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 neighborhood 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.
     For the families of Colonia Volcanes, the new six room Volcanes Primary School quickly became 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. 
     But to break the cycle of poverty, the children of Volcanes also needed to be taught English and be given access to computers. By early 2011, after many months of negotiations the Volcanes Community Education Project (VCEP) was created. 


Volcanes 
Community 
Education Project

     The 
VCEP 
resulted from a joint effort between 
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.  They realized that the five classrooms in the old gutted and abandoned school could be used to help their struggling little community.  The VCEP was given 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 nor do they 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.

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. 



Volcanes School is one of Puerto Vallarta's Poorest

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