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.