Ojalá Niños Celebrates Land Purchase
By Elsmarie Norby
On April 21, a piece of land in the rural community of San Miguel Viejo was paid in full and the deed made in the name of Ojalá Niños A.C. The land is next to my house/property and will be the site of a community-learning center dedicated to the mission of Ojalá Niños: to provide alternative educational opportunities to all the families in this village and beyond.
The program now offers year-round, daily free classes to over 100 children, ages 3 and older, in literacy, arts, music, environment, health, and social service, with lots of extra presentations and field trips throughout the year.
We offer children space, materials, ideas, and guidance to bring out their own unique abilities and to build critical thinking skills and self-confidence. We do not give grades or foster competition. The staff is made up of paid Mexican nationals who also present good examples of what education can offer.
The future building will house a computer center (there are no Internet services in this community, except at my home), a library, community kitchen, bathrooms, and more classes, especially for adults to gain skills that can lead to cooperative sustainable businesses. There will be a gallery/store to show and sell the art and products made by local residents. It is hoped that there will be a small clinic to treat minor injuries and health issues.
I have also given my property and home to the foundation so that Ojalá Niños can continue the use of both properties for the benefit of the community. Over the last seven-plus years, Ojalá has been privileged to have the support of many good people in many capacities. Every one of them has contributed time, talent, and treasure in order to realize the present success. One person’s story needs to be told: Barry Annino came to San Miguel from Dallas a few years ago to find a place to establish a tennis camp for underserved children. Barry had been a tennis pro and coach and now wanted to give back in his favorite Mexican town.
He went to the obvious places that might sponsor this idea. They all turned him down, not wanting to do this for these particular children. Barry was truly sad, and then someone told him to contact me. Together we pursued the idea and finally realized that San Miguel’s own municipal Unidad Deportiva was the best place for all of us to be … and we were welcomed! I had the kids, so in July 2015, the first tennis camp for 40 kids, who never had such an opportunity, was held. New racquets were donated by Wilson, logo T-shirts were donated by a supporter in Mexico City, coaches at the deportiva and others donated their time, and money was raised for bus transport and hearty lunches.
Barry came often to San Miguel to visit me and everyone at Ojalá, giving his moral support, his expertise as a community organizer in Dallas, and establishing connections with other possible funders/supporters. Barry and his wife and daughter, Debora and Lena, became really good friends.
In March 2015, we had raised enough money to pay for half of the land, with one year to raise the rest, or lose it. We finally resorted to trying a campaign using Indiegogo to raise the final third of the money. It didn’t go too well, and our slightly extended deadline was creeping close. Barry asked how it was going; I said not too well. He asked how much we needed and when. Two days later, on a Monday, I got an email from Barry saying that he and Debora would give us the rest of the money, a loan with no interest and no time limit—and would we please plant an herb garden for Lena and a fruit tree for Debora! The next day was Barry’s 60th birthday, and I called to thank him again and again, and wish him a beautiful day. He said how glad he was because he just wanted to pay attention to what mattered most and what was right. Then he told me that he had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer the week before and now he was glad to have the chance to give what time and treasure he had to his family and Ojalá Niños.
Barry is being treated at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas and is doing a little better each day. He is always good humored and positive and he plans to come to San Miguel in July for the next tennis camp and to see the progress with our community center. At least the herb garden and olive trees will be there! The next step is to excavate the property, secure it with a wall and gates, and ready the building project with a foundation. The cost for this is US$35,000.
You can check Barry’s progress and write notes at the Caring Bridge website:
www.caringbridge.org/visit/barryannino.There is no charge or commitment when signing up on the website. Please visit our website, ojala-ninos.org, and visit the Ojalá Niños program or volunteer or donate. Contact Betty Lopez: email@example.com or Elsmarie: firstname.lastname@example.org.