By John Warren
From art walks to ziplines there are dozens of things a tourist or a resident can do in this lovely city. One amazing experience is to take a tour of the home known as Corazón De Niña.
Melissa Canez, originally from Victoria, Canada, and her partner, Juan Meza, opened their own home in 2012 to provide a sanctuary to thirteen girls who were victims of intra-family violence, exploitation and human trafficking. The only shelter for teenaged girls in Puerto Vallarta was being shut down and the girls had nowhere to go.Thirteen troubled teens and two adults in a two-bedroom house was pretty crowded.
But love knows no bounds and Melissa’s mother, Sandra Nichol, who owned the property, agreed that the children should come before comfort and privacy, so money was raised and additional rooms and a floor were added. More girls heard about the sanctuary and came knocking on the door and, soon, Melissa and Juan realised that the girls had brothers so the “girls only “ rule was changed and the home was expanded into two buildings. Corazón is now home to thirty-eight girls and boys.
When you take the tour you will be greeted at the front door and assigned to a group run by an “Anglo” volunteer who will lead the group through the dormitories, classroom and their small gym. During the tour you’ll be able to ask questions about any facet of the organization. Our group was interested in where the money comes from (all donations/ no government support), monthly operating costs, where the food comes from (lots from the expired sections of Costco) and the roles of volunteers.
The goals of this registered non-profit society are to provide a nurturing family environment to the children and to ensure that they achieve high school graduation, fluency in English and access to post-secondary education.The goal is to enable each of these children, who have horrific family backgrounds, to become a self-sustaining adult who will be able to give back to thier community. This takes a large monthly financial committment and so another goal is for Corazón De Niña to become self-sustaining financially.
These children are all victims of some sort of abuse and they harbor all the emotional, psychological, social and physical maladies one would expect. One girl had been so traumatized, authorities told Melissa there was no hope for her as she did not speak and rarely even made eye contact with anyone. They even mentioned the option of sending her away to another state but Corazón gave her a home an she now participates in all activities, cares for the birds, knits and sells scarves, dances, runs at the track, socializes with others and actually sang a song at her sister’s birthday. She is receiving speech therapy with phenomenal results!
Many if not all of the children are unhealthy when they arrive. They have parasites, scabies, head lice, and infections. They need medical help, dental help, psychological counseling and a large measure of love and caring. And they get it all. The results are amazing and well worth seeing. The tours are run every Tuesday at 10:00 and take about an hour and a half, including breakfast. (Reservations must be booked at 322-224-9209) For more information take a look at www.fundacioncorazon.mx
The members of the International Friendship Club (IFC) are pleased to support Corazón De Niña each month. The club’s volunteers spend many hours each month raising money for “good causes” and this is certainly one of them.
You can help too by taking an IFC Home Tour. The tours visit four different and lovely homes each week. Details of the tours and booking information is at www.toursforvallarta.com or available by visiting our office located at the northeast corner of the Insurgentes Rio Cuale Bridge above the HSBC Bank, Colonia El Centro. All profits from the Home Tours go to support charities like Corazón De Niña.
On Thursday evenings at 7:00pm, at the address shown above,IFC is presenting a series of talks on a diversity of topics. On Thursday 4th February it will be: “Active Hope: Facing climate change with clarity and courage.”
Verne McArthur, educator and activist, will discuss a recent study which showed that Puerto Vallarta is one of the places most likely to be negatively impacted by climate change, and the least prepared. How we can mobilize the energy to face and take action on the crises before us. Everyone is welcome. A donation of $70 pesos would be appreciated.