Well, the long, hot summer is just about over on the island of Cozumel, which means that the kids here, like just about everywhere else, are heading back to school. But, some of these kids have a distinct advantage in spite of some dire circumstances. They are working with a great bunch of volunteers who want nothing more than to see them succeed. I’m talking about the organization called the “Cozumel Chrysalis Group” and I thought I’d take a moment to introduce this worthy cause to you. I will also include some photos, but you just might notice that there aren’t any pics of plaintive children posing for the camera. That was a stipulation that the members of the organization felt was important to help protect their anonymity and I find that refreshing. But, even without those kinds of pictures, I think you’ll be able to get a glimpse into the workings of this great organization, and I did include a few fun shots of their volunteer activities that are necessary to help raise funding.
I’d first heard about Chrysalis from a fellow “mermaid,” although I realize that might need an explanation. Here on the island there is a group of women who get together three mornings a week to start their days by taking to the ocean. You can see a few of the gals in the pic on your right. We meet at the Blue Angel Resort, talk about the stuff going on in our lives, put on snorkeling gear, and then we swim our hearts out. Not a bad start to the day, let me assure you. One of these nice ladies is Sally Hurwitch (that’s her with the lovely white hair in the pic on your left) and it was through her that I first learned about the organization. After talking with her a while I became curious and was wondering if they would allow me to write about them for this blog. I asked, she answered, and then Sally was gracious enough to agree to meet with me for breakfast and give me a little history.
Chrysalis was founded in 1995. Its ongoing mission is simple: assist children from low income families with educational costs. At that time (1995) they were working with just ten children in that first year, which is already quite noteworthy. However, now this group assists over 300 students per year with school related needs such as: shoes, uniforms, school supplies, and backpacks. The students who participate often begin as early as the second grade and they can continue with the program (as long as they reapply each year) all the way through high school.
Here’s how it works, and, let me tell you, it is quite the process. First, applications are filled out by the students in the Chrysalis Office in May. The volunteers are there to help the kids, and, if the student gets stuck on a question, the parents can help as well, but only if they get stuck. It is preferred that the student do the work to help encourage participation and a sense of independence. The next step is when the children return in June to see if they made the list. The volunteers will have already reviewed all applications and will have the results by the end of the first week in June. If they did make it on the list, the students will return again in July to pick up their “tickets” along with their school supplies. Now, those “tickets” will enable them to pick up their shoes at Tres Hermanos, the fabric for their uniforms at Central de Telas and, finally, a polo shirt embroidered with their school’s logo from Espacio Diseno; three great stores that participate with this program. It’s important to note that no money whatsoever changes hands between Chrysalis and the student, or their family. In fact, since Chrysalis also pays one semester’s tuition for high school students each year, that fee is paid directly to the schools, never to the family.
Now, this is probably a good time to mention that the volunteers will have also gone to a couple of schools to get an idea of the needs for each grade level, guess work is not part of this process. And the supplies needed can vary from school to school and, sometimes, from teacher to teacher, but Chrysalis does their best to cover the needs of each student. Once they have that information those volunteers will collect the donated backpacks from the designated drop-off points, pick up the necessary school supplies, and then put together those packets (in an assembly line format) for the kids based on their grade level. At this point, once all that is completed, is when the kids come back to the center, meet with the volunteers, and pick up their packets. But, even with all that I’ve included here, I have a feeling I may well have missed a few of the details. Please check out their link for further information. This really is quite the cooperative affair and it involves many hours put in by a dedicated, and seemingly tireless, group of good folks.
Now, I’d like to tell you that everyone is accepted since so many meet the requirements, but there is, at this time, a far greater need than there are resources. But, as I’d mentioned, this year there are over 300 students who will be able to attend their schools with the supplies, and confidence, necessary to start off on the right track. However, since the ongoing need is so great, they rely on a combination of both private donations and public fund raising events. Since they are a registered, and totally non-profit, charitable group, all donations are tax deductible in Mexico. But, they also accept monies from both tourists and locals alike and they have come up with some fun ways to raise those monies. Just one of those is through the art of face painting and I was able to get a few shots of their booth at the 4th of July festivities held at Punta Langosta this year. Here you can see Sally working her magic on a little girl in the pic on your right, and on another volunteer for Chrysalis, Myrna. Oh, and Myrna also happens to be one of the founders of the mermaids I talked about. We intermingle a lot, it’s an island thing.
Well, I thought I’d bring this to a close by putting up a picture I took of some of the kids going through their packets outside the Chrysalis office. Their enthusiasm was contagious, but it took some patience to get a shot of them without showing their faces, let me tell you. They kept turning around and giving me big smiles. It was heartwarming.
I’d also like to mention that you, too, can help, and it would be greatly appreciated by all the hard working members of the Chrysalis family and the many students that they assist. All year long, Chrysalis accepts and stores donations of both backpacks and school supplies. And, as far as funding, it is only through the generosity of donors that this program is possible. This is a group that does such good work and it would be so nice to see even more kids be able to benefit. I’ll include a link below where you can donate funds, or get further information, but I’d also like to mention that, when you visit Cozumel, you can help out quite a bit if you’d bring the kids some backpacks and/or school supplies. And, if you’d like, you can contact Sally, or any of the other members of Chrysalis, to arrange a tour through one of the schools so you can see for yourself all the good work that is being done here on the island.
We really do live in paradise, but it’s often one that we help to create. Salud!
p.s. here is a link for further info and ways to help…………..http://www.cozumelchrysalisgroup.org
And, finally, let me include a note I received from Sally Hurwitch in response to this blog:
“We have a great team! I’m not doing this by myself!
Patricia Molina Tavares
Lucila Tavares Ramos
We also get help from Lucila’s group of scouts (both boys and girls) and from the volunteers who are available whenever I call.”