in april, avsi-usa donors and staff went to oaxaca to learn more about the educational Center by interacting with staff, parents and children
May 3, 2018 — The road is rocky. To get to Ernestina Ruiz León’s house from Crecemos, the educational center supported by AVSI-USA in Oaxaca, Mexico, a 10-minute car ride is not enough. There are no paved streets around her house. Only sand, grass, mud and rocks. Embedded in one of Monte Albán’s hills, Ernestina’s house is made of tin sheeting. There is no electricity. To make sure her children won’t be late for school, she needs to charge her phone at Crecemos. There is also no plumbing. The water she uses to wash clothes and dishes comes from a hole she dug.
“Please, sit,” says Ernestina, offering blue, green and yellow wooden chairs to her visitors while three of her six children, Lucía (12 years old), Montserrat (7 years old), and Abraham (5 years old) jump excitedly from one rock to another or pet a small puppy born seven days ago.
In recent years, Ernestina has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. She counts on Crecemos and AVSI’s support to be able to cope with the disease and take care of her children.
“When we don’t have money, the only place my children can eat is Crecemos,” says Ernestina, pointing to the girl’s feet. “These shoes were bought thanks to an AVSI donor. They help me with my children.”
“At Crecemos, we learn how to cook, how to use the computer, how to play an instrument,” says 12 year old Lucía.
Ernestina and her children were one of the families that AVSI-USA donors and staff visited during a recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. The main goal was to learn more about the educational center by interacting with staff, parents and children. The AVSI-USA team taught children English through cooking and music lessons. The children at Crecemos learned how to prepare Apple Crisp and Chocolate Chips Cookies, and how to sing “Mary had a little lamb” and “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”. In return, children showed AVSI-USA donors and staff how to prepare tamales, a traditional dish made with dough and steamed in a banana leaf, and played classical and traditional songs on their guitars, violins and mandolins.
“The wonderful trip to Mexico, organized by AVSI-USA and open to everyone, was an experience of humanity, faith, and beauty,” says Simonetta D’Italia, a long-term Crecemos donor, who visited Oaxaca with her husband Joe Wiener. “Crecemos means ‘helping to grow’ and in re-visiting the center, and the friends who lead and work at the center, this was exactly the kind of experience I found: the growth of the place and of the people whose needs everyday Crecemos addresses.”
The visit was also a good opportunity for Socorro Del Río, Executive Director of Crecemos, to evaluate future challenges and goals for the educational center that in 2018 celebrates its 25th anniversary. AVSI-USA staff had the chance to participate in a staff meeting with the Crecemos team. Socorro pointed out that “Our biggest challenge is to help the staff keep going.” Moments of personal reflection and sharing of experiences are clearly important for the staff whose day-to-day work is full of challenges.
Jesús Hernández Cruz, director in the city of Tlalixtac de Cabrera, knows exactly why he works with Crecemos:
“If we don’t give kids an option, they will join the gangs. These kids want to go to university, but their parents don’t have money, so if we don’t give them skills they will never make it. This is why I come to work everyday. If we don’t believe that we can change the world then nothing will ever change.”
On the third and last day of the trip, AVSI-USA staff visited one of the educational centers supported by Crecemos in La Mixteca, a region in Western Oaxaca. There, around 100 children and their families attend programs in nutrition, academic support, sports and personal development. Ian Alves (12 years) and Cristina Aldrette (13 years), both children of AVSI-USA staff, were excited to bring gifts of equipment for soccer and basketball to the kids. The children in La Mixteca, they found, are really just like them, despite living in very different circumstances.
“My favorite activities are playing, painting and writing,” says Karla Esmeralda Cruz, 9 years old. “When I grow up, I want to become a doctor, to take care of sick people."
Karla’s friend, 10-year old Blanca Cruz Cabreira, who also attends Crecemos activities, prefers the Little Chef Workshops. “So I can learn how to cook nutritious food,” says Blanca, whose two sisters also attend Crecemos. “I want to become a singer”.
At Crecemos, any dream can come true.