Monday, May 21, 2007

"MAKING A DIFFERENCE - THE CHILDREN OF CHACALA"

Excerpt from 50 Minute Radio Broadcast
Radio de Universidad de Aguacalientes (94.5 FM)
May 15th, 2007

Interview with Susana Escobido of Chacala, Nayarit.

I have been a business woman all my life. As I would sit at my desk on a Sunday evening, paying bills and writing checks to this charity and that, I would say to myself, “when am I going to actively give back to those who have less opportunities than I?” I saw the world as humans equal to each other, the only separation was the amount of opportunities. Enter my sister, Judy, who was battling breast cancer. A more talented woman there was not. She was going to spend her golden years taking Judith Anderson Puppets on the road, a grandma puppeteer. She did not get the chance, but as she lay dying at age 51, I made her a legacy. I would take her work forward into the world of children. We sold our home, our material treasures and started forth on an adventure in a second-hand travel trailer. I gathered Judy's puppets, my roller-blades, craft materials and set forth for Mexico. Once in Mexico, I used the different plazas as my venues, difficult locations for theater and education. And then one day, we traveled through the canopy of trees to lush Chacala Bay. I discovered a small library built by a Rotarian, Dale Reinhardt, from North Carolina. I opened the locked doors and knew that I had found my destiny. Within three months I went from 2 children to 40, hungry to participate in my after-school program.

Several years went by as I gathered a staff, volunteers, educational material, toys for all ages, craft classes, sports equipment and ingredients for live theater. We had fun, but we were poor as Poncie and I provided almost the sole financial support. Often visitors would arrive. I would give them a tour and tell the story, hoping one day someone would take us into their hearts. And it happened in the form of another Rotary Club, this time from Kalispell, Montana. With their validation, in three years, Berkeley California Rotary added a second floor, a tool lending library, a hot-lunch cafeteria, and a new primary school bathroom. Other Rotary Clubs re-built the secondary school and kindergarten. Our library was named the Dale Reinhardt Learning Center.

During the early years, I saw smart kids dropping out of my programs, they had finished public education in Chacala, at age thirteen or fourteen. Another volunteer, Mariana Day and I vowed to raise scholarship money so that we could send children to high school in surrounding larger towns. We asked all edible, interested students to bring me a file with an essay, their grades and their teacher's recommendation. Thirteen students presented me with their files. While I was in the U.S, Mariana and I raised money equal to two scholarships. I proudly called our learning center administrator. Before I could speak she proudly told me that all thirteen had enrolled in school, on our credit! Somehow the money for the other eleven students appeared. Six year later we have 30 students enrolled in high school, technical high school, several universities and two colleges.

Cambiando Vidas (www.chacala.org) became a non-profit U.S. organization six years ago. We now have a board of directors with Mariana as President and Ana Getzoff as secretary and an excellent staff. My primary goal is to help raise visibility and money. I found that while I was not a puppeteer nor had never been a teacher like my sister, I was still a business woman who can facilitate, network and create opportunities for children.

1 comment:

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