Thursday, June 26, 2008

A House for Little Lupita

Pictures for this story are available in our Album, click here to link directly to the slide show for this story.

I first met little Lupita, a young lady with Down syndrome about a year ago.

She was a little shy at first but has been more outgoing the more we visit. We were told about this family by word of mouth. When we first met them they lived in a little shack with no electric and running water.

The door was only a curtain. Upon talking with some people in Agua Prieta we found out that Lupita, who has two older brothers and an older sister had been abandoned by dad. We also learned that the one brother had Hemophlia. . Because of little Lupita and Juan, mom (Bertha Alicia) was working just to pay medical bills as she would have to travel by bus (5 hours) to a hospital from Agua Prieta to Hermosillo, Mexico to get the proper care for the brother and Lupita. What left over money she had went to feed her kids and pay rent on the house (if you want to call it that) they lived in. Because she worked so much one of the kids had to stay home from school to watch Lupita. Yari, being the oldest has to drop out of school to help her mom. She didn’t want to not go to school but family was more important.

One day we had stopped by and found the gates locked and no one was around. The neighbors told us that they had been evicted but did not know where they moved to. We thought maybe she has saved enough money to move the family to Hermosillo to be closer to the hospital there. We found out later they had not. We found them living with a distant relative in a one room shack.

By chance, we had another family move out of one of the trailers we have on property paid for by a member of the Charity. This left this mobile home vacant. It was perfect for Bertha Alicia to move in and have space and some land for little Lupita to move in. We began making sure the water and electric were all connected and just recently completed building a fence around the property so Lupita cannot wander off. We had help from some of the people we help. They assisted us in getting this fence built.

I am happy to report that they are now moved in. We do not charge rent per se but require them to help the city clean up around certain areas of the town. We have a person who will watch Lupita while mom works and Yari will return to school in the fall. With a little help or donation we all can make a difference. Little Lupita now has a new home!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Honor Was Mine

This story has pictures! Click here to view the slide show of pictures for this story.

A gentleman in Agua Prieta put on a big quincenera recently for about 300 young ladies whose familes could not afford to have one themselves. A quincenera is a special ceremony that a girl has when she reaches the age of 15. It is a sign of showing that she is becoming a woman. It is an important part of the latin culture. He paid for the church, the building for the celebration afterwards and other important parts. The young ladies going through the process had to come up with the dress and other vital parts of this celebration. We had three young ladies that were invited to participate in this celebration.

Understanding the importance of this tradition we helped these families secure the items that they would need including renting dresses for them. Two of the young ladies came from the same family, Maria and Janeth. Janeth was adopted by their mom Rosa when she was a baby. She was born without part of one arm and her mom wanted to give her up. Rosa (the mom who has cancer) took her in and raised her as her own. Both needed assistance for the celebration. The other young lady was Nora, Angel's sister.

The day before the celebration, I went over and made sure each of them had what they needed. Little did I know what was in store for me. Upon checking with Rosa's family they asked me if I would be willing to escort the girls (part of the ritual because they had no other dad. I was humbled and very shocked that they would ask me. I, of course, did not turn them down. I had to laugh as they then begun to let me know what I was suppose to wear and what time to be at the church. I think I was more nervous about this then they were. I have been to several quinceneras before but never took part in it.

The church was packed with many people all there to help celebrate this special moment in all the young ladies lives. As you can tell the young girls were all very elegant. They had their mass and then it was off to the large building that was rented for the other part of the celebration. At the other building is where I took my part in the celebration. I escorted Janeth and presented her with a rose and a symbol of her 15th birthday, a ring. We then has to dance as "father and daughter". I have to admit, I like to dance but was nervous to make a mistake in front of many people! The night was very special for everyone. Rosa was a proud mom that night and very humble but in reality I was humbled the most for being able to take part in this tradition.

This was an experience I will not soon forget. The people were proud and happy and for one precious night were able to put their poverty issues aside and enjoy this tradition. I have attached more pictures in the album section and hope you take a look at this wonderful event in their lives and in mine.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sarah Haupt’s Inspiration

On a Friday morning, a few years ago, as I was preparing to leave for a trip to Agua Prieta, Sarah, my wife, asked me if I had enough money for the trip. Looking in my billfold I told her that I had enough, I had seventy-one dollars in my billfold. Sarah said that she thought I should take more so she went into another room and returned with four hundred dollars. This was the first time in our married life (fifty plus years) that she had done such a thing. I didn't feel that I
needed any more money and absolutely not that much. Sarah insisted that I take it and if it wasn't needed to bring it back. Reluctantly, I agreed to her wishes.

By appointment I met Norma, my interpreter, in Douglas and we decided to take separate vehicles into Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico (a town right on the border separated from Douglas, Arizona by a fence) as each of us had other matters to attend to after my need for Spanish
interpretation was completed. After several stops I felt that I no longer needed her assistance, as there were just two more deliveries for me to make so we went our separate ways. My first stop was one of my regular stops and it went well so I drove on to my last stop. This was to take a bicycle to Enrique, a gentleman that needed transportation to get to his new job. As I was unloading the bicycle, Norma came driving up at high speed. She quickly alighted and said that she was glad that she had caught me. She explained to me that Enrique had not paid on his lot since losing his job several months past and that he and his family must pay the entire balance by Monday or they would be evicted. I asked Norma to find out how much was due. She was told four hundred and seventy dollars. I returned home with one dollar. Needless to say there were tears in everyone's eyes.

A postscript: A few weeks later we were able to cross a donated mobile home to this family. The parents and three children had been living in a small pickup camper. They never complained, as this was much better than their neighbor's homes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hope springs eternal from the human heart...

I went down to Agua Prieta the border town in Sonora, where my husband and I have worked with Starfish Difference to help the desperately poor. This time I crossed the border with Dan Bates, principal of Douglas High School, the Arizona-side sister border town.

On his first year on the job, under the influence of our 82 year old Starfish leader Carl Haupt, this compassionate young administrator formed a contingent of caring students to go regularly into the colonia to help. With fund-raising events, donations, physical labor and working out bureaucratic problems with the city and state governments, they have decreased significantly the misery of many families living in abject poverty.

It is difficult to make decisions on who to help first -- so many are in such extreme need. Today's priority were several families of 8-9 children headed by single mothers whose husbands had abandoned them, and who are living in hovels with barely any food, sanitation, or electricity. These children, as the saying goes, did not ask to be born --they are here; they must be helped.

Tavo, the clean-cut young Mexican man with us is a bright and friendly and compassionate senior at DHS who plans on entering the nursing profession. Tavo's father has a trucking business, and his uncle is the mayor of Agua Prieta. It's spring break for Douglas schools, so we were lucky to get him --not only was he fun to be around and great with the people, but invaluable as an interpreter and conveyor of 50 lb. sacks of pinto beans!

I had fun passing out good outgrown clothing from my 4 Washington grandchildren (and adult clothing from my friends here), candy and oranges we bought after we crossed the border, and emptying the contents of my wallet completely, including getting antibiotics, salve, and gauze for the accidentally burned little girl pictured. She and her siblings were playing nearby while their mom was cooking, and she was badly burned by the spilled hot oil. The worst part is not shown; her little dress was wet with pus from the oozing burns on her torso. Her burns were obviously infected, so we immediately went to the closest pharmacia to get antibiotics and supplies this family could not afford. Tavo gave the mother instructions in Spanish for the medico.

I got to see Nora again, the beautiful, bright and shy 14 yr. old I took shopping last year. (the most fun shopping trip of my life --this kid had never had anything new in her life). She is still a
size 0 and was still wearing the clothing and shoes I bought her last year, so I just gifted her with a little cash--the clothes from granddaughter Jozie would go to someone more needy. Her little
brother, Angel, born with just one limb, (an arm) is doing well with the child-sized motorized wheelchair Starfish Difference got for him last year. Pictures of his "first ride" are posted on the website, in the albums.

Dan brought new shoes for his adopted family,and he and Tavo measured openings for a door on an addition a family was working on, made from abandoned free pallets, and surprisingly sturdy. The grandmother living there had done a lot of the work herself, and I congratulated her with a big hug of admiration and a few words of Spanish.

The trailers shown are from the big on-going Starfish Difference project -- old but usable mobile buildings are donated and then hauled across the border, (here's where Tavo's dad comes in) and somehow maneuvered down these narrow gully-washed "streets" and put in place. Even the Border Patrol donated some mobiles! All the work was donated. However, the border charges $700.-$800. per mobile to take across, so here's where the rest of the money went that I received from some of you last year. A good use of your funds: 3 of the most needy families, living in hovels made of tarpaper, old mattresses, scrap tin, cardboard, and the ubiquitous pallets, now have much better shelter from the elements. (Yes, it does get cold in northern Mexico in the winter, going down below freezing often.)

If anyone would like to make a tax deductible donation to Starfish Difference, please do so using the PayPal donation button on the left of every page on the Starfish Difference website. We cannot solve all the problems of the world's poverty, but we can make a difference.

-PJY- March 17, 2008 and posted by permission.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

From the Heart...

My name is Daniel, I moved to Douglas, AZ for a job August of 2006. After a few months of getting situated as an administrator in the local school district, I was looking to get involved in the community or a charity. I was unsure of what I wanted to get involved in and came across an article about The Starfish Difference in the local paper.

The article talked about a group of senior citizens that were taking the time to help the very needy in the border town next to Douglas called Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. Having been to "AP" and seeing some of the poverty, I read the article. I read about what they were
doing to make a difference in people's lives. I was intrigued about the man who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro at the age of 79, so I called him and made an appt. to meet with him.

I met Carl and the other man with him, Nile. They were more than happy to meet with me at my school. After talking with them, I decided to go with them one day as they made their "rounds" in AP. All it took was one trip and I was hooked. I am convinced that anyone that takes
the time will be hooked after just one trip. I met many needy people that day as we rounds giving out food and candy here and there to the young ones. Each of them were humble and very grateful. I was offered tortillas, which I knew was all some of them had, but to turn it down would have been disrespectful.

After this one trip, I have become very involved in helping these people. I was very impressed that the goal was not to give them things but to help those who were trying to help themselves. There is not a week that goes by that I do not go across at least once or twice a week. I don't go just to take things but to see how the people we come across are doing. I have made many friends and although the language barrier is tough at times, I know we understand each other. They have given me just as much as we have given them.

As the Assistant Principal at a local high school I had put many pictures of the people that I met on my trips in my office. There were pictures of Angel, the young boy born with no legs and one arm but a great outlook and smile. Gabriella, Narciso and family (pictured in the previous paragraph), who help their neighbors as much as we help them. Rosa who has been diagnosed with cancer (pictured below), her daughters (one of whom is pictured at the beginning of this post) and so many more. Many questions were asked about the charity and soon I had many students who wanted to help. I formed a club and the high school students have been an integral part of helping The Starfish Difference. These are students who have family or friends and have been to AP many times but have not seen the poverty. They helped put on the thanksgiving feast and the Christmas caravan. They have helped raise money to help with resources.

The bottom line for me is we are making a difference one family at a time. The more we help the more we come across more families in need of help. It seems sometimes it is a never ending process but seeing the smiles, the appreciation from people and knowing that they we have
made a little difference makes it all worthwhile.

We say we help make a difference in people's lives but in all honesty, these people have made a difference in my life.