What’s New in 2020?

The year 2020 started out like gangbusters for Friends of Barrón. Estrella del Mar again hosted a Charity Golf Tournament in January to benefit FOB as well as two other charity organizations. Inclement weather interrupted the awards ceremony, but FOB organizers did receive a very large facsimile of a check for $50,000 MXN. These promised funds were immediately earmarked to help rebuild the bathroom at the secondary school in Barrón. In that school, there are 120 children destined to wait in line for the only single, malfunctioning bathroom available to them. These monies are going to a very good cause as acknowledged by the Charity Golf Tournament organizers, Jorge Corral and Maritza Estrada. The marketing of this historically charitable event was quite effective. About 150 golfers signed up at an average $6000 MXN each; that is at least $900,000 MXN, a portion of which was to benefit the charities. FOB received $50,000 MXN on June 15, 2020, so now, with EDM’s help, we hope to finish the bathroom project.

January 29 was the date set for the annual primary school dental fluoride clinic. EDM residents Claire Silk and Jan Schoen helped the local Barrón dentist, Dr. Javier Witrón treat the 200 students enrolled in the primary school. Permission slips went out and almost every student was treated with fluoride. Those with cavities were given a free treatment coupon to the FOB clinic which was about to open. There, Dr. Witrón can more easily treat the patients in a professional setting.

                         Dr. Witrón working on a primary school patient.
                         He is assisted by Claire Silk and Jan Schoen.

Here’s an update on Ivana, the student who has been adopted by Christina Richardson. Christina volunteered at last year’s fluoride application clinic and was so enamored with this fifth-grader, she determined to pay for much-needed braces for her teeth. It turns out that her case was a complex one and after a year of free treatment at the Centro clinic of Dr. Susana Pedrero, the foundation hardware had been installed. While Christina pays for the x-rays and hardware, Dr. Susana is donating all her time. It is Ivana who must faithfully attend each of numerous appointments and bear the discomfort. FOB would like to thank Claire, Jan, and Susana for the selfless dedication to their craft and we are happy to help provide them an outlet to spread their kindness.

This is Ivana showing off her new palate spreaders.

When it came to light that the computers donated years ago by an about-to-retire Joe Oviatt, were either obsolete or dysfunctional, FOB sent out a letter requesting donations. During the week of February 23, 2020, EDM residents responded and we were able to raise an additional $120,000 MXN. Using those funds, we purchased 18 brand new Google Chrome computers. Our computer-whiz expert, Jeremy Kennell, was busy getting them set up to conform with the eight remaining functional computers in the lab when the schools closed for Spring Break. When they were unable to reopen because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the computers were put away safely to await the new semester. One note, the average class size at the primary school is about 35 kids. If we were able to provide a few more computers, it would make learning a lot easier. The chrome books are $6000 pesos each. If you would like to buy the 19th or 20th computer, please let us know.

A new Chrome book for Barrón.

Over Spring Break, work began to expand the secondary school’s single-hole bathroom into a modern, sanitary, three-stall facility; two for the girls and one for the boys. As the project neared half-completion using community- and district-sourced funding, work was halted due to lack of matching funds promised by FOB and parents of students. An additional $80,000 MXN is needed to complete this project, $50,000 recently provided by EDM and the remainder by the school parents.

Gerardo Amezquita surveys his good work to date on the new bathrooms at the secondary school.

February also saw the opening of the long-awaited Barrón Dispensario, a combined dental and medical clinic. Using funds raised on the internet by FOB and other donations over the past three years, the property was rented, refurbished, and equipped to house both a medical and a dental clinic for the people of Barrón. FOB hired a doctor, a dentist, and a nurse to offer basic health care in a clean, modern, welcoming facility. Its success was gradual, but by the end of March, a steady stream of satisfied patients were gracing its doors. Our dentist, Dr. Javier Witron, even provided emergency treatment for a South African golfer aspiring to play in the Estrella del Mar-sponsored PGA event. But as fate would have it, the pandemic forced our clinic to close its doors temporarily. All staff members continue to receive their salaries throughout the closure.

The good news is that the Barrón Clinic is planning to reopen soon. Our nurse has been able to obtain the necessary personal protective equipment to safeguard our health care providers as they once again open the doors to care for the good people of Barrón. While one doctor from Villa Union has succumbed to the virus and several cases and at least one death were reported in Barrón, our staff will decide when they are able to once again serve because they purchased the required PPE. We need to raise an additional $100,000 MXN to cover unanticipated costs incurred by the medical/dental clinic due to the pandemic.

The schools are another thing. They will not be reopening this semester but the fall semester is just around the corner. FOB  has recently distributed $104,000 MXN  in scholarship payments to our 26 scholarship recipients for this past semester, even though the schools were closed, but continued to operate with all on-line classes. Several of the program participants have graduated but the others are anxious to resume their in-classroom studies next semester. This program rolls along due entirely to the dedication of the student sponsors. These sponsors, the majority of whom are EDM residents, have been able to establish meaningful relationships with their student(s) and their extended families.  This continues to be a very popular program with sponsors whose students have graduated. Sponsors are eager to support a new scholarship candidate as a way to participate in the local culture by truly helping an aspiring student in need and for the thrill of witnessing their student’s achievements. The newly elected Mexican government last year promised to provide all lower-income students with scholarships. Scholarships are awarded to all levels of students from primary school to university. We admire the new administration’s novel approach to a guaranteed minimum income. Many of the families in Barrón qualify for this much-needed income stream. This may require that FOB take another look at our scholarship program. We have, over the past eleven years, modified the scholarship program requirements to ensure maximum benefit for our deserving students and we will continue to do so.

Guadalupe graduates and Kelly and Joe Peters celebrate too

So where do we go from here?

FOB has raised funds on the internet and committed these funds to keep the dental/medical clinic open for a full year. All salaries are guaranteed and at-cost or free services will be provided to anyone who walks through the door. FOB feels that it is not only in the best interests of this isolated community but also for the main, outside employer of Barrón residents, Estrella del Mar. As the resort reopens, they can rest assured that the families of their employees will have a local, reliable, available, and affordable place to seek medical and dental attention.

This is a pilot program to provide operational seed money with the long-term goal of having the clinic stand on its own financially. Doctors, dentists, and nurses will gradually increase fees and solicit additional outside donations such that, after a year, the clinic could be self-sustaining with a minimum of FOB support. During this time and beyond we expect to once again offer specialty healthcare providers from Mexico, the US, and Canada an opportunity to do mission work, this time in a well-equipped and suitable facility.

If you would like to facilitate the school bathroom project, help cover the costs incurred by the FOB medical/dental clinic during the pandemic, or contribute to our classroom computerization program please donate using FOBs new PayPal account (FOB_CANAM@aol.com). Any amount in any currency will be greatly appreciated. Make a note in the instructions box if you have a preference as to which project your donation will support.

We thank you, in advance, for your support. 

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