The Vallarta Abuelos

The Vallarta Abuelos is / are a group of Mexican and expats formed last December to provide Christmas gifts to low-income children in Col. 5 de Diciembre here in Puerto Vallarta. The word ‘abuelos’ means ‘grandparents’ in Spanish. Our founder Anne Marie Weiss-Armush had overheard the laments of a ten-year old whose mother warned him there was no money for holiday gifts. She quickly organized a project that matched local families with expats who were Santa to 84 local children.
Just in time for the beginning of school this year, our all-volunteer Vallarta Abuelos, has completed its second effort: The School Bag Project, which provided 355 at-risk children with new backpacks and school supplies. Most of our recipients are from single-parent homes. Noticing the high cost of school bags and supplies in Vallarta, the Abuellos discovered that many of our needy little neighbors didn’t qualify for the free back packs offered through government programs. Volunteers set up a GoFundMe page and collected $5,500 US to purchase these items from manufacturers in the US and Jalisco. American Airlines donated the shipping cost, and other support was supplied by Hospiten, WOW, the DIF and the office of Vallarta Presidente Municipal Ing. Arturo Davalos.
“The people of Puerto Vallarta have warmly welcomed me and my husband Tom as new permanent residents to Col. 5 de Diciembre. As we have become integrated into our new community, we’re delighted for the opportunity to act as Abuelos here and give back to the neighbors who serve us on the beach, in food booths, restaurants and shops” says Vallarta Abuela, Chiara Montante.
Typical of the children served by the Vallarta Abuelos is our poster-boy Carlitos, who lives with his grandmother by Ley Supermarket. Her income from selling tacos at a bus stop is slightly above the minimum daily wage of 103 pesos, so the cost of school bags and supplies for two grandchildren is a challenge.
School expenses for secundaria (junior high) and peparatoria (senior high) are even higher, as students must pay for their own bus fare and snacks, uniforms, and fees. Noting that limited income caused many bright students to drop out of school after sixth grade, our nonprofit group also offered twelve teens additional ‘education scholarships’ of 2,000 to 4,000 pesos.
Abuela Kay Lilley adds “During the summer months, Anne Marie noticed a large number of boys were left unsupervised in the streets while their parents worked. The children began to gather at her home in 5 de Diciembre, and the BiciClub de la 5 was born. Eighty eight refurbished bicycles have been distributed to these and other kids, and the older children have learned to paint and repair the bicis they received.
“‘Playing or studying one-on-one with the children in a ‘Safe House’ environment enables us to determine needs of individual children and to work with their guardian to offer support. My student is tenth-grader Ricardo Santillan, and I’m very proud to contribute to his future through this nonprofit effort’ adds Kay.
Future plans include forming a soccer team for the children, and distributing Santa gifts to 350 children. Volunteers and sponsors are always welcome. The Vallarta Abuelos are registered in the United States as a 501c3 nonprofit.
For more information see the Vallarta Abuelos page on Facebook, or contact <annemarieweiss@dfwinternational.org>,