Monday, October 1, 2012

2012 Juarez Children's Education Program Fundraiser

Stephanie and Mike Bruno, Patricia Kline and Joe Fantuzzi.
Bill and Pam Klaus, Linda and Ken Alsman.
Our 2012 Fundraiser took place on September 30 at the Woodside home of JCEP cofounders Joni and David Cropper, co-hosted by Scott and Patricia Kline. About 40 people attended the party that featured food from Oaxacan Kitchen. The theme was a celebration of our donors under a harvest moon. Cofounder Scott Kline presented the history of JCEP as well as our current status and goals for the future. We were successful in making our fundraising goals for this year.

David and Joni Cropper, Scott and Patricia Kline.
Lorraine Carlson, Matt Heitel, Fred and Ellen Eder.
This past summer was one of our most proud. We graduated four students from high school and two from college. For 2012/2013 we have eight students in the program. Five are in college and three in high school. Our libraries continue to operate serving students of K-12 with a computer lab, tutoring and other library services. We currently work on a rotating basis with each library open three days per week. For more details on what each student is doing, including recent graduates, visit my previous blog post.

Colleen O'Malley and Carter Burgess

Al Nayeri, Tom Goren, Andrea Nayeri.

Our goals for the future include continuing to graduate students into a world where they can be self-sufficient job-holding members of society. We need English tutors to travel to Mexico this summer, so if you are interested in spending two to four weeks teaching English let us know. We also want to improve the entrance exam test scores of our student preparing for college and would love some tutoring advice or assistance.
Linda Copper and Mary Jane Elmore.

Diane Cesinski and Martin O'Malley.
If you are looking to make a donation or get involved, please see our Get Involved Page on our website.

Thanks again to everyone that joined us at the fundraiser. Your love and support for the students has changed lives in ways we never imagined.

Janet Wetter, Haley and Joni Cropper.
Tracy and Faith Cropper and Neolle Shipley.
All photos were taken at the Fundraiser at the Woodside Home of Joni and David Cropper on September 30, 2012.

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 2012 Visit to Meet with Students

David, Scott, Perla, Angel, Margarita, David, Edith, Moises, Ezmerelda and Susy.
I traveled to Ciudad Juarez to see our JCEp students. As always, I flew into El Paso. Leo and Bill orange picked me up at the airport. We went to Rosco’s for a hamburger. They loved them. They both had chili cheese fries. I had a little trouble crossing the border. They say I am not a tourist and next time I will have to go to the Mexican Consulate for a FM3 visa. I checked in at the team center into Room 1, my favorite.

In the evening I had dinner with Leo and Susy at their house. What a lovely family. They have four kids. Leo Jr. is a strapping young man who works at Mission Ministries. Ezmerelda is a lovely young lady in her second year of college who wants to become a teacher. Daniel is in 9th grade and loves to skateboard. Esther is 10 and a smart and beautiful young lady. Susy made Chili Colorado for us. Leo worried that it was too spicy or my gringo stomach, but it tasted wonderful. They have a great do Sammy too. A German Shepherd with dread-locks. 
Sammy guards Leo and Susy's place.
We discussed the libraries.  Right now, each is open three days per week with two employees in each library. To have them open 5 days per week would take an extra 2 employee per library per day twice per week . Now the K27 library which they call Library 1 is open Tuesday, Thursday Friday.  The K30 library is open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.


Ezmerelda is Susy’s daughter. She wants to be a kindergarten teacher and eventually a principal. She is just finishing up her first year of college and will be entering her second. This is a three-year program. After she finishes, she wants to get her masters (a two year program full-time). But she plans to get her masters part time will founding a kindergarten her in the Colonia. The master will allow her to eventually be a principal in a school. She is motivated and smart.


Blanca is working as a missionary, without pay. She is using the skills from her psychology degree. Her current job will last until fall. I am not clear on her plans from there. I did not get to see her.
Martha and her son Diego.

Martha wants to get her nursing certification. She now has two children. She seems to be doing very well. Getting the nursing degree would give her more pay and set her down the road. Daycare for her kids is the stumbling block. I have always admired Martha and her determination. She finished high school while pregnant. She got a nursing assistant certification while raising her baby.

Thursday – Aug 16

Susy took me on a tour to meet four of the kids. We went to their houses and met with them and their parents.
 Moises graduated from High School. He applied to pre med university studies but did not pass the examination. He wants to try again but cannot until January.  In the mean time he is trying to decide what his course of action. He has three options.  1. Study for the test and try again. 2. Pick a different major and go to school now. 3. Possibly switch to nursing. I advised him to get a tutor or take a prep class for the medical test. He was going to find out if such a thing existed. To me, Moises with his intelligence and quiet and dignified bearing would make a great doctor. By the end of the trip, Moises had decided he would attend tech school while he tried to pass the medical exam. He will attend Universidad Tecnologica de Ciudad Juarez.


Edith now lives in Ciudad Juarez. She just graduated from high school. We went to the place where she and he mother were preparing lunch for us. They made taquitos, which we excellent. On the salad they made me, I put a little salsa. Her mom warned me that it was hot, but I waived he off. It was the hottest I have ever tasted.

Edith is a bright and shiny young lady. She will be attending the computer informatica course at Universidad Tecnologica de Ciudad Juarez. She wants to be a computer programmer. She is all accepted and will start in late August. She, like the other incoming college students needs a laptop.

After we met with Edith, Susy and I went to Wal-Mart to get hamburgers for a BBQ on Saturday.  I must say this sparkling Wal-Mart is just as nice as any in the US. The shelves are full and there are lots of people. You would not know that the violence in Juarez ever existed. I have been told that the violence is way down. Apparently one won the war between the two cartels and things are returning to normal.

Perla has always been a joy to behold. A great smile and friendly, shy manner. Last semester, Perla was invited to play traveling soccer. She sported a huge trophy in her house as a result f her efforts. Unfortunately, school suffered as a result. She was failed in her last semester.  She will be switching schools and starting where she left off, with 5 semesters of high school remaining. Her new school, Vision Azteca, is more expensive and farther away, but apparently a better school.  Perla always had good grade before soccer, so we are all hopeful she will do well. She would like to be a doctor as well, so I told her she needs to get 9 and 10 marks in school. She agreed and said she would write me monthly on her progress.

David is handsome and smiling. He just graduated from high school this past June. I was disappointed before our meeting to find out that David was planning on working ion the Foxconn factory where his parents work instead of going to University. However, I understand that his family needs the money. During our meeting David expressed the desire to go to school next year. I asked him if he could go part time now, he said he would like that. I don’t think he had considered it. His parents seemed to agree to this.  By the end of the trip, David had decided to attend the same school as Edith and pursue an information technology degree at Universidad Tecnologica de Ciudad Juarez.


Anahi dropped by David’s while we were talking. Since finishing college last year, she has been working at the Center for Women’s’ Justice as an intern. It sounds like she is vey active in helping clients. She spoke very knowledgably, in English, about how she helps women fight for custody rights of children against abusive husbands. She was somewhat frustrated about getting hired to work as an attorney because of the existing old boy network. I told her to use her current position as a way to meet potential employers.

The way I understand it, she has to complete a community service report describing her activities and submit it to the legal board. If they approve it, she is a lawyer. I asked repeatedly, and she insists there is no exam and no further schooling required. Anahi says her goal is to become a prosecutor. I encouraged her to get to know people in the prosecutor’s office.

English Classes

The English classes are really faltering. It seems they can’t get a steady instructor since Joel left. Susy and I think an immersion class similar to the one Stacy did for Anahi and Blanca would be most effective. Perhaps we could do that here. We just need a volunteer. Another option, I think, would be to find a native English speaker in El Paso and get the to come out to Juarez on the weekends and run classes on Saturday.

Leo has opened a gymnasium. He is concerned about the health of those in the colonia. He got donations of equipment from Colorado and built the Gymnasio de la Esperanza. It has a heavy bag, treadmill, weights and lot of great equipment. 

Thursday ended with a storm that brought dust, rain and wind but mercifully, cooler air.

Friday – August 17

The morning broke cool after the rain. Consuming my cheerios and coffee, Claudia regaled me with Christian rock at the team center while I typed my notes from the day before.  Susy retrieved me at 11 am and we set forth o another day of meeting the students.

Samuel just finished high school. He enrolled at the Institute de Tecnologica were he wants to study computer programming. He was so excited he already completed one class this summer.  Samuel always struck me as bright and determinedly quiet. The course takes 4 years with the summers off. I made him promise to keep in touch with me on Facebook. Samuel’s mom made me some great empanadas.

Margarita is entering her final year of high school. She plans on being a doctor. We stressed how difficult the entry exam is. Margarita has always had high grades and should be one who is intelligent enough to pass the exam if she has the right training. The field she would like to focus on is orthopedics. Margarita’s parents bubble with life, telling stories and laughing all the time. This surprises me since she seems so quiet. Her Dad is 76 years old. 30 years older than her mother, he told us all about his recent prostrate surgery and showed us some gall rather huge gallstones he had removed. Laughing with joy the whole time.

Angel is in his second year of high school, Baccilleris Nuevo. He is doing quite well. He lives with his Mom and six sisters in a Missions Ministries house. They seem very happy. While we chatted his Mom brought out some fabulous molé. Angel wants to be a lawyer.

Saturday – August 18           
Edith, Perla, Anahi, Moises and David enjoy the burger feast.

The kids have always liked hamburgers, as do I. So I grilled burgers for them in a good bye lunch. It was great to have everyone together. I always like the group shots. It also gave me a chance to speak to them as a group. With Leo as translator, I told them all how proud we were. How they are part of a team comprising hundreds of people including all our donors, people praying for them, their teachers, parents, Susy, Leo, Joni and I. I think they get it and will continue to proceed. 
Angle gives me a hand wit the burgers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Juarez Mission Trip - Jan 2012

Joni and I prepare to build the house with our JCEP students

After a two-year absence, Joni and I decided to take the team back to Juarez. We never should have stayed away. As usual, we would build a house for a deserving family, feed several hundred kids at one of our libraries and interact with our JCEP sponsored children.

Getting off the plane in El Paso, it felt like coming home. Our hosts from Missions Ministries - Leo, Chris, Bill and Jesus - greeted our team of 26 people. We headed to WalMart to buy supplies for the trip before heading across the border into Mexico.
Monica poses with her new wheelchair, purchased with donations from friends of Stacy Ishigaki.

At WalMart, we stocked up on snacks and water for ourselves. We purchased food for our outreach. We also picked up a wheel chair, table and other housewarming gifts for Monica and Juan, who we would be building the house for. We piled into three vans and headed for Santa Teresa, New Mexico where we would cross the border.

The Santa Teresa crossing affords the safest route to the Colonias. We circle around Ciudad Juarez. The drive through the desert takes about 30 minutes from the border. We pass through beautiful deserts with the mountains surrounding Juarez in the distance. The Colonias are located south of the main city about 25 kilometers.
The team tilts up the first wall of the new house.

It is always jarring seeing the conditions in the Colonias. Created to “house” workers for the NAFTA factories, the lots are small and expensive. Most families live in block houses, abandoned buses or worse. The family we were building for lived in a 10 x 10 concrete room that was dark and cold.
Haley, Brian and Sara have been to traveled to Juarez together 8 times to build houses.

Around 6 pm, we arrived at the team center, an oasis in the Colonias. Built over several years and completed in 2005, the team center is a walled compound with 24-hour guards. There are 15 rooms, each with its own shower and bunks to sleep five people. There is a dining hall, medical center and four more rooms for the Mission Ministries staff.

We ate a satisfying dinner, prepared by the fine Mexican staff and went to bed. After waking early, we stuffed ourselves again and headed out to the build site. Our medical team of internist, optometrist and nurse stayed behind with five team members to serve as staff. We also had Therin and Marsha, pharmacists from Oklahoma, there to man the pharmacy.

At the build site, we greeted our family and set to nailing together the structure. The 12x36 foot slab had been poured in advance. Our Mexican build coaches laid out the precut boards. Our sizable team set about nailing them together.
Little Juan ride his rocking horse as his house is constructed.

Joni and I were glad to have our students from JCEP join us for construction. Susy, our librarian and the shepherd to all our children, pulled up in the JCEP van and the kids piled out. Calling them kids is a stretch these days, since many of them are now young adults. Anahi and Blanca will graduate from college this month with their basic studies degrees. They plan to attend garduate school in the fall. Edith, David, Samuel and Moises will graduate from high school this June. Also joining us were Margarita, who will graduate in 2013, Angel (2014) and Perla (2014). We were sorry to learn that Claudia, who would have graduated this summer, had gone to work, due to a death in the family and will not finish this year.
Joni, Susy and Scott congratulate Blanca and Anahi on their graduation from college.
The kids are experienced builders having joined us on all our trips in the past. With them pounding away, we had the house framed, roofed and insulated in a little more than three hours, a record time for us.
Dr. Seabolt completes an eye examination in the clinic.

In the afternoon, we helped out in the clinic and some took tours of the Colonias. At four we entertained the kids at the Kilometer 27 library, which JCEP had helped build in 2007. Caroline from our team, showed the kids how to make graham-cracker houses.
A youngster poses with her graham cracker house at the library,

Susy also introduced us to Carlos, David’s younger brother, who will be entering our program. He will graduate with Perla and Angel in 2014.

At the clinic, it had been a busy day. Chris Dunn treated patient after patient, many of them with pregnancy related issues, lots of sick folks with “gripa” and one young man with a mysterious rash. Beth Seabolt, our optometrist saw a dozen or so patients, some walking out with glasses, which allowed them to read for the first time in years. Others required prescription lenses. Beth has a friend who grinds the lenses for these and they will be sent down later. Michele Santilhano, a nurse, had joined us late, she handled a lot of the sick children, of which there are always many.
Ryan applies the trim from atop the roof.

My daughter Sara and Joni’s daughter Haley had helped out in the clinic, assisting Beth and taking entry information from patients, like blood pressure. Caroline and her kids had helped with translation and general duties.

In the evening, Leo showed slides of his work with the Tarahumara Indians. They live in the remote Copper Canyon. Leo makes the eleven-hour drive there every month for the past 8 years. He brings them food, seeds, and the word of God.
Colin Copper plays his accordion during devotions at the beginning of day 2.

Day Two donned cold and clear. We headed back out to the build site. The second day is for hanging drywall and painting. We decided to paint a second house on the site that was the home of Monica’s mother Cecilia. It had been built 15 years ago and badly needed a new coat of paint. Three hours later, we had finished the houses. The blueberry-colored paint made them nice and cheery. We swept out the three rooms, hung curtains and placed the housewarming gifts inside.
The team paint the older existing house to match the new one.

The key ceremony always brings tears from the recipient and the build team. Presenting the keys were our first-time members Sarah, Alberto and his son Betto. Everyone expressed their desires that the house would be a blessing not only to the family, but the community. The keys were handed over and everyone was ecstatic.
The key ceremony.

The table set inside was beautiful, Lorraine from our team had color coordinated a dining set and had it on the table. The wheel chair was there as well. Monica suffered from spina bifida as a child. She was examined by our doctors and found to have no feeling in legs. She gets ulcers because she cannot feel them forming.
Our JCEP students have helped us many builds. Giving back to their community.

In the afternoon we headed out to our second library in Kilometer 30. This is the one we built in 2008. We were happy to see the structure had held up well. Our furniture was clean and solid. The computers were working well. A sixth grade class came over and joined us for lunch. We had many crafts and activities. The Rule family took Polaroid pictures, which the kids could place on a star and decorate as a frame. The Coopers and Lucas’ entertained the kids with songs, Colin playing along on his accordion. Another group of younger kids descended a little later and the whole thing started up again.
Stacy Ishigaki spreads the love.

In the evening, we headed out to the church of the pastor who had helped find Monica for the house. We shared our experiences and got to Swim In the River of God”, a favorite song where everyone bridges the language gap by pantomiming the lyrics.
Nail painting at the outreach.

The next morning, we headed back to the airport and were gone. I am always amazed that a four-day trip can produce so much for the recipients, but even more for us. The transformative power of giving is something I should experience more often.
The team poses with the house.

Monday, January 25, 2010

JCEP Kids Update, Jan 2010

JCEP Construction Crew, LtoR, Edith, Juana, Esmerelda, Anahi, Blanca, Karla, Angel, David, Claudia, Moises, Samuel

On our recent trip to Juarez to build houses we spent considerable time with the JCEP kids. (Read Mission Trip Report) I am pleased to report that all 13 are doing well and studying hard. All thirteen assisted in house construction. Despite the violence that continues to rock downtown Juarez, things continue to improve in the Colonias outside Juarez where our kids live.

Following are updates starting with our three college students, Anahi, Blanca and Esmerelda. Anahi continues to do well in school studying law. She reports a broken computer, which we need to have replaced, but her grades are good. She appreciated the In-N-Out T-shirt that she got from her US hosts Donna and Craig. Blanca also got a shirt. She is taking a short break from Psychology and is helping Susy with the library. She will return to school in May. Esmerelda is doing very well studying to become a teacher at the local community college.

Our high school students continue to study hard and advance. Karla will graduate next June. Juana is now a Junior. Our biggest group, the sophomores, includes the Three Amigo: Samuel, David and Moises. They were great in helping with construction, hanging the soffit plywood. Edith, Margarita and Claudia are also all sophomores.

Rounding out the group are Angel and Perla Lupita, both in 8th grade.

We got good news on the trip. Stacy, our English teacher from the U.S. immersion trip, is hoping to take a month to run a vacation English school for the kids in July. We are hoping it will work out.

In addition, Susy, our librarian and the shepherd for our students, and her husband Leo, who now runs Mission Ministries operations in Mexico, are coming to the SF Bay Area in March. We hope that we can have a reception so our JCEP supporters can all meet these special people.

It was really nice spending so much time with the kids and see them doing so well. Pictures say it all better. See them Below.

Claudia, Margarita, Edith and Juana take a break.
Karla, Esmerelda, Blanca and Anahi get ready to hammer.
Moises puts a nail in the soffit.
Stacy, Anahi, Joni, Karla, Blanca and Susy enjoy the crafts and food.

Trip report Jan 17-20, 2010

33 team members made the trip to Juarez for our most recent mission trip. Considering all the bad press and the economic times, we were very impressed with the size of the team. The team built two houses, fed over 100 people and treated a standing room only crowd for two days at the Missions Ministries medical center. Above: Hanna and Sara prepare for contruction.

Once again it was another safe and successful trip. Recently, many churches have pulled back from sending teams due to excessive caution. I think this is unwarranted and results from lack of knowledge of the situation in the area where we work. The Missions Ministries folks have done much to make the trips work with minimal risk. Local police and military keep and eye out for their teams and even the gangs have said they will leave us alone because of the work we are doing. I am glad that this team did not take the overly cautious attitude or hundreds in Juarez would be a lot worse off. Jesus and his disciples never avoided going where they were needed despite great risks. I want to thank my team for following that example.

The construction teams were divided by age between the adults and the kids ranging in age from 13-18. The kids included all our JCEP kids, many of them building their 5th or 6th house. Joni and David Cropper went with the adult team. I went with the kids where I belong. Both houses were completed in the usual two days, but the kid’s house was done before noon the second day! My niece Hanna and daughter Sara headed up the kids house, they have each been to Juarez seven times now. The Cropper kids, Brian, Adam and Haley have been six times. Hanna never stopped pointing out the fact that she had been one more time.

In the afternoon the first day, we also took a team over to the local women’s shelter, there we fed the mothers and kids staying there and did crafts with them. The second day we did the same at a local church. We fed nearly one hundred people. The favorite food is always the ice cream., since most families do not have freezers. The double line was long and orderly, despite the anticipation.
Above: Roofing Team
The medical team consisted of many returning Juarez veterans and a few new folks. Dr. Hardwin Mead headed the medical team. Beth Seabolt ran an eye clinic with Radhika Kumar dispensing glasses and advice to lots of grateful people. We had Christl Kirchner an OB/Gyn nurse practitioner treating patients. Sally Marsh staffed the pharmacy with help of many folks on the team. With Nicolas Barcelo translating, and many others including the local team assisting, it was a very effective medical mission.Above: Hardwin treats a young patient.
The last night we attended worship services at the same church for which we had done the food outreach. We were all knocked out when the pastor spent much of the sermon expressing sympathy for Haiti and its people, despite all the challenges happening in Juarez. It was a fitting ending to a great trip. SRKAbove:Ice Cream line.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Big Ride 2009

The Big Ride is over. 150.02 miles. It was the hardest one ever, because I picked a day day where the temperature went high into the 90's. I broke my personal record for water consumed. Much of it dumped on my head. This year I did the ride completely solo. A first. I missed my buddies.

Here are some photos I took from the bicycle while I was riding. It is quite a challenge to aim and time the shot to get what you want. But it also results in some interesting shots.

Thanks to all that supported the ride. It still is not too late. Hope to see everyone at the party and fundraiser on Sunday.