Celebrating Ojalá Niños, AC
By Elsmarie Norby
It all began in November of 2007 with pencils and paper in a patio at the new home of Elsmarie Norby, where 8 to 10 curious children from the rural community of San Miguel Viejo were invited in to draw, sing and read. “I was new to the village and the children were my first friends,” says Elsmarie. More and more children came, more tables and materials were provided, friends from town came to help – and thus began an after-school program providing art, music and literacy to any child in the village, free of charge, year- round.
In September 2010, the program became a Mexican nonprofit called Ojalá Niños AC with 70 children participating. A local neighbor and mother of two, Verónica Ramírez, had become active in helping and when the numbers were too many for Elsmarie’s house, Veronica offered her front yard for classes for the younger children. Volunteers came to offer classes in specific art skills… painting, drawing, stained glass, paper and textiles, miniatures, carpentry, ceramics, weaving – and a special class at Veronica’s for three to seven year olds. “Vero” is now our local director – but much, much more. She is teacher, nurse, comforter, arranger, cook – a true responder to what comes up! Many more supplies of all kinds were constantly needed – and always appeared, thanks to so many wonderful people who donated time, treasure and talent.
As a lifelong educator/artist, Elsmarie’s philosophy about learning is as follows: “curiosity is every being’s engine; art and music awaken us to our personal potential and imagination; reading opens the intellect and excites us about limitless possibilities.” Until now, the mission of Ojalá has been to use these three areas to stimulate imagination, critical thinking, the forming of opinion, and fearless expression. Ojalá means “hope.” Hope must be followed by opportunity. So we are expanding our mission to offer information about the cooperative business model for sustainable living, and to bring the issues about the environment, health and social justice to the attention of the children… “useful knowledge” to face and find solutions to life’s challenges.
More space for more activities and more children has been a critical need. Steve Scarborough saw the need for a floor for the little kids and donated the money. The Community Church of San Miguel gave a grant to put a roof over the floor. An area at Elsmarie’s house needed to be enclosed for classes and Theresa Downey made that possible.
The Center for Global Justice (www.globaljusticecenter.org) here in San Miguel de Allende has been giving classes and field trips to 14 of our students in stained glass mosaics and weaving in order to learn about cooperative business. The San Miguel Literary Sala (www.sanmiguelliterarysala.org) is sponsoring a Spanish language teacher for reading and creative writing three times a week to excite children who have otherwise had little or no access to books! Muchas gracias to these two marvelous local organizations for their support!
Next, English classes for teens and adults here in San Miguel Viejo – we are looking for two ESL teachers to volunteer – transportation will be provided.
Our greatest volunteer, Mary Elizabeth Bates, is now leaving her official post as board president for the past three years. No one has been more responsive and more engaged that our Marybeth! We thank her from the bottom of all our hearts for her dedication and smiling presence with Ojalá Niños.
The program and the children, Ojalá Niños, are all very grateful for the support and attention that has helped us to grow for the last six years. We are also very ambitious! We want to keep growing, keep giving, and keep faith with the children whose futures will be positively affected by continuing. Consider being a volunteer – there are many jobs in such a diverse organization; consider sharing your abundance by making a money donation. Most of all, make cooperation, generosity and kindness your lifestyle, wherever you are, whatever you do. We’re all just practicing….