After a year of planning, garnering support, and collecting funds, the Rotary Club of Turlock has partnered with Turlock Sunrise Rotary and Ripon Rotary Club to bring basic provisions to La Candeleria, a remote boarding school between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Turlock Rotary member George Williams had come across the small village while on vacation in Baja Mexico, where he attended a Rotary meeting and met Clicerio Mercado, a CSL Rotarian and Projects Committee Chairman. Shortly after sharing mutual experiences, Mercado and Williams drove to Candeleria.
Since 1946, La Candeleria has addressed the need for education in remote areas lacking a rural transportation system. The school hosts classrooms, dormitories, and bathrooms for students who are between 6 to 16 years of age. They stay the week at school and return home on the weekends due to the long journey. The school does not have electricity, and only has a limited water supply from the community well.
“Electrical power that drives the pump motor is available on a daily basis, but only from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.,” Williams said. “This power is supplied by a small diesel driven motor generator. It is well worn and heavily used.”
The Mexican educational system cannot support the needs of the school, so nearly all funding comes from local charities, community service organizations, and private donations. Despite outside help, textbooks and school supplies run scarce.
Salaries are paid by the Mexican Department of Education and are based on a "per child per day" allotment. The school, which currently houses 105 students, only receives a salary of $32.55 US per day, or 4 pesos per student.
Williams returned to Turlock with concern, and decided to turn local attention towards the school to promote education.
“It shows you the character and the type of strength that these people have. The parents entrust their children to the school throughout the week for the simple act of getting an education,” Williams said. “I personally felt that our Rotaries could do something to help improve the environment and effectively improve the lives of the children.”
Turlock Sunrise Rotary, The Rotary Club of Turlock, and Ripon Rotary all agreed to come together for the effort through a simplified match grant in order to provide the most immediate needs of the La Candeleria Boarding School. Rotary members limited the list to new mattresses, blankets, white boards, library books, and a gas driven motor generator.
After putting together a budget plan, the Rotaries found that approximately $21,550 could be spent to provide the basic services through a Matching Grant Program. Spanish language textbooks have been donated by the LEF Foundation on the East Coast, and as many as 20 people are going at the end of the school year on a three day excursion to La Candeleria to set up the new equipment.
Out of the 20, two Rotarians are going from Ripon, three from Sunrise Rotary and six from the Rotary of Turlock.
Fellow Turlock Rotarian Rob Geiger is co-chair of the project and has previous experience working with a water project in the Dominican Republic. His involvement has been beneficial to determining international affairs.
“In any project, whether it is a little landscaping in Turlock, a new canal, or providing things for schools, you need to have people to work together with one goal. George’s friendship with Clicerio, who is also helping with the project in the Rotary Club of Cabo San Lucas, helped us to do this through our connections. It really just comes down to personal relationships,” said Gieger.
“This is fun, and we are going to make it fun. We have a great camaraderie. It made me feel very good that I could effectively address the needs in the school,” said Williams. “I know my fellow Rotarians feel the same way.”