Our volunteers range from monolingual English speakers to monolingual Spanish speakers and everything in between. We arrange teams of volunteers to accommodate the different levels of Spanish. While Mexico is a Catholic country and we attend mass in Sahuayo, our volunteers have been primarily non-Catholic. Volunteers have been both professionals and students in the fields of education, speech pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing. We welcome anyone who might have something to contribute to the lives of the children and professionals with whom we work in Mexico.
What is expected of volunteers?
In Guadalajara, we work at an orphanage where the children’s ages range from toddlers through adults, most of whom have severe cerebral palsy and spend much of their time in bed. We spend 3-4 hours per day at the orphanage, doing therapy with the children. Beyond that, volunteers have free time to sightsee, plan therapy activities, or spend more time helping the volunteer caregivers at the orphanage with the children’s daily routines. We have a party for the children on the last day so volunteers are encouraged to bring party ideas, favors, and/or small gifts.
In Sahuayo, we perform hippotherapy in which the students are on horseback, traditional speech and language therapy, and we offer group presentations to parents and teachers from Sahuayo and surrounding towns. Students range in age from toddler to adult, with a variety of disorders, some of which may not have been diagnosed. The number of students attending is unpredictable, but we had approximately 80 students from surrounding towns in summer 2009. Volunteers work from 9:00am until approximately 4:00pm. Evenings are spent helping each other prepare presentations or therapy, programming AAC devices, or relaxing and having “cena.” Volunteers are asked to let us know in advance if they would like to present to parents or teachers, work with horses, perform therapy, and/or assess the students, or entertain children while they wait for therapy.
What should I bring?
Bring materials you would like to use for a variety of therapy. If you can copy or donate materials to the local teachers and parents for use once we leave, that is even better. Bring stickers, bubbles, candy, small toys, school supplies and/or backpacks to give to students. Children of Mexico Intl. keeps materials at the Guadalajara site for use at the orphanage. All sizes of clothing in good condition is also desirable to donate in both cities.
Bring personal items such as an umbrella, guidebook, backpack to carry materials from our hotel to our work sites, and a laptop for creating materials or making presentations.
What should I wear?
Please dress conservatively and professionally during daily interactions with students, parents, and teachers. In Guadalajara, slacks and shirts with sleeves are appropriate. In Sahuayo, jeans may also be appropriate if working with horses. Please no short skirts, shorts, or tank tops. Bring at least one dressy outfit (dress or nice pants) for the fundraising dinner in Guadalajara and/or mass in Sahuayo. In the past, some volunteers have brought clothes to wear that they were planning to get rid of anyway. At the end of the time in Mexico, these clothes are donated to locals. There are laundries in Sahuayo that will wash and dry your clothes for you in less than a day. We have Children of Mexico Intl. shirts for purchase that are appropriate for wear while working. These are optional. It often rains in the afternoons in both areas so a raincoat is useful.
Where do we stay?
In Guadalajara, we stay at the Country Plaza Inn in Zapopan. It is approximately a 20 minute walk or a 5 minute taxi ride to the orphanage. There is a restaurant in the hotel and there are many others close by. It is a 10 minute walk to the main plaza and market of Zapopan. It is also a 10 minute walk to Plaza Patria, a shopping mall with all necessities.
In Sahuayo, we are hosted by the local diocese and stay in one of the hotels in town to be determined by our hosts. Local adult participants provide the afternoon “comida” for everyone. The evening “cena” is provided by church volunteers at the rectory for our volunteers. Sahuayo is a small town and all necessities are within an easy walk of the hotel.
How do I communicate with home?
Phone calls to the United States are expensive and sometimes difficult to make. It is recommended that volunteers plan on using skype or email to communicate, although the internet can be slow.
What if I get sick or injured?
Pharmacies are conveniently located in both areas, but it is recommended that you come with medications in case of emergency. The Clínica San Francisco next to Plaza Patria in Guadalajara provides excellent, inexpensive care in case of emergency. Emergency information cards will be given to all volunteers.
Is it safe?
Michoacan is a large state and the Sahuayo area is distant from problem areas. Common sense and precautions are taken to be safe and not to travel on rural highways after dark. Guadalajara is a relatively safe city, but traffic is heavy and pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way when crossing streets in Mexico. Please use caution when doing so.
How much money do will I need?
Enough to cover meals in Guadalajara, hotels (price to be determined), taxis in Guadalajara (approx. $6.00) round trip per taxi to the orphanage, approx. $10.00 round trip to downtown), excess for sightseeing, museum and concert entry fees if desired.