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.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
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
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
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
Click here to see a Google Maps - Street View of the School.