ABAPE, Burkina Faso

Playing a part to the harmonious development for burkinabè autistic children.

by Anastasie Obi



Somewhere in West Africa, there is a region characterized by the particular kindness of its inhabitants. A people so little ill-intended that even the crocodiles in the Bazoulè village, not far from the capital, live amongst them for centuries without ever attacking them. Not even once. A country that inherited its improvement and integrity willpower from the bravery of its historical figureheads. It's called Burkina Faso. Even now, the Burkinabè are still inspired by this impetus to hardly but surely spur its development. Although regarding mineral, natural and agricultural resources this country is one of the most important in the world, it’s still one of the poorest. Its resources mainly contributed to the development of Western countries as for all rich former colonies. This has probably helped to make laborious the setting up of an environment conducive to the evolvement and development of children with disorders that expose the obscurantism of their society, such as autism.

Burkinabè's understanding of autism is strongly related to their culture, based largely on "magical-religious" beliefs. For instance, some say that a child is born autistic because its mother didn’t respect the rituals during her pregnancy. She washed inter alia after 8:00 pm, exposing herself to jinn and other evil spirits. This analogy between autistic children and jinn stigmatizes them within society. A stigma that explains why some parents tie their children at home, so that nobody knows they have one. This disorder is barely known as a disease in this region, which has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. Then it’s a huge issue to integrate these children into the education system in this country. Nevertheless living up to their reputation exemplifying their revolution willpower, increasingly Burkinabè parents are orienting their children for care to some few institutions that are established. Concrete steps that foster the integration and inclusion of these stigmatized children are led by deeply committed local organizations. Among them, the NGO ABAPE’s autistic center, located in Ouagadougou.


This center takes in children diagnosed with autism from 2 to 5 years, who are in kindergarten. It also supports those aged 7 to 13 who cannot enter a standard school due to the severity of their behavioural disorders. They thus provide psycho-educational, socio-educational and learning care. Since they don’t have standard schools where they can integrate these children, they have built a partnership with a private school and trained an AVS's (School Aids) to monitor the children. They also benefit from the expertise of institutions such as PSF (Psychomotricité Sans Frontière) and ODM (Orthophonistes Du Monde), for the capacity building of the center, whose team is made up of psychologists, instructors and volunteers. Like all local non-profit organizations, ABAPE faces huge difficulties that limit access to such initiatives to far too many children, whose over 90% are from very poor families. This requires resources mobilization that isn’t unfortunately just financial regarding the care of these children. The country lacks specialists. Even in the medical profession, the resources to diagnose autistic children are limited

The country doesn’t lack resources or opportunities for anyone who would like to play a part to improving the development tools of initiatives such as the ABAPE center. Maybe a genius, who will actively contribute in the overdevelopment of his country, will emerge among these special children. It’s enough to know that last year alone, the both smartest students at the second level of elementary school class, in the partner private school mentioned above, were children from the ABAPE center. They have been enrolled in standard schools this year. You may not even picture the joy and pride of their family. This shows that they are not working for nothing and comfort them in their actions. Actions they hope that the results will promote their program to benefit to more children with autism. You can take a first step by contacting Mr. Boukari Pamtaba, Promoter of the ABAPE center and psychologist. He will be in the best position to let you know how you can play a part in the improvement effort by supporting Burkinabè autistic children.

Contact M. Boukari: mail : [email protected], phone : (+226) 76561123

Castaway Kids, Mexico

written by Lorenza Seldner


Rebuilding and replacing the window in the house of a family deeply affected by hurricane.

Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium”; with one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water on the planet, and sunsets named as the most beautiful view by the National Geographic, San Carlos, Mexico represents a paradisiacal dream of leisure for locals and foreigners…

But reality hits very differently for the most vulnerable part of the population: the poorest people in Guaymas (that’s the actual Town name) who live marginalized, struggling to put food on the table and, basically to make ends meet. People living under desperation, knowing that the future for their children is not promising, either falling in drug dealing activities or taking underpaid jobs due to lack of education and opportunities.

And amidst that hopeless cause came Castaway Kids; a non-profit organization dedicated to fight poverty through education. The organization is formed mostly, by senior citizens from Canada and USA, who decided to spend their retirement years in this beautiful, small place. Moved by the hardships of the locals, and have fallen in love with the culture and Country, decided to take upon in this heroic task.

Castaway supports the community in three different ways:
1) They sponsor low-income, high-achievement students to finish school. They have helped over 100 kids who were at risk.
2) They provide vocational training to adults and are building their first Community Education Center. Guaymas’s two main sources of employment are fishing and the maquiladoras” (factories) which are an excellent option for skilled adults; hence the importance of the center.
3) They supply essential assistance to the Guaymas Community such as disaster relief and aid to build community centers or reconstruct houses. (Guaymas people have been victims of several powerful hurricanes in the past, including “Jimena” which tore the town apart).


Castaway volunteers at work helping in disaster relief.

The organization raises money through several channels: the foremost is the donations made by the sponsors, in which one of the members (or a volunteer) takes one or more students and absorb all expenses related to their education: from tuition to shoes and even food and medical bills for the most desperate cases. This charity has a very high percentage of donations that go to cause - 98% - because all the work is done by volunteers. The second channel is through their Thrift Store which receives donations in kind from anyone in the community; their personnel classify and organize the goods received and put them for sale.

The last channel, and the most heart-warming one, is by hosting beach parties in which the stars are the same students they help. The parties have raffles, games, prizes, exquisite local food and the performances are made by these kids. These kids, whose lives are being changed, dance and sing for a group of people who, do not share their blood, color or even language, yet care for them more than anyone else ever has.

The easiest way would be to ignore them, to enjoy their last golden years… they surely deserve it after all. But Castaway Kids members feel different; they may have come down for the fun, but instead raised a beacon of hope, in this beautiful, struggling town.

Please help them make a difference.


For more info on Castaway Kids, donate or how to become a sponsor please check their webpage:

https://www.castawaykidsmx.org/ (all donations are tax-deductible)

Hand Fortuna Kupang, Indonesia

Hand Fortuna Helps Build a Loving Future for the Children of Kupang

by Karen Himura


Hand Fortuna

Kids from dumpsite, Alak in Kupang. A number of HAND’s volunteers make a visit to this place twice a month. Hand Fortuna has renovated a small abandoned building and used it as a half way house for the kids. The volunteers did a health talk, medical services, teaching how to write and read, and bathing them.

Located in the East Nusa Tenggara province is a small island by the name Timor. Divided into East and West Timors, the East declared sovereignty from the Indonesian government in 2002, and goes by Timor Leste. The West remains a part of the old nation, and the capital city Kupang is the largest port on the island. The climate is humidly hot, but pristine beaches are no luxury around this area. Low levels of tourism have maintained Kupang's extraordinarily clean, beautiful, and quiet beaches. Inside an attraction called the Crystal Cave in Bolok Village, West Kupang District, there's a large body of sparkling clear water that locals and visitors alike love to swim in, free of charge. However, in spite of Kupang's abundance in natural beauty, the citizens aren’t exactly very prosperous.

East Nusa Tenggara ranks third from bottom on the country’s financial focus and poverty is at 20% nationwide. The most pressing issue Kupang is facing is how little attention it gets from the central government. Many areas are underdeveloped, and the locals lack basic facilities. People living closer to the city centre usually work in factories headquartered in Jakarta, which are often headed by specialists coming from outside the province itself. As for the majority of locals, there isn't much that can be done aside from farming and working blue-collar level jobs as a living, due to low variety of job opportunities. And much of the rest are unemployed.

In such circumstances where citizens are in deep impoverishment, it is children and women that suffer the most. Lack of better jobs and low levels of life's overall satisfaction have often given birth to brutally violent husbands. The lack in infrastructure has also resulted in a staggering case of malnutrition in both adult and children. Stunted growth in children is common, and in extreme cases, women are giving birth to physically and mentally challenged babies, which have resulted in infants getting abandoned because the parents do not know how to care for children with special care. This is where Ratna Pongkapadang enters the scene.

Hand Fortuna

Supplying nutritions to kids under 6 of ex-refugees of Timor Leste in Noelbaki Kupang.

Carrying a vision for Kupang as a better place to live in, Ratna has founded HAND Fortuna Kupang, which modestly began with a Facebook page where people can share information about anyone in town who's in grave need of help. Joining hands with neighbours far and near, HAND Fortuna works to uplift and return dignity to the locals.

Amongst the various programmes HAND Fortuna carries, such as introducing eco- farming and providing/finding workforce for men, Ratna's core focus is the rescue of children's future—namely the future of Kupang.

Ratna firmly believes that food is, at this stage, much more beneficial than clothes or toys. HAND Fortuna strives to accommodate funds to be used in providing nutritious foods so as to prevent further brain damage in developing children. The foundation has built houses for orphaned children, library full of books in Indonesian and English, and 'day schools' where volunteers teach English. Ratna's goal is for this generation of children to be the last in the poverty line. She believes that there is always a better way to create a loving society if we properly educate our children with tender love and care.

HAND Fortuna Kupang can be reached through HAND's official website: http://hishand.org. The staff is very helpful and will inform you the ways you can contribute and be part of the building of a more loving Kupang. If you tell the staff that you wish to know more of Ratna’s activities, they will gladly direct you to be in contact with her.

The Dynamic Teen Company, Philippines

The Dynamic Teen Company: Education on Wheels

by Teddy Cambosa


Dynamic Teen CompanyThe City of Cavite is highly considered as one of the numerous cities in the Province of Cavite that could be considered at least to be economically significant, as it places itself to be one of the economic hubs of the province, further progressing development not by the independent city itself but also to the overall reputation of the province itself.

However, with the ongoing development, one must also take note on the various social issues a city might have evidence on. One of them would be the widespread of out-of-school youth, and some are getting involved in juvenile acts such as involvement in drugs and crime. With the prevalence of out-of-school, the local government face these issues with great care in order to lead these children and other youth people towards morale lives. And it is without doubt that the instalment of the Dynamic Teen Company has been beneficial since 1997 in bringing the youth into the tracks of good life and improvement of their educational capabilities.

The existence of such organizations such as the Dynamic Teen Company is that juvenile acts have become a thing in the Philippine society, and is being feared to heavily influence Filipino children due to sheer pressure they get from their playmates or worse, the elders within the community. With the ideology that somehow the child perceives stereotypically that each act done by an elder is vaguely reasonable to imitate, hence their minds are heavily corrupted at an early age. If left unnoticed by their own parents and by each constituent of the locality, there would be fears that the so-called “future of the Fatherland” quoted by Rizal would be, sadly, a mirage. Hence, educating them in as early as possible would mean early development of awareness and sense to the realism of life, and further act on it on how to solve it.

The Dynamic Teen Company was created in 1997 by four high school boys of Cavite National High School. Efren Peñaflorida, who is one of the founders, saw the need to create an organization that will help the youth after seeing the reality of life whilst living off from his parents near an open dump in the City. Peñaflorida started the group in order to divert students' attention away from street gangs, and towards community activism and personal development.Dynamic Teen Company1 Dynamic Teen Company started as a friendship club of around 20 members, with an aim of providing youth awareness projects, talent and self-development activities, and community services. They collaborated with Club 8586, another community service organization operating in the area. However, one of the initial highlights of their group is the idea of the ‘pushcart classroom’ wherein pushcarts were stocked with school materials such as books, pens, tables, and chairs, and then used on Saturdays to recreate school settings in unconventional locations such as the cemetery or trash dump. To date, the Dynamic Teen Program has served to more than 100 communities outside Cavite, and over 4000 youth has benefited from the program. Through these efforts, Peñaflorida was awarded 2009 CNN Hero of the Year and was conferred by the Order of Lakandula, the country’s highest award, by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

True to their Mission: “DTC envisions itself to be an established organization building up out-of-school and at risk of dropping out children and disadvantaged youth in the Philippines, to become morally upright, productive and responsible individuals who embrace a spirit of volunteerism”, the Dynamic Teen Company is a great example of a youth-inclined group that tends to reach out even at the impossible-to-reach communities to instil this rule: education surely helps you to succeed in life.

The Dynamic Teen Company accepts donation through their Philippine Account at the local Bank of the Philippine Islands, or you can donate also through their official PayPal link: https://www.paypal.me/pushcartclassroom. For more information, you can visit directly their website http://dtc.org.ph/.

Future Stars, Ghana


future-starsBuduburam is a settlement in the central region of Ghana. It maintains a continuity with other towns along the stretch which opens into the capital city, Accra, located about 44 kilometres to the east. While its proximity to the capital is appealing for a location, it is rather famous for its breadth of hospitability. It is the largest refugee settlement in Ghana and provides a home for over 30,000 people. Buduburam was a positive reaction in 1990 by UNHCR, to the Liberian civil war and the subsequent arrival of survivors in Ghana, to ease away their memories of brutality and loss, in safety. Consequently, Buduburam is a buzz with a mix of lifestyles dominated by Liberian and Ghanaian.

Shelter and food are basic needs, but they are only part of the requirements for sustenance. Even though relief agencies provide support to sustain lives of beneficiaries, other deprivations mar the outlook of the Buduburam project. It is unfortunate to recognize that education is an alienation for a significant number of children in this locale. Parental neglect, parental loss, lack of resources and facilities, complicate this sad situation. The health burden is obviously worse, with health seeking behaviour limited by ignorance, financial constraints, and lack of resources and facilities.

At the heart of this humanitarian settlement, and out of this abyss of hopelessness from the prevailing situation, a charity innovation emerged. Future stars is a non-governmental organization, which was established in January 2010, and leverages reachable resources to house and school underprivileged children. While it appears as a story to just admire, this charity thrives beyond its control, on a sustainability which is shaking. It has had, and continues to have its fair share of struggles. It provides shelter and schooling for its beneficiaries in rented apartments. It also depends on volunteers to complement its limited staff, which strive to combine the roles of guardians, caregivers and teachers each day. At the brink of bowing to challenges, this facility continues to welcome and empower children from kindergarten to grade six. The current lack of facilities for grades seven through nine, adds an extra responsibility of sponsoring qualifying wards in other schools. The health burden is complicated. It relies on volunteer healthcare professionals to provide screenings and other modalities of primary care. future-stars1However, the lack of adequate housing and feeding facilities creates an obstacle. Volunteers are further burdened with the cost of accommodation and feeding, if they have to spend the night. This is potentially deterring for willing volunteers who are unable to manage the extra financial burden. Interestingly, the stakeholders keep their drive for humanitarianism awakened in another project, an advocacy for the elimination of child trafficking, which hinges on awareness creation and public education.

The touching part of the Future Stars story lies with the stakeholders’ undying drive for sustainability and expansion, to facilitate increased admissions and better living conditions for wards. This dream lingers, as the building project and plans for additional staff and resources cannot be realised due to lack of funds and support. Consequently, the future of 35 children currently being housed, out of the total of 135 being schooled, and many more children whose lives could be changed, dangles at the mercy of benevolent patrons. To help Future Stars in their endeavours to change the fate of these underprivileged children, you can visit their site and contribute using their Donate section. With $5, you can provide a child with educational material for a year. With $10, you can provide a child three meals a day, for one week. With $250, you can provide housing for the orphanage children for three months. With $500, you can sponsor twenty children in high school. The donations are accepted through PayPal, but you don't have to create a PayPal account; their payment system allows you to use your debit or credit card.


Donation (https://futurestarsorphanage.com/donate/)

Homepage (https://futurestarsorphanage.com/)

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/futurestarsorphanage/)

Star School in Bangladesh


Being of Service to Children

by Fauzia Majumder (the owner of the school)

star schoolThe name of my school is STAR SCHOOL; it is only a kindergarten, actually. We have 50 students from ages 4 to 10. Almost all of them are underprivileged children. Their parents are working and try very earnestly to afford good education for the children. But the money they make is never enough, and they never can afford field trips. I myself try to offer them summer fruits, blankets for winter and toys to play inside the school. I give them the most I can give. I want to bring them up as well as I can, so that when they become adults they can serve their society in return. At least, I wish for them not to become anything like a street vagabond.

The children enjoy studying at my school, but I want to give them more. I feel it’s important for them to have medical check-ups and be educated about hygiene;to stay healthy and fit. They need more facilities that make learning fun and interesting, such as books, colouring pencils and toys. I know having an access to these things will increase their interest which will keep them engaged with the lessons.

I think children should learn to be honest, brave and strong to face the challenges of life.

I was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and studied at Holy Cross Girl’s High School. As children, the school was our favourite place; the books, library, playground, and the Sisters were always kind in helping us to understand and enjoy lessons. When we were growing up, we saw that the local schools were not the same as ours. Their lessons were not as interesting; there was no action nor storytelling; they didn’t even have a library! There was a small playground, but they were not permitted to play. We often felt sad for them.

After serving my family, I came to live with my mum and dad, and saw underprivileged children were not getting proper education the way I had. So I began buying books for them which I had loved and enjoyed as a child. I got them copies of pictures and colouring pencils. I was trying to create a school that would be fun for the children, but my efforts weren’t working as I had expected. Their parents thought that a school which provides everything for free is not a good school, because then the children wouldn’t be educated properly. They worry the children wouldn’t have any thoughts for the teachers and facilitators who might be waiting for them. After all, it is a free school; if they want education they’ll come, and if they don’t, they’re also free not to come.

star schoolSo I began to take tuition fees to make sure the parents are convinced that there is quality education being offered at my school. I ask them to pay just as much as they can. I give the children books, uniform, tiffin (some snacks) once a week, and occasionally take them out for a study tour. I have an uncle who is helping me with an IPS (indoor power system), but it has run out of battery now. I’m trying to figure out how to afford a new battery so the children will not feel too hot when they’re studying.

I spend nearly $450 to run the operational for STAR SCHOOL, such as house rent and other bills. I use the school’s tuition to pay the teachers. The school is now 7 long years, almost 8. I don’t get paid for this work, so my family insists me to close the school for my own good. But my doing this is because my students love me and I love my students. I wish to see them succeed in life.

Although their life has many challenges, my students are kind-hearted children. I want to brighten their life by giving them prizes and gifts they have never had before. So I decided to create a Wishlist on Amazon, on which you can browse items all children will be happy to see. My wish is for your kind donation to bring hope to my underprivileged students. And if you do decide to donate, I would suggest sending by trackable shipping so you may check the status of your donated gift and to avoid loss of item during shipment.

You can send money in my Paypal account to help me with the rent, too: [email protected]

I am grateful for any donation you make towards the children of STAR SCHOOL. The children and I would very much love to personally extend our thanks to you. So if you'd like, we can become friends on Facebook and I will publish some photos or a short rapport for you to see how useful the items or money you've donated were to our school.

The Yellow Boat Project, Philippines

The Yellow Boat Project: A General Overview

by Teddy Cambosa

Zamboanga City: a maiden city in the far-flung island of Mindanao, is one of the “Land of Promise” cities that since antiquity had well-preserved the colourful and deep history of the land, particularly by the Moro people. It is where the most activity of Mindanao happens, and in some cases, a secondary figure from her sister city Davao in terms of commerce and tourism. It is also worth noting that the city is a beautiful melt pot of cultures, from the existence of natural tourist spots such as the Merloquet Falls and Abong Abong River, to the Spanish heritage that is the origin of the city’s Chavacano language, to the Western heritage of a city growing up in development, it is no wonder why Zamboanga City is given so many names, including “City of Flowers” and “Asia’s Latin City”.


yellow boat projectDespite these factors, there are certain barangays (or counties) that are far from the city proper itself. And with the existence of these barangays, some of them could not afford ample simple transportation services, especially those living near coastal places that are laden with thick quantities of mangrove trees. Though scientifically speaking, mangroves are very beneficial in keeping tidal waves away from these coastal communities, the abundance of water that mangrove needs pose a conflict among the residents of Sitio Layag-layag in Zamboanga City to get to the city proper. Every day, they would have to swim to and fro to the city, with the depths that are way past above their heads. Hence, since 2011, the Yellow Boat Project has initially turned over 900 boats to various coastal communities in Zamboanga City that are primarily used by students to go to their schools clean dry, to the residents who bring their trading goods and raw materials to sell, and more importantly, used as mobile units to save the residents that are stranded when torrential rains come every monsoon season annually, and being used to transport relief goods and supplies, in partnership with other large volunteer groups such as the Philippine Red Cross.

The context for this humanitarian work is that the Philippines-though tropical in classification-is a gateway to most strong typhoons that normally occur between the months of June and November. And these monsoon seasons pose a great danger to the Filipinos, especially those living in coastal and water-based communities. With the Philippines being an archipelagic nation, accumulation of water during the rainy seasons would mean countless water surges that in turn flood the mainlands, severely affecting not only the local economy but also causing pandemonium that greatly disturbs the normal cycle of the locality. Though relocation is an option, it should be reminded that some societies exist in perilous places (as mentioned like coastal communities) because it is considered their source of income, and with their less amount of income would mean less money to be allocated for other necessities aside from food and clothing. Hence, the inclusion of movable transport within the community is a lot more preferable to foster movement and income to the locals and make bridges towards development.


yellow boat projectThe Yellow Boat Project, formerly known as the Philippine Funds for Kids, was the brainchild of Jay Jaboneta, a Filipino blogger, and Anton Mari H. Lim, a Filipino veterinarian. The project started out as a national campaign by Jaboneta and Lim upon their visit in Sitio Layag-layag and learning that kids go to school by swimming in the river to get to school. Launched in 2010, the national movement through social media caught the attention of initial donors, and in May 2011, through the generous donation of the City Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of logs confiscated from illegal logging, the initial boat was being turned over to Sitio Layag-layag in March 2011. Since then, the word has been spread out through social media, and their advocacy has been brought to other less-fortunate places in the Philippines, such as in the Province of Masbate, considered as one of the country’s poorest provinces. The Yellow Boat Project continuously coordinates with other interested donors to find new communities for the turning over of boats. It is also worth mentioning that the Yellow Boat Project, in partnership with another organization called the Tzu Chi Foundation, has since then expounded the project by building and maintaining a daycare centre, building classrooms and schools, dorms, providing scholarships, providing school bags and other school supplies, conducting medical/dental missions, and empowering the community as a whole through applicable environmental and livelihood programs.


The Yellow Boat Project beliefs in the fact that by aiding the children, we create these abstract bridges that brings the future and the child closer. As being noted by the country’s national hero Dr. Jose Rizal: “The children are the hope of this Fatherland.” And with this great adage, The Yellow Boat Project believes that every boat is a symbol of hope, that no matter how different our social status are, as long as there is a helping hand, it takes every swish in the water, and every wood chipped to become a boat for a child to be optimist of the future.


The Yellow Boat Project accepts donation through its Philippine bank account on Banco de Oro (BDO), both Peso and US Dollar accounts. You can also register to their official website at http://yellowboat.org and your donation shall be credited from your PayPal account. For other information and concerns, interested donors may get in touch at [email protected].

Melel Xojobal, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Melel Xojobal (a phrase meaning ‘true light’ in the indigenous Mayan Tzotzil language) is an organization founded in 1997 to support the children of indigenous parents in the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico.

Street view San Cristobal
Leon Petrosyan - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59889759

San Cristóbal de las Casas (‘Jovel’, or ‘place in the clouds’ in the most widely-spoken indigenous languages in the region) is situated in the Central Highland region of Chiapas at 2,200 metres above sea level. The altitude and the surrounding mountainous terrain ensure a refreshingly cool, damp climate, a fact not lost on the thousands of North-American and European tourists who flock there each year, many of whom end up staying much longer than they originally intended. A visitor can’t help but be struck by the low-key, low-rise Spanish-colonial era style of the buildings lining the narrow streets, especially if they arrived via the heat and bustle of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital. The traditional feel of the historical centre, one of the most obvious expressions (to the visitor) of the region’s culture, led to the city being designated one of Mexico’s pueblos magicos (Magic Towns) in 2003. Regardless of any ‘official status’, the ‘magic’ of the place can very easily take hold of the casual visitor and turn them into a semi-permanent resident.

More than climate and architecture however, the most striking thing for a visitor will be the indigenous culture and population embedded in the city. Roughly a third of the town’s population is indigenous, mostly Tzotzil and Tzeltal, the two largest indigenous groups in Chiapas. To a casual observer the indigenous women and girls (men and boys dress less traditionally and thus stand out less) might give a sense of ownership, that they are guardians of the area’s unique culture. While this is true, the inescapable fact is that a huge number of indigenous children in the vicinity of San Cristobal (as well as in the rest of Chiapas, other states in Southern Mexico, and in Guatemala) suffer greatly from the effects of poverty, lack of education, discrimination and deprivation of basic rights. While the world focusses its attention (rightly) on warzones and the most acute global humanitarian crises, and (wrongly) on the issues of drug trafficking and associated gang warfare in Mexico, indigenous children in Southern regions continue to be last in line as the benefits of modernity are unevenly distributed amongst Mexicans. Melel Xojobal seeks to redress this situation locally by providing direct and inexpensive support to indigenous children and young people in the vicinity of San Cristobal de las Casas.

While starvation is virtually unheard of in this fertile region, childhood malnutrition is a persistent problem in the region, and its prevalence is much higher in indigenous groups. Along with a lack of early stimulation, early childhood malnutrition is the most important factor in the gaps in later educational attainment between indigenous children and other groups. Melel Xojobal runs a day-care centre for babies and children aged 0-4. They receive two nutritious meals daily and, in cases of severe or chronic deficiencies, medical nutritional support. There are also early stimulation activities and play facilities, as well as workshops to which parents (some still in their teens) are invited. The majority of staff in the day-care centre are volunteers, increasing further the proportion of donations spent directly on supporting children. The same building is used for the day-care centre and all of Melel Xojobals’s administrative activities.

San Cristobal childrenMany children aged 5-13 in the vicinity of San Cristobal work on the streets, with shoe-polishing and selling crafts as the two main areas of work. Melel Xojobal does not seek to take working children ‘off the streets’, but rather to provide them with educational activities and give support intended to prevent them dropping out of formal education, a persistent problem among indigenous families. Classes and workshops (directly funded by donations) in mathematics, Spanish and the children’s own indigenous languages are given in the areas where they typically work. These activities help cover gaps in the children’s education and help them develop the abilities and confidence to independently continue in formal education.

For teenagers aged 13-18, Melel Xojobal provides support by staging classes and workshops in the areas of education about basic rights, sex education, substance abuse and the right to self-determination. By taking part in these activities, the teenagers increase their chances of becoming self-determined adults with the ability to support themselves and their families and participate fully in the economic and political lives of their communities, their region and their country.

The support and activities provided by Melel Xojobal to the three different age-groups are intended to work holistically. Older children are often given the freedom to take part in the activities provided by Melel Xojobal and increase their school attendance (and also continue the economic activities that support their families) because younger siblings are at the day-care centre. Older teenagers increase their economic and political participation, which will in turn reduce the future need for large, inefficient foundations and social programmes.

Whether it’s toddlers who are both literally and figuratively ‘full of beans’, a twelve-year-old boy taking a break from shining shoes to attend a maths class, or a seventeen-year-old women speaking confidently at a press conference alongside a representative of the state government, Melel Xojobal hopes to remain a small, efficient organization that uses donations for the kind of direct assistance to children that has the most lasting effect on their well-being and prospects.

Donations to Melel Xojobal can be made directly through PayPal:


Alternatively, through GlobalGiving:


They can be contacted through their website: