The neighboring communities of Ajijic and Tepehua, Mexico are a study in contrasts. Situated next to beautiful Lake Chapala in the State of Jalisco, Ajijic is a thriving town populated by a mix of locals and American and Canadian ex-pats. Travel just a short way into the hills however, and the tidy streets and well-kept homes of Ajijic give way to the poverty of the marginalized village of Tepehua.
In Tepehua, homes are mostly one-room cinderblock affairs with corrugated metal roofs, lacking indoor plumbing, running water, and insulation. Wood stoves are used for cooking and heat. Houses are cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and wet during the rainy season.
Over the years, the Catalina Rotary Club has partnered with the Rotary Club of Ajijic on a variety of projects around Lake Chapala, including help for the residents of Tepehua. Here are just two:
Scholarship Money for Education
Public school is available in Mexico – supposedly free. But the cost of school fees, uniforms, lunch, etc. are not included. And that keeps many children living in poverty out of school. School fees for a year is $40 USD. While not much by many standards, this puts education out of reach for most children in Tepehua.
In 2012, Catalina Rotarians began reaching into their pockets to send Tepehua kids to school. We started with that year’s crop of kindergarten-aged children, providing tuition for nineteen (19). The numbers have grown each year. In 2020, we donated funds for seventy-two (72) scholarships. And our original group of nineteen is now in 7th grade!
In addition, a Catalina Rotary alumnus and his wife donated $10,000 to help pay for post-secondary education for Tepehua students who have finished high school.
Without the help of Catalina Rotarians, the eager students of Tepehua would not be able to continue their education. Young Tepehua scholars who have moved on to college have promised to return to help their community in the future.
By the way – Catalina Rotary donates school fees every October. Would you like to join our effort and “adopt” a Tepehua student for $40? Contact us to find out how.
Clean Drinking Water
Naturally occurring arsenic in the water available to Tepehua and nearby communities through taps and hoses creates severe kidney diseases for hundreds of people each year, forcing many into dialysis at an early age. The Tepehua Community Center can provide families with sanitized, affordable drinking water – but the center desperately needed five-gallon bottles called garrafón in order to distribute the clean water.
Each garrafón costs $7 USD. In 2020, members of the Catalina Rotary Club donated the money needed to buy sixty-two (62) garrafónes.