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Who Are Ojalá Niños?

By Elsmarie Norby

Ojalá Niños are over 100 children of all ages in the rural community of San Miguel Viejo who have access to free daily classes in arts, crafts, music, literacy, health, environment, social service, and many other delightful activities. Each weekday classes begin at 3pm and are led by a staff of Mexican nationals who are paid by the foundation. Volunteers who want to offer an activity are always welcome. For a while, the children enjoyed yoga and tennis.

The program is inspired by Albert Einstein’s words: “I don’t teach my students. I give them a place to learn!” The program is a place to learn⎯with space, materials, ideas, and guidance as the principal focus for turning curiosity into exploration, discovery, and learning. The word Ojalá comes from the ancient Arabic, inshallah, meaning God willing. In everyday language here, it means the same–or hope. Hope is an illusion unless there is opportunity.

This very special program in this indigenous community offers endless opportunities for children to learn about their abilities, to find interests and passions, and to develop skills, which lead to self-confidence and pride. These qualities lead to the desire to help build a community that serves the welfare of all of its members and dispels the old mentality of being “just the poor and forgotten.” This was said to me when I first came here to live, and the speaker couldn’t begin to understand why I’d want to live among them. Getting to know them and their children has been the happiest time of my life.

To sustain the program far into the future, we have bought a piece of land on which we plan to build a place where everyone in the community can have access to new skills, sustainable cooperative business plans, computer skills, literacy programs for all ages. There will be a community kitchen, bathrooms, and a gallery/store that will show and sell the art and products made by the local people. The community is only three miles from the Parroquia, yet it has no services for internet, telephone land lines, or cable. No wonder they feel forgotten!

We invite you to visit and see for yourself. We invite you to volunteer your time and talent and—of course—your treasure. To visit or volunteer, contact Betty Lopez: bettyblopez@outlook.com or elsmarienorby@gmail.com

You may donate via PayPal or with a check made out to SMCF with Ojalá Niños on the memo line. This will give you a US tax receipt. Ojalá Niños A.C.—Promoting Hope through Education and Opportunity!

 

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