Thursday, March 14, 2013

School Supplies Needed for the Children of Palomas and Rural Chihuahua

Alexandra Neves's grandmother taught herself to read and write in the face of family and cultural opposition in Brazil. The women of her family, who had wanted to get their own degrees, but could not, rallied around her when she herself decided to become educated. They also supported Neves and her sisters when as young women they traveled into isolated areas of Brazil to administer polio vaccines.

Neves, who now teaches at Western New Mexico University's College of Education, knows the importance of primary education in the development of children into adults.  She has teamed up with the  Bilingual Education Studentt Organization (BESO) at WNMU to organize the third annual school supply and registration drive for the children of Palomas and rural Chihuahua. Without school supplies or registration fees, many children  in Palomas (a small community across the border from Columbus, N.M.) and other areas of rural Chihuahua are unable to attend school. 

The WNMU community and residents of Silver City and southwestern New Mexico are invited to donate items. This year requested donations are limited to eight specific items: spirals, primary tablets, crayons and colored pencils, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners and erasers. New supplies only, but clean pre-owned backpacks are also welcome.

Donated school supplies may be taken to the main office of the College of Education in the Martinez-Fall building on the WNMU campus from March 13 through April 26.

School supplies will be assembled into packets and distributed to children in fall 2013.

"If you can change the life of one child as a teacher, then you have transformed the world," said Neves, who organized very successful 2011 and 2012 WNMU and community drives that raised school supplies for an average of 400 Palomas children per year.  Read article about last year's drive in Silver City Sun-News.

Schools in Palomas
There are an 2,500 people  in Palomas, and at least half of these are children. According to fall 2012 inquiries 800 children are enrolled among the five Palomas schools: Ford, Ignacio Saragoza and Ramon Espinoza elementary schools, the high school Secundaria Tecnica 25, and the preparatory school Escuela Preparatoria Puerto Palomas. These enrolled children do not include those in the kindergarten or the school for disabled children. At least 400 more Palomas children attend school on the U.S. side of the border, and many other Palomas children do not attend school because their families cannot afford school registration fees or supplies.

Registration fees for an elementary school child average only eighteen dollars per year, while fees for high school and preparatory school are higher. Many children are on waiting lists, hoping to be sponsored.

Last year Casa de Amor, operating in Palomas for more than ten years, sponsored 150 school registrations. Dos Manos, a Taos-based tax-exempt non-profit, funded registrations for 100 children. Exact numbers of children sponsored by other, smaller entities or private individuals are not known.

"The best part about the drivesis the interpersonal interaction," said Neves. "Many people come to talk to me, all excited, and it's so nice to see how people are willing to change their perspective of the lives of others, and step forward and help them."

For more information about the school supply drive, contact Professor Alexandra Neves at:

If you live outside western New Mexico and would like to help with this effort, please contact Victoria Tester, executive director of the non-profit organization Dos Manos,  Ms. Tester  will coordinate Dr. Neves' initiative with programs in Palomas.

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