Public education is not free in Mexico. In the early 1990’s when we started our sponsorship program, many families in Anapra/Poleo faced the difficult decision of providing food for their children or paying the fees to send them to school. Children were leaving school long before graduation to work and help support the family. Without an education, their job prospects were extremely limited, keeping them in poverty despite long hours of hard work. The community in Anapra/Poleo saw that education was the only way to break this cycle of poverty and need. Today, we can boast about students who began in our program during primary school and are now working as engineers, nurses, teachers, and accountants. With a college degree, they provide for their families and strengthen their community.
It takes more than money to support a student. While volunteers in the US provide financial support for students, the volunteers in Anapra work tirelessly to encourage, tutor, and provide necessary resources. Attendance and grades are tracked and students are expected to maintain high levels of achievement. Involvement with the mission is also expected. In addition to helping with special events, students of all ages regularly help in the library, visit the elderly through the “Adopt an Abuela” program, and distribute rice, beans, wood, and other necessities to their neighbors in need. Service to and with the community builds up the individual student and strengthens their overall education.
Sponsors in the US are expected to do more than send money. Relationships matter. Sponsors regularly receive photos and letters from the students. We encourage them to write and engage in return. Over the years, many sponsors have traveled to Anapra to meet and often volunteer alongside their student. It is impossible to quantify, but the connection that grows over the years is likely more valuable than the money that is spent.