In April 2002 I arrived in Mexico for one year's sabbatical to work with street children and kids at risk. In the first month I met Ivan Bravo Carbajal who at the time was the Street Kid Centre Manager where I volunteered, and is now New Life Mexico's Programme Manager. Over the past thirteen years as Field Director for New Life Mexico (NLM), Ivan and I, together with a dedicated team and tremendous Board of Directors, have worked with, and supported, tens of thousands of children. NLM has been a core contributor to the Mexican community in Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding areas.
Celebrate the Success
NLM has now reached a crossroads in part due to the success of the NLM programmes, many of which have now been adopted by local Mexican partners from January 2015.
Thus leaving NLM in
the position of either needing to develop a national footprint or shutting the charity after 13 incredible years where it has seeded multiple welfare initiatives in the community. NLM has far exceeded my wildest dreams which has made it all the more difficult to make the decision that we have reached a natural point to close the charity.
This decision comes with mixed feelings due to the relationships built over the years both in the UK and in Mexico. However, I have confidence in the sustainability of the work our charity has started and remain confident the programmes will roll out throughout the region by our friends and partners who will continue the programmes of the charity in the future.
NLM will therefore be closing field operations and programmes in Mexico at the end of April 2015. It will take a few months thereafter to wind down the charity and to distribute funds and physical donations still in our storerooms. Once my house has sold in Mexico I plan to return to England.
I'm feeling very proud of the legacy NLM leaves behind. I have no fixed plans for my personal future, so am open to offers and suggestions!
However, I am writing to say a sincere thank you personally and "Mil Gracias" from all the thousands of children who have benefitted from your support over the years. All our programmes and activities have only been possible due to the huge generosity of our donors.
What We Accomplished
From 2004 to 2010, NLM supported children who had been physically, sexually or emotionally abused with a specific focus on their health and education needs.
In addition to pastoral care, NLM worked on a daily basis with Child Protection Service programmes including ESCI (Child Sexual Exploitation), Albergue Vida Nueva (New Life Street Kid Shelter), Red Juvenil (Kids at Risk), PROPADETIUM (Working Kids), Prevencion y Atencion Integral del Embarazo en Adolecentes (PAIDEA – Pregnant Teenage Program), Programa 10-14 (Primary School Education for Kids aged 10-14), and PAFIC (Children with Parents in Prison).
I originally came to Mexico to work as a volunteer with street children. At the time, the social services street kid centre for boys where I worked was extremely basic and had little, to no, equipment. Many of the boys at the centre were unable to attend mainstream school due to a lack of funding to pay for the required uniforms, books and other necessary equipment.
I made a personal commitment to pay for the schooling of four boys and, working with social services, I was able to secure all four children a place in school. When the time came for me to leave and return to England one boy said to me "so now you are telling me I don't have a future".
This had a profound impact on me as I was only too aware of the lack of resources available to social services and the implications of this on children in desperate need of support. As is often the case with government social services, the demands far outweigh the available budget.
This one boy, and Ivan as the Centre Manager, gave me the inspiration to raise enough money to refurbish the centre, return to Mexico and set up New Life Mexico as a registered charity. Thirteen years later I am still in touch with many of the boys who passed through the centre.
NLM was responsible for their health and education. Hundreds of boys completed secondary and high school with the vast majority now in full time employment living healthy and clean lives. This is almost entirely due to your donations giving them a chance for a better future. They will never forget your kindness. Some of the older ones have even started families of their own.
Since January 2011 NLM is proud to have been working in partnership with the State of Jalisco providing Community Kids Club "Chidongongo" to children in the deprived areas of Puerto Vallarta. Chidongongo clubs include a Craft Club, Basketball, Football, English, and Plasma Dancing. Club members receive school supplies and hygiene kits during the programme.
Working in the community in conjunction with the Community Leader / President of each Colonia (district), NLM sponsored clubs aimed at "working kids" and "kids at risk, both boys and girls, aged 8 to 13 years old, (primary school grades 3 to 6).
Children of this age are at most risk of becoming involved with gangs and related street activity. The clubs raised self-esteem, provided learning disciplines and new friendships whilst engaging in positive activities with role models so often lacking in the children's environment.
NLM also worked with the local schools to promote the Chidongongo Club programmes, utilizing a Performance Measurement tool in the clubs to ascertain the success of the programme.
Chidongongo Clubs were open to all age appropriate children in the community. NLM's clubs are all inclusive and as all NLM trainers are professionally qualified for their job, children with disabilities were welcome.
The Craft Club provided an opportunity for children to have fun, in addition to helping them develop their full potential through positive social, emotional, physical and intellectual experiences. By providing a stable, secure and relaxed club environment, children could come and "escape" from the daily hardships of living in extreme deprivation and violence.
The Community Leader / President of the Colonia were present at each club meeting to ensure that any local "disputes" were resolved, allowing the NLM educator to run the Clubs more effectively. Approximately 500 children attended our craft clubs.
Basketball commenced in 2011 with over 300 children in five districts.
The clubs met on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours with NLM-contracted specialist trainers running the clubs. In addition to two hours sport twice a week and related sports skills, the children also received weekly talks focussing on subjects including respect for peers and working in teams. A further 372 children took part in the programme during 2012-2013.
NLM's Chidongongo Football programme started in 2013 in four districts.
The programme, with ex-professional footballers and sports teachers, commenced with a 10 session "minis football clinic" for 3rd and 4th grade girls and boys (8-10 years), continuing on for 18 Sessions with 5th and 6th graders (10-13 years).
The programme ended with an inter-colonia tournament in March 2014, with over 750 girls and boys taking part in the programme.
In addition to the trainers' talks, the club received visiting speakers, all of whom highlighted the importance of "team work" in their respective areas. Speakers included a Professional Football Player, Fire Fighters, a Psychologist and covered subjects including bullying, self-esteem, morals and values. The programme continued with a further 194 taking part in the programme in 2014.
NLM's "My First 200 Words in English" was developed in 2012 to give primary school children an introduction to the English language and boost confidence prior to formal studying in secondary school. Retired teachers from the US and Canada volunteered their services for this wonderful programme.
The programme included areas such as alphabet, numbers, colours, days of the week and months of the year, parts of the body, weather and verbs. Worksheets and homework were provided to the participants at each lesson. The lessons lasted for an hour, followed by a craft activity for a further hour. Graduation certificates were provided to all those who completed the course.
During 2013 and 2014 over 145 children took part in this programme. We are planning for a further 60 children to take the course from January to March 2015.
Plasma Dancing is an extracurricular activity to develop mind and body, social and emotional growth, provide a healthy alternative to gang activities, as well as to awaken an artistic sense and develop a blossoming passion for creative arts.
These activities offer an appreciation for possibilities of a life with music and art rather than drugs, violence and anti-social behaviour. The programme was created by NLM in 2012 for Club Chidongongo.
Over 230 boys and girls have taken part in Plasma Dancing and we anticipate a further 50 – 60 to complete the programme by the end of March 2015.
Clean Drinking Water
In 2010 NLM commenced a programme to put a "water house" in each of the 130 schools (Primary, Secondary and High School) in Puerto Vallarta. NLM partnered with foundations to build each one and to provide monthly maintenance of clean filters and UV lamps. Each water house can provide approximately 1,168,000 cups of clean drinking water a year.
During the period of 2010 – 2014 NLM built 32 water houses, including in the offices of Child Protection Services in Coapinole, and in the health department in El Pitillal. The water houses provide 52 schools with clean drinking water (schools in Mexico have two shifts a day – 8.00am to 12.30pm or 2.00pm – 6.00 pm. Each school is independent, resulting in two schools benefitting from one water house in most locations).
In 2013 NLM made a strategic partnership with Seapal Vallarta (the State of Jalisco's water company). Cesar Abarca Gutierrez, Seapal's Director General, formally thanked NLM and their sponsors for the fabulous programme initiated.
NLM and Seapal Vallarta visited schools with water houses, where Seapal provided a "day of water" at each school with games, songs, work sheets and other related materials to help the children remember to save water wherever possible.
During 2014 Seapal built water houses for a further 40 schools and have committed to completing the project of a Water House in every school by the end of 2015. NLM is also delighted to report that Seapal Vallarta agreed to take over the monthly maintenance and manage NLM's 32 existing water houses as of January 1st 2015. NLM is very proud that another programme they initiated now has local government ownership.
Health & Hygiene
Reinforcing health and hygiene in schools is particularly important for those children who do not have running water at home and / or access to clean drinking water. In 2011 NLM created workshops on hand washing, teeth cleaning and body hygiene for primary school students. Students were actively involved in the half hour workshops, where for example they put their hands in a box of flour and are then told to touch their friends demonstrating how germs are spread. Workshops included flyers, homework and worksheets. Each child received hygiene items and flyers related to their particular workshop including toothbrush and toothpaste, soap or a full hygiene kit. The children were told to use the flyers at home to teach their families what they learnt in the workshop.
Sport In Schools
In addition to providing clean drinking water in schools, NLM supported other programmes related to health and education. Sadly most schools in Puerto Vallarta have no sports equipment, often relying on the sports teachers to provide their own.
Many children who attended NLM Kids Clubs "Chidongongo Football and Basketball" programmes continually asked NLM to come to their school and help provide sports equipment. In 2011 NLM commenced providing equipment to schools and painting basketball / volleyball courts to enable children to enjoy sport, some for the first time at school.
In 2013 NLM made a strategic partnership with DERSE (Delegación Regional de la Secretaria de Educación) to intensify this programme. NLM and DERSE launched a programme "Asi, si juego" ("with this, you can play").
Each school received a mixture of twenty football/basketball/volleyballs, a pump and storage bags. Professor Roberto Paolmera Preciado, Delegado y La Secretaria de Education Jalisco a través de delegación regional Cosa Norte (Education Secretary for the State of Jalisco) formally thanked New Life Mexico and all their donors for "their human and social responsibility, spirit of solidarity and important work with the children and the young people of Puerto Vallarta within the school system."
By March 2015 NLM will have provided all 52 schools that have NLM Water Houses, with sports equipment.
Continuing their field work in health and education, NLM undertook projects in the local communities and surrounding small villages in Puerto Vallarta. Each year during the summer months NLM visited mountain villages and small communities outside Puerto Vallarta, delivering school supplies and hygiene kits to children rarely visited by other NGOs (non government organisations) from one year to the next. In 2014 NLM distributed over 580 school packs and hygiene kits to Primary and Secondary school children, and over 300 educational packs with toothbrush and toothpaste to Kinder kids.
Over the years NLM has received specific donations for food and has been happy to be able to work with community leaders to ensure that those most in need receive the food packages.
In 2011 NLM started to paint the basketball and volleyball courts in public areas to encourage children in the districts to play sport. NLM was delighted when, in 2012, the local government decided to take over this programme and additionally paint playgrounds and other public spaces.
NLM strongly believes that education helps break the cycle of poverty. Since higher education is not always the best option for some students, NLM feels that vocational training is an excellent path for many leading to job fulfilment and satisfaction, and has supported it in Puerto Vallarta since 2010.
In 2012 NLM entered a strategic partnership for a new vocational training school – CENCAP (Centro de Captación). The three partners include IDEFT (Instituto de Formación Para el Trabajo Del Estado de Jalisco), the Institute for the Formation of Work for the State of Jalisco, who provide the teachers and course accreditation for the school; NLM, who provide the equipment for courses; and Seapal Vallarta who provide the building and maintenance for the school.
The CENCAP vocational school is open to anyone over the age of 15 offering training in three month modular courses enabling students to continue their education when time permits. Each module is accredited for the course content. Courses available at CENCAP include Dressmaking and Sewing, Computers, English, Manicure and Pedicure, Make Up, Hair Dressing, Massage, and Spa. IDEFT has another vocational school providing courses for Car Mechanics and also has a Bakery for which NLM provided a commercial oven.
NLM is delighted to have been part of this programme and actively encourages the young people we work with to attend the school. CENCAP is heavily subsidized by both Seapal and the State of Jalisco and therefore courses are very affordable at approximately $200 pesos (£10.00) per month.
Awards and Recognition
Although NLM is a small grass roots charity we are extremely proud of the recognition and support we have received from both within Mexico and abroad:
2007 The Mayor of Puerto Vallarta Javier Bravo Carbajal thanked NLM for their continued support and commitment to the local community and presented them with a "citizens award".
2007– NLM's work within the community was officially acknowledged and recognised by DIF (Mexican Social Services). In 2008 DIF acknowledged New Life Mexico´s work in their Annual report.
2010 - Mexican Tourist Office continue to acknowledge and support NLM. Manuel Diaz Cebrian, Director of Mexican Tourist Office in London, "thanks NLM for their continued work within Mexico and appreciates their contribution to strengthening the Mexican/British partnership".
2011 AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators) – NLM has continually received acknowledgment for its work from AITO: winning the 2005 Responsible Tourism Award and more recently being 'Highly Commended' in the 'Roger Diski 2011 Community Project Award.
February 2011 - Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora "thanks New Life Mexico for their work in Mexico as an excellent example of how the British and Mexican communities can work together".
May 2012 - British Embassy, Mexico – Nominated Philippa Vernon-Powell as a London 2012 Olympic Torch Bearer. The nomination came as recognition of NLM's work, stating that "The British Embassy believes that New Life Mexico's work is an example of the strong friendship between our two countries".
July 2012 - The Opening of the London Olympic Games.
Philippa, NLM´s Field Director, went to Mexico City to meet with Judith MacGregor, The British Ambassador, to thank her for the nomination to run with the Olympic torch on 22nd May in Glastonbury and to attend an Embassy event for the opening. Running with the torch was an honour and a day Philippa will never forget.
2012 DIF presented NLM with a plaque thanking them for their continued work in the deprived areas of Puerto Vallarta.
May 2013 - Ambassador Alejandro I. Estivill Chargé d´Affaires of the Embassy of Mexico in the United Kingdom hosted a dinner in the Ambassador´s residence for the British Mexican Society. NLM was the recipient of funds raised that evening.
October 2013 - Professor Roberto Paolmera Preciado, Delegado y La Secretaria de Education (DERSE) Jalisco a través de delegación regional Cosa Norte (Education Secretary for the State of Jalisco) formally thanked New Life Mexico and all their donors for "their human and social responsibility, spirit of solidarity and important work with the children and the young people of Puerto Vallarta within the school system."
May 2014 - Ambassador Duncan Taylor, from the British Embassy in Mexico City, took time during his visit to Puerto Vallarta to talk to New Life Mexico about their activities and programmes and also spoke to an audience of local politicians and government departments.
Thousands of children have benefitted from your personal support and the NLM programmes over thirteen years – we are leaving a wonderful legacy. "Mil Gracias" and a Happy New Year to each and every one of you on behalf of all at NLM.
Contact Philippa : email@example.com