History of Project Amigo

 

Project Amigo began informally when Ted Rose visited the state of Colima in 1984 to climb a volcano. He took the wrong bus, didn't get to the volcano, and found himself in a poverty-stricken village named Cofradia de Suchitlan. That mistake, and a few other fortuitous events, led to his decision a couple of years later to trade his comfortable life as the owner of an office machine company for a life surrounded by wonderful, and very poor, children who appeared to need a helping hand if they were to break out of poverty.

 

In December of 1984, Ted and his wife Susan Hill went to Colima to hold a Christmas party for 50 disadvantaged rural children that Ted had met a few months earlier. The children lived in an albergue: a room and board facility provided by the State Education Department to help families send up to three of their children to primary school.

 

In 1986, Ted and Susan moved to Mexico and set up a small typing school at the albergue. Boys and girls in 5th and 6th grades learned to type and discovered that such a skill could help them find better employment.

 

With growing support from and participation by friends and fellow Rotarians in both the United States and Colima, Ted and Susan extended their involvement with other state albergues in 1990, bringing educational materials, access to dental care and cavity-prevention programs, and educational field trips to nearly 200 children each year. These programs were (and still are) intended to keep children motivated to stay in school to finish their primary school education.

 

In 1996, the Rotary Club of Novato (California) sponsored the organization of "Rotary Project Amigo" as a registered U.S. public charity. It gained formal recognition in Mexico as a non-profit asociacion civil in 1998. Formal association with Rotary International was ended in 2002, resulting in today's independent Project Amigo. Represented by a separate Board in Canada, the Project Amigo Canada Society is presently awaiting formal designation as a recognized charity.    

 

Acting on the ideas and expertise of both staff and long-term volunteers, Project Amigo began inviting service-oriented Rotarians and others to visit Project Amigo in Mexico on humanitarian service weeks. As Project Amigo continued to grow, we created weekly "homework clubs" (offering tutoring, counseling, emotional support, and distribution of weekly scholarship funds), established a school for children of migrant sugar cane workers at the Queseria labor camp, and established a boarding facility--Casa Amiga--near the Universty of Colima.

 

The state-run albergues were closed in 1999, and the Queseria migrant school was formally integrated into the Mexican education system in early 2014. Project Amigo has continued to offer incentive programs to disadvantaged 4th, 5th and 6th graders in rural communities in the Colima area. The scholarship program in place today (for students in 7th grade through high school) had its humble beginnings in 1996, growing from the initial 7 junior high school scholarships to over 100 junior high and high school students each year.

 

In 2002, a small handful of recent high school graduates expressed their desires to continue on to college. The first college scholarships were given that year, and now over 30 students are in our university scholarship program.

 

Ted and Susan are now retired, and Project Amigo is led by a talented, dynamic group of over 20 staff members. The program continues to grow and evolve. In 2016, an Education Center opened in Queseria to better serve the young people who live in the migrant camp. Over 1,400 students have been served by our program through a field trip to the turtle preserve, to finishing high school, to over 60 students graduating from university. Of those 60 university graduates, 95% are employed. 

 

We believe in ending poverty through education. Our graduates prove that that is possible as they build better houses for themselves and their families, as they raise their children with more opportunities, as they put their siblings through university, and as they give back to Project Amigo to sponsor students.

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