It is an independent, non-profit group of volunteers whose primary goal is to help children attending kinder schools in La Peñita in their quest to learn English, with the assistance of volunteer teachers and donated school supplies. To learn more, visit the KinderAide community webpage.
This story was submitted by one of our readers. If you want to join in the fun and share your stories and photos of Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, please email them to Tosia@JaltembaBayLife.com