In 2010, I traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and volunteered at the Children Center of Hope Orphanage and the School of Champions through Feed the Children Vallarta (formerly known as Children of the Dump). Most of my time was spent at the School of Champions volunteering at the summer camp. I had an amazing time teaching English and facilitating games and crafts to the many innocent, sweet, and joyful children who live in and around the dump. Approximately 200 families lived at the dump in the past and, through education and support from Feed the Children Vallarta, fewer and fewer families are depending on the dump for their livelihood.
Currently, through community and international support, Feed the Children Vallarta supports many programs and donates 1000 meals a day to the community of Magisterio. Josh Gillespie, coordinator of the summer camp, states, “The appreciation and desire for education is there. Parents see the benefit and in return their children can get a better future with the education provided.”
The School of Champions has helped change the formerly negative image of the community and motivates the government to get involved—the focus is on the children. Feed the Children Vallarta has plans to expand beyond elementary school-aged children to impact more of the community, for example offering middle school-aged children computer and technical trade skills.
School of Champions volunteer Veronica Corona explains that, “Most of the students enjoy talking to someone; they can come to the teachers and talk to them about things they can’t tell their parents.”
This privately-funded school can offer students with low socioeconomic status encouragement and experiences unlike any other they would normally receive, including technology, English, and physical education. It was an eye-opening experience to see such contrast to the Canadian education system, and an opportunity to gain real world experience to bring into my own classroom.
As a teacher, I feel very fortunate to have many opportunities throughout the year to travel. I am very passionate about Human Rights Education and Development. For me, it is important to give back wherever and whenever I can. I agree with Veronica when she admits, “once you start helping others and seeing the problems they have, you value more of what you have.”
Not only has Feed the Children Vallarta helped in the area of Education, but they have also assisted in the development of the area around the dump. Drinking water, showers, bathrooms, washing machines, and feeding and clothing programs are now available. The people around the dump are proud and work hard to support their families. The children from the dump, who are always happy and full of life, made me realize that life is less about material worth and more about life’s experiences and making connections.
There are many opportunities available to teachers to travel and make a difference in whatever area they are passionate about. We are part of an amazing profession where we can make use of our skills locally or abroad. Travel “volun-tourism” is the new wave of experience which many teachers can get involved in for short-term or long-term placements. With a little research, teachers will be surprised to see the many opportunities available in every area of interest and place imaginable. From volunteering with children, to working with sea turtles, the sky is the limit. I know teachers like to travel so why not include some volunteering for a charitable cause while away on your dream vacation? Your students will be the beneficiaries of your learning.
Featured Author: Jessica Fenton
6 thoughts on “Children of the Dump”
I volunteer for a program called Corazon de Vida in TJ, Mexico. The programs seem endless but the orphanages are still full. It’s hard to believe the children are all still so happy surrounded by such sadness.
Have you been back since 2010?
The volunteer programs out there are endless. I’ve also volunteered in orphanages in Mexico and Dominican Republic. The children are so full of life and joy.
I haven’t been back to Mexico to volunteer since 2010, but I did a volunteer project in Guyana in 2011 and a volunteer project in California in 2012.
The children seem so happy and appreciative in your pictures. I haven’t done in volunteer teaching abroad but have at home. However, having taught in both places, I’ve learned just how valuable teachers are and dear to there students in cases like you mention when they feel they can talk to you about things that they feel they can’t talk to their parents about. I commend you for your work!
The children were so happy and adorable! So full of life! Thanks for responding! I always appreciate the comments.
That was interesting. I have been to PV quite a few times traveling through to the Guadalajara area where I stay with a Mexican family when I visit. Although there is much poverty still, I see an improvement, and more big screen TVs in homes (I blame Walmart). Johanna
I’ve also been to Guadalajara, what a beautiful place! You are right, PV has definitely become more commercialized. It is sad to know that there is so much poverty outside of PV in the surrounding communities and villages.