an introduction to Mexico

Last month, our Creative Director, Valerie Keinsley, visited several organizations in Mexico during a family trip. She'll be sharing her experiences and the stories of these organizations over the next week. We can't wait to introduce you to the children and people she met during her time there!

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Mexico is more than a country with a drug problem or Cabo San Lucas and Cancun. It's a complex and beautiful country filled with people, people just like you and me. People who want better for themselves and their children. Children who desire to be in families. Children who want to go to college, earn a degree and get a good job. So many people often say "I have a heart for Africa" and that can be beautiful and sincere, but I want to see a world where we have hearts for ALL orphans -- including those in our own backyard.

Last month, I was able to visit several organizations in and around Guaymas, Mexico and capture stories for The Archibald Project. My parents spent the winter in the small town of San Carlos, near Guaymas, and mentioned there was a great organization called Castaway Kids that provided school sponsorships for students and helped support a few orphanages. I was headed to San Carlos with my family for vacation, and decided to contact Castaway Kids to see if there was an opportunity to do a story. What I didn't realize was that the people I would meet during my tour would change my life forever. Terry, the president of Castaway Kids took me on a tour where we visited several of the organizations they support, and I was deeply moved by the people I met.

I met Maggie, who turned the childhood home she inherited into a home for abused women and kids, as well as orphans. I met Jerry, a charming old gentleman who has created an after-school program for kids who would otherwise be roaming the streets of Guaymas. I met Fr. Jerrard, an intriguing Catholic priest who seemed to have been everywhere, and who is overseeing the creation of Club Jerry Tech, a technical school that will allow 7th-12th graders access to specialized training in fields like engineering and science, so they can hopefully get solid jobs after graduation. And I met Richard, and the sisters, and the beautiful children at Casa Hogar Rancho del Nino San Humberto, an orphanage in the middle of the dusty desert in Enpalme, outside Guaymas. And I haven't been able to get them off my mind ever since I walked through the Rancho's gates. The weary, bone-tired look in the sisters' eyes, yet they never refused a child a hug or a smile. The joy of the little boys as they played on the dilapidated swingset. And the enthusiasm with which Richard shared his hopes and dreams for the orphanage--if only they could get funding. I was deeply moved by all of these people, and I hope over the course of this week, their stories and work will move you, too!

For the most part, it seems like people are a little afraid to talk about Mexico. We're afraid of not being politically correct. All we know about our neighbors to the south is what the news stations tell us--which is often sensationalized and far from the truth. But Mexico is a beautiful country full of beautiful people and children with SO much potential. But they need our help, and it's not going to come in the form of new laws passed or government aid. It always comes down to people helping people, showing love to those in need, which we have the opportunity to do right here in our own backyard.

The Mexican government has long been criticized for not having accurate data on the orphan situation in Mexico, so numbers are hard to come by. However, it is estimated that roughly 1,600,000 children in Mexico are orphans. Around one million of young Mexicans are reportedly deprived of parental care. The main reasons leading to the loss of parental care are maternal mortality, femicide, AIDS and Mexico’s on-going drug cartel violence. Social exclusion, adolescent pregnancies and migration are some of other factors that increase the risk of a child ending up without parental care. Life as an orphan in Mexico can be extremely tough: many face social exclusion, discrimination and poverty. In urban zones, these children frequently end up living on the streets where they are extremely vulnerable to being recruited by street-gangs.  Domestic violence remains an issue in Mexico: one of every three children has experienced physical abuse, intimidation or sexual abuse in their home. (source.)

But there are organizations working diligently to combat these issues, and to provide the love, structure and care that is missing from an orphaned or vulnerable child's life. I was so blessed to be introduced to just a few of these organizations in a very small part of the country, and I can't wait to share them with you here. I hope you'll check back this week to meet these new friends of mine, and learn how YOU can help make a lasting difference in the lives of these kids!