Today we spent the day learning about the Mission of Friendship by touring, learning, and playing with the kids. The 5 programs the Mission of Friendship focus on include: access to education through the Nueva Vida after school program for girls, the daycare center, access to healthcare through the medical dispensary, community and parish engagement across the Archdiocese of Yucatan, and cultural exchange and partnership with the Diocese of Erie.
We started by going to the daycare, Los Amiguitos, which is for children from a few months to 4 years old. We got showed up by a 3 year old boy named Noah at daycare. He knew his English much better than we knew our Spanish. He was the only one there as most are receiving education from a distance, but his mom runs the center, so we got a lot of quality time with him! When we took a picture, his mom said “how are you feeling” and he replied HAPPY! He melted our hearts.
The pandemic has kept other countries in lockdown and changed how businesses have to operate for a longer period of time. The daycare and nueva vida have not been open to the children fully yet but hopefully that will change soon to allow the children and families access to child care and educational support.
Next we went to learn about the medical dispensary with Dr. Silvia. We learned about how medical care and insurance works in Mexico. There are three tiers to insurance, private, seguro popular, and IMSS. We learned that Merida has some of the best doctors and healthcare teams and people come from all over Mexico to receive care. But just because there is amazing medical staff doesn’t mean that everyone has access to the medical care available. Even with IMSS insurance it can still be hard to get a medical appointment, so the medical dispensary at the mission helps the people of Merida have access to quick appointments and reasonably priced medication.
The director of the family sponsorship program, “Silvia Silvia”, taught us about how they support families in Merida through their program. People from all around the United States sponsor humble families in Merida and help put children through school. Silvia mentioned how many of the sponsors are from Pennsylvania, where many of our group is from. These sponsors and families build relationships through pictures and video calling and in non pandemic times sponsors would visit Merida and meet the families in person. Sponsoring families allows the families to pay for groceries, school supplies, laptops, which were especially useful during the pandemic with online learning, and many other supplies which provide a little more joy to the families. There are currently about 90 families being sponsored!
We also got the opportunity to play games with the girls in the Nueva Vida program! The Nueva Vida program is an after school program that was started to help families who need the extra support. These families could be low income, single parents, or being raised by grandparents. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, the program has been closed on and off for the past 1 1/2 years. The girls surprised us as they had to close the program again with the rise of Omicron cases but had a special program where we were able to meet about 15 of the girls. We played a balloon race, Lotería (Bingo), and hop scotch. There was also a competitive group of freeze tag going on as some of our members drew with chalk. It was fun playing tic-tac-toe and guessing what was being drawn in both English and Spanish. Our hearts were so full afterwards and we wished we had more time with them, but we’re still very grateful for the time that we had!
While we had some free time, we had an early reflection about service and social responsibility and how we can carry what we learn with us. We discussed the different types of service (service of learning, physical service, and service of presence) and how we will be doing all three types this week. Then we played an intense game of Flip Uno before heading to dinner. We learned that the majority of our group is very competitive as we played ‘Punch Buggy’ (Beetles are a popular car in Mexico) every time we were in the van.
At the end of the day we went to the Paseo de Montejo for dinner and ice cream. We enjoyed some delicious Italian food at Trattoria la Pasta. Next, we went to Dulcería y Sorbetería Colón for ice cream and sorbet. Their staple flavor is the guanábana which is a sorbet made from soursop, a fruit found in the Yucatán, and many of our members tried it. It was muy delicioso!
until the next blog,
las caballeras de violentamenta amorasas