Education Project
Colonia Volcanes, 
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

     The Volcanes Community Education Project (VCEP) resulted from a joint effort between Art Fumerton, Donors, local Businesses, the Volcanes Primary School Principal & teachers, the School Board, the Parents Association, and Colonia (town or village) Council and City Council officials.
     This group realized that an old gutted four classroom school abandoned after the new school was built several years ago could be used to help their struggling little community. The school principal gave VCEP access to this abandoned school without any monthly rental costs as long as they were re-furbished again into classrooms. These new classrooms are now in used after new electrical, fans, lights, flooring, were installed as well as all classrooms were painted.

     In Mexico, children are only required to attend public school until Grade 6. After that, the families must pay tuition costs to allow their children to continue their education For poor families, these funds are simply not available to allow their children to continue school beyond grade 6. This means that 70% of children in public schools in Puerto Vallarta do not finish grade 6!   The Public Primary Schools do not have English teachers and do not have funding for computers. The VCEP supplements the school’s curriculum with the two essential skills - English and computer classes needed to secure a good job.

The VCEP's History of Improving Lives in Volcanes 
The Golden City of Puerto Vallarta
     Puerto Vallarta is famous for its sunny climate, incredible beaches, wonderful food, and its amazing culture. The city is nestled on a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the nearby mountains. The sun drenched shores, sparkling resorts, hotels and condominiums are a haven for tourists from around the world making it a magnet for Mexicans desperate to find employment.   Employment in this tourism focused city is very dependent on workers being able to speak and understand English.  This is one of the key barriers for the poor breaking out of low paying menial labor and getting a job at one of the many hotels, resorts, and tourism operation.    

Colonia Volcanes
     The poor of Puerto Vallarta can’t afford to live in areas close to the expensive shoreline. They live in areas pushed up as far up into the mountain jungle as possible where city services end. Areas further from the shore take longer to commute to work thus rents are lower. The most remote of these areas is the Colonia or township of Volcanes. Maps depict a suburban neighbourhood with an orderly grid of streets yet the true reality is unpaved mud packed roads which are nearly impassable during the rainy season. They cannot show the streetscape of shacks and shanties that make Volcanes one of the city’s 
poorest areas. 
     Everywhere in the small community are homes without electricity, telephone, running water or toilets.  Without employment, the families struggle simply trying to feed themselves and their children.
First Volcanes Primary School
     Around 1995, a Canadian Aid Agency built a 5 room school to bring education for the first time to Volcanes. Soon after, rising attendance at school forced the use of tarps as roofs on the sides of the school to create a few more classrooms and the situation soon became intolerable for children attending the school. 
     During this time, Art Fumerton began a free feeding program for the younger children at the school. It was clear that a new modern primary school was needed and the Principal began a tireless decade long campaign to replace the overcrowded old building. Government leaders in Mexico City and at the state and city level, as well as education officials were ceaselessly hounded until they accepted to build a new school for the children of Volcanes. 

New Volcanes Primary School 
     In 2007, the new Volcanes Primary School was built next to the old abandoned school. It 
finally had separate classrooms for each Grade from 1 through 6 as well as a small Principals office and washrooms. Though the Colonia had a new school, the Principal still wasn’t happy with what she could offer her increasing number of students. 
     By 2010, the school’s six classrooms were already filled to capacity with almost 250 students. To cope with more students, the school day was split into two shifts. The morning session from 8 am to 12:30 pm handled 250 Grade 1 to 6 students. Another Principal and other teachers handled the 2 pm to 6:30 pm afternoon session for a rising number of more Grade 1 to 6 students. Yet the lone Principal’s office was too small to share leaving him at a desk outside under the steps. The school also needed a Kitchen as well as more storage.
Volcanes Community Education Project (VCEP)
     For the families of the small Colonia Volcanes, the new six room Volcanes Primary School has become a point of pride and loving care as local mothers and fathers spent many hours of volunteer work trying to transform it into a lush shade filled area where their children can continue to learn.   At their own cost, they planted 
and watered trees, bushes as well as planted lawns.  Their continuing hard work each year since the new school opened in 2007 has transformed and improved. 
     Its Principal knew the community needed help. To break their cycle of poverty, the children of Volcanes also needed to be taught English and given access to computers. By early 2011, after many months of negotiations the Volcanes Community Education Project was created. Behind it were the Volcanes Parents Association, the staff and Principal of the Volcanes Primary School, civic and local government leaders as well as Art Fumerton and the local Vallarta Sur Rotary.
     The long term goal of the VCEP was to work with the community to bring much needed improvements to the children and families of Volcanes. From its beginnings, the VCEP has consulted those living in Colonia Volcanes in an attempt to deliver what the community has identified as their priority. In return, the people of Volcanes would support the program by volunteering to help keep VCEP projects going.
Refurbishing an Abandoned School
     The need of classrooms for the proposed English and Computer Skills courses was the first challenge. The old gutted and abandoned 5 classroom school building on land abutting the new school could be used and an agreement was quickly reached.
With donations from local businesses and Volcanes parents providing the labour, the old school received new electrical, paint, windows, and air conditioning. Once the first two classrooms had been renovated, English classes began. Donation of 20 laptops allowed a Computer Skills classes to begin in the third re-furbished classroom.
Building on Success
     Since it began, the VCEP has responded with projects targeted to improve the lives and the standard of living of those living in Colonia Volcanes. A few examples are:
     The programs, donations and services provided by the VCEP always include the input from the local Parents Association and continue to be fairly distributed within the community to eager families who never tire of volunteering at the VCEP School.
A dream of a Volcanes Library

     In early 2012, the Principal of the Volcanes Primary School approached the VCEP about her long held dream for a community Library at the school. Planning began and books were donated from across North America. With funding from various Canadian Rotary groups, the new Volcanes Library opened in November of 2013. But instead of a single classroom for the Library another adjoining classroom was included. 

The fourth renovated classroom held the new Library space while the fifth became a new study room equipped with 20 donated laptops for use by Volcanes secondary students. Since it opened, the Library has become a haven of quiet, well-lit, and supervised study room equipped with Wi-Fi, computers and printers. For many Volcanes students, high electricity costs mean little if any lighting at home after sunset thus limiting their homework. The Library is now the center of the small Colonia’s activity as it serves as a public meeting spot, for adult education, and as a community movie theatre. 

Bursting at the Seams

     Less than six years after being built, the Volcanes Primary School in 2014 was already filled to capacity. Though the School is used twice each day, the two separate sessions of 250 students continue to strain the facilities at the school. With different teaching staffs for each session, it only had one small Principal’s Office plus an even smaller storage area crammed full. As these two rooms are too small to be shared, their continued use by the morning Principal leaving the afternoon Principal at a desk outside under the steps.
     School overcrowding also increased the need for a Kitchen and for more storage. In Mexico, it’s customary for local mothers to come during recesses to feed their children yet this meant feeding children on a muddy lawn under the trees. By mid-2014, the VCEP had found sponsors and groups willing to construct a new building on School grounds to house the new School Kitchen & Principal’s Office and a small storage area.
Sewing Seeds
     In late 2013, Art Fumerton of the VCEP found out about a Canadian Charity working to teach poor women in countries around the world. They agreed to teach sewing skills to a group of Volcanes mothers in three separate two week training sessions held over the course of several months. Between training sessions, the trainees could continue to practice at the School to improve their sewing proficiency. At the end of their training, the graduates could then seek work within the greater community, work from home with the assistance of a micro-loan or join together in their own sewing company. 
     But instead doing the training in a temporary location, the VCEP and Volcanes area leaders wanted an un-used and abandoned day-care building to be re-furbished into a permanent Sewing school. This would allow local women to continue using the facility after their training to start 
their own Sewing Co-Op while also permitting the continued use of the facility to train women from other areas later on. This small building could become the 
start of permanent jobs within Volcanes for these women by allowing them to bring their toddlers with them to spend their day in the incorporated day-care.  
     By mid 2014, major funding to renovate the old Day-Care into a Sewing School had been found with work almost completed. Only a small amount of money is still required for the sewing machines, desks, as well as the lighting and air conditioning equipment to complete the project. The grand opening is targeted for early February of 2015 with the first graduates finishing their courses later on that year.
Sewing Co-Op
     The next big project for the VCEP is to use land next to the newly renovated Sewing School and build a true Sewing Manufacturing Co-Op. This new factory could provide long-term employment for up to 100 local area mothers while the renovated Sewing School next door provide day-care for their toddlers. The financial effect of having jobs within Colonia Volcanes would also help raise the standard of living of some of the poorest people in the city. 
    The Sewing School next door is already renovated to include a small Day-Care area to be used by the local mothers learning and working at the school and later on in the factory.  By rotating the care of each other's children among themselves, they can continue to attend school and later on earn money into the household.  The potential employment of as many as 100 local mothers will greatly improve the lives of the families and children of Colonia Volcanes.
A Vision of Hope 
    The changes brought about by the support of the VCEP have touched almost every family in this small Colonia. Already the parents have started dreaming of their children’s future as they see things changing for the better in their lives.  All they need is a hand up from poverty and the VCEP has strived since its inception to do so.  What the VCEP need to continue is continued donations to help them in that work. 

The Volcanes Community Education Project

The Project

    Currently, English and computer classes are offered to 150 students from grades 3 to 6. The students are from the Volcanes Primary School as well as the Secondary School.  Class sessions are from 10am until 12 noon, and from 3:30 pm until 5:30 pm in the afternoons.  VCEP has its own classrooms in the old Volcanes School building which is located adjacent to the Public Primary School.  The class sizes in the VCEP programs have are a maximum of 20 students.  Each VCEP class has a full time teacher and in most cases, also a volunteer assistant. Through VCEP Programs, each student receives one hour of English instruction and one hour of computer classes each school day. 
    VCEP also offers Summer Camp programs to introduce children to the careers and opportunities within the local community, with a view that if these children see the opportunities available to them, they will be encouraged to continue their education. The VCEP school building also houses a small community library with books available to all adults and children of Volcanes.

English Classes
    Our English classes are taught by volunteer teachers from Canada and the U.S. who commit to teach at least one semester and in most cases, to a full school year, in our program. We offer a professional curriculum and have recently introduced an internetbased, on-line teaching program in collaboration with Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

Computer Classes

    We have 20 new laptop computers in our newly air conditioned computer lab. Each student has access to their own computer during class. The computer lab is open on Saturday mornings for additional class time. Our computers and other equipment have been generously donated by the Isa Mundo Foundation of Vancouver, BC and the Rotary Club of Calgary Heritage Park of Calgary, Alberta.

    The Volcanes Community Education Program is not funded by the Mexican Government, by the public school system, or by a charity or foundation.  All funding for this program is by way of donations.  Donations are needed on a continual basis to ensure that this project continues to operate.  Donations and funding is needed 
VCEP Needs Your Help!to purchase supplies for the students and the teachers, as well as to pay the teachers a small stipend of 3,000 pesos per month (approximately $230 per month). The children in Volcanes need our programs in order to break the cycle of poverty and move into the main stream of Puerto Vallarta life.

For more information regarding the program contact:
  • For more information contact : 
    Art Fumerton
    Volcanes Community Education Project
    Telephone : Calling from US & Canada Dial : 
    011-52-1 + 
  • Visit the website for Rotary Club Puerto Vallarta Sur at:
  • or by mail at: 
    Club Rotario Puerto Vallarta Sur
    Olas Altas 425, Col. Emiliano Zapata,
    Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico 48380
    President: Lic. José Luis Arellano
    Cell: 044.322.108.7124
    Email: rotary.vallartasur@gmail.com

Volcanes School is one of Puerto Vallarta's Poorest

Click here to see a Google Maps - Street View of the School.