by Aline Libassi (July 2015)
In the "Hurricanes" neighborhood in Tulum there is a small house painted in bright purple and pink. It is the ludoteca of Save the Children. Inside children do their homework under the supervision of two teachers, Juli and Selmi, read, play games, and discuss the week's theme. One week it is the environment and awareness of collecting and recycling trash, the next sexual equality, another healthy bodies and good nutrition.
This is not your average “day care center." Save the Children welcomes children for morning and afternoon sessions free of charge. Parents must agree to a set of obligations and to attend meetings with the teachers to assess their child’s progress. Many children who might be wandering the streets without supervision because of parents who are at work can count on the structure and safety of this welcoming place.
I have been a member of Save the Children’s board of directors for one year now and I give English classes at the ludoteca twice a week. My involvement is rooted in the belief that education is the pathway to progress and change in Mexico. We must start early to teach children about good nutrition, healthy choices, the importance of staying in school and staying away from drugs, and above all, that each one of them has the potential to accomplish good things in life.
One thing that has particularly struck me is the lack of bullying and the spirit of both independence and cooperation among the children. The teachers work hard to create an atmosphere where children's self-esteem grows with each small success and where the group works together with respect and acceptance. What a lesson for children to learn early!
In essence what Save the Children is doing is changing the mindset of children and herein lies the difference in their work and philosophy of helping. Programs like this take time and effort and money. It is not a one-shot deal. There are many well-intentioned people who donate money to causes here in Mexico, intervene in situations once and expect to see results. Save the Children works through its teachers, facilitators, administrators and board to ensure that children and adolescents develop a different mindset which eventually will help them to help themselves.
We are presently renting a small house in Tulum but searching for a centrally located piece of land which could be donated to the organization on which we would build a spacious center. Playa del Carmen has two such centers which are situated on government land. This is not the case in Tulum. The municipality has not been supportive of our need for a permanent space. I am putting this out to all of you. If you know of anyone who might be able to help us with the donation of a piece of land, or if you have any brilliant ideas in relation to this, please contact me. If you would like to make a donation to Save the Children, QR, you can email me and I will direct you to the administrative director.