Retirement is a great time to catch up on personal hobbies, get in some hammock time, and travel to new places you’ve been meaning to explore. It’s also a time that, for some, means that we now have an opportunity to give back to the world.
This is probably especially true in Mexico, where 33% of people live in moderate poverty and 10% in extreme poverty. Here at Lake Chapala, there are countless people and four-legged friends that could use your help.
Your free time, even more than monetary donations, can be a valuable resource in a country whose citizens work longer than any other country, but for a minimum daily wage of only $102 pesos (about $5 US dollars).
If you’ve been looking for the chance to make a difference in the lives of the people and animals around your community, check out these 15 volunteer opportunities at Lake Chapala.
This newly organized volunteer-run food bank, FoodBank Lakeside, is responding to the coronavirus pandemic by providing the local Mexican community with the groceries that they need to keep their families fed. Many people are out of work and likely will be without jobs for some time. Most people live day to day and week to week, depending on their next paycheck to pay the rent, food and expenses. With “non-essential” businesses closed until at least the end of April (and most likely for much longer), many people are wondering what they will do in order to make ends meet.
FoodBank Lakeside is looking for donations to help pay for families’ weekly food expenses. A $15 USD donation feeds a family of two for one week. A $30 donation feeds a family of four. Each family receives a food kit that includes items such as rice, beans, pasta, oil, sugar, eggs, laundry soap, milk, oats, lentils, bath soap, and tuna. They are taking donations via PayPal and SquareUp.
They also need volunteers, especially Spanish-speaking ones, to help with making food deliveries and to help coordinate the response in each town. They especially need volunteers now in Chapala, San Antonio, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas, San Pedro and Mezcala. If you want to volunteer, fill out this form.
You can find out additional information about the food bank, plus how you can donate, on their Facebook page.
Paso a Paso San Pedro
Paso a Paso San Pedro is a private community organization that is responding to the chronic kidney disease crisis east of Chapala in the municipality of Poncitlán. Between 2010 and 2018, there have been 2,180 registered cases of kidney disease in the municipality of 52,000. That’s 4.2% of the population. 300 of those cases are children in the small village of San Pedro Itzicán, with another 270 children (28% of those tested) who are affected in nearby Agua Caliente. Currently, there are 4,000 children under analysis in the area.
The state of Jalisco has 600,000 cases of kidney disease, making it the second-worst region in the world for kidney-related death and ailments. The epicenter of this crisis is just an hour east of Chapala.
Paso a Paso is a group of foreign residents from Ajijic who have been involved with the communities east of Mezcala for the last three years. They take donations of clothes, food, shoes, nonperishable items and medicine to the residents in these affected communities.
Since September of 2018, Paso a Paso has united forces with marked.org who are located at the San Pedro Itzicán Community Center. For the last five years, Marked has worked to bring important projects to these communities, bringing the communities a hope of a better way of life.
Paso a Paso San Pedro is looking for volunteers for summer programs in July and August 2019. Plus, they need volunteers for:
- Mondays: art camp (painting, crafts)
- Tuesdays: movie day (kids) / leather crafting, sewing and jewelry making class (adults)
- Wednesdays: sports camp (soccer, basketball, volleyball)
- Thursdays: movie and relay races in La Peña
- Fridays: lunch programs / values class
They also need donations to keep the pantry stocked for lunch programs (beans, rice, oil, lentils, oatmeal, sugar, spaghetti pasta) and donations for the thrift store (kitchen items, shoes, clothes for kids, women, men). Donations can be dropped off at Bohemia Shop (Ocampo #3B, Ajijic).
Huarachess Chess Club
Huarachess Chess Club meets Saturdays at the Lake Chapala Society to teach kids how to play chess. If you have basic chess abilities and one or two hours a week to tutor kids, contact Roy Quiriconnia at 331-705-1636.
If you know of a child who would benefit from learning chess and would like to have fun, contact Huarachess’s director, Robert Serrano, at 331-428-4180.
Lakeside Spay and Neuter Clinic (a.k.a. The Ranch)
Lakeside Spay and Neuter Clinic, usually referred to as The Ranch, is a non-profit no-kill shelter for about 70 dogs that’s located in the hills north of Lake Chapala. The Ranch relies on monetary donations, which primarily go towards food and vet expenses. Almost all the staff at The Ranch are volunteers.
Volunteers are needed to attend to and walk the dogs, along with helping out with fundraising activities. You can also help out by fostering dogs, cleaning, grooming, carpentry, computer work, or by donating items. Items needed include dog food, cleaning supplies, newspapers, large rawhide chew bones, blankets and choke chains.
Of course, the most wonderful thing that you could probably do is adopt one of their dogs.
Operation Feed is a community-based charity that contributes 100% of its donations to the people of San Juan Cosalá, which is about 15 minutes west of Ajijic. They are dedicated to providing food and improving the lives of the town’s impoverished and marginalized. Most of the charity’s recipients are children, the elderly, and the disabled. They receive no federal, state or municipal funding from the government.
Operation Feed’s weekly food distributions provide food to townspeople who would otherwise go hungry. Their initiatives help people find sources of income and develop skills such as English. The charity’s goal is to help people lead productive lives free from hunger.
You can help out by making a donation or by volunteering. They need volunteers for their many activities and food drives, plus assistance with fundraising, computer work and other help. Fill out the volunteer form on their website to become a volunteer today.
Hope House provides a home to abandoned, neglected, and abused boys in Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos. They provide education and vocational training for their kids, in safe, structured environments such as aquaponics and horticulture programs, and a professional-level woodworking classroom.
Hope House seeks volunteers who are conversant in Spanish and can provide two personal references from non-family members. Past volunteer opportunities include grounds work, wood shop, painting, cleaning, laundry, and getting kids ready for classes.
You can also contribute to Hope House by purchasing the desserts at Sweets & Treats Ajijic. All the proceeds from the sale of the store’s edibles are donated to Hope House.
School for Special Children
The School for Special Children in Jocotepec improves the educational opportunities for disabled students pre-school to 35. The primary handicaps that children at the School For Special Children experience are Downs Syndrom, West Syndrome, blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, autism, and neuromotor disorders.
Villa Infantil, A.C.
Villa Infantil is an orphanage that provides a home to about 20-30 neglected, abused, and abandoned children aged 1-18. It’s been run since 1996 by a group of Catholic Sisters from the Congregation of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph, along with volunteers and benefactors. The orphanage is located on the south shore of Lake Chapala between the towns of San Pedro Tesitán and San Cristóbal Zapotitlán.
Villa Infantil relies on donations, fundraisers, and benefactors to feed, clothe, and educate the children, plus their medical, dental and vision care.
You can make a monetary donation to Villa Infantil through the Foundation for Lake Chapala Charities website. They also accept donations of clothing, non-perishable food items, personal and cleaning items. Drop off your donations at Villa Infantil directly, or at Church San Andrés in Ajijic before or after the 9 a.m. mass.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to arrange for the delivery of perishable items.
Los Niños de Chapala y Ajijic, A.C.
Los Niños de Chapala y Ajijic (NCA) provides scholarships for underprivileged kids and young adults. This includes paying for the cost of education, including books, uniforms, supplies and school fees. NCA has helped thousands of children between Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos, San Pedro Izticán and Jocotepec since it was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1977.
You can help by sponsoring a child.
Niños Incapacitados helps Mexican families pay for the medical expenses of children who have serious disabilities or life-threatening diseases. They reimburse the medial, pharmaceutical and physical expenses of children enrolled in the program. About 165 children receive assistance from Niños Incapacitados.
Days For Girls
Days For Girls is the local chapter of an international organization which provides sustainable feminine hygiene products and health education to girls. These are girls who would otherwise miss school without proper hygiene products.
Girls receive handmade, reusable menstrual pads and hygiene kits made by local volunteers. Each kit includes two pads (which have two parts: a shield and a liner), plus underwear, soap, a washcloth, and other essentials.
The educational component of Days For Girls’ work includes health, reproduction, hygiene, unwanted pregnancies, family and community violence, and general empowerment.
Days For Girls needs volunteers to help them sew kits. Contact team leader Darlene McLeod by email.
You can also make a donation through their website.
Have Hammer, Will Travel
Have Hammer, Will Travel is a charity that each year teaches valuable life and trade skills to about thirty kids and teens aged 10+ through carpentry and woodworking.
They hold a bingo fundraiser every Tuesday at La Vieja Posada. Cards go on sale at 1:00 p.m. and the games start at 1:30 p.m. There are eight games of bingo and two games of the Mexican lotería. The cost is a $200 peso donation.
You can also use the Foundation for Lake Chapala Charities to make a donation, which will go toward funding students’ tuition or toward operational expenses (tools and equipment, materials, utilities, rent, etc.). The program costs $30,000 pesos a year to operate for 30 students.
Cruz Roja — the Red Cross — is responsible around here providing ambulance service to the area. If you have an emergency and need an ambulance to take you to the hospital, the paramedics at Cruz Roja are the ones who will show up at your door.
Donations cover about 45% of the operating costs for the clinic, ambulance, and emergency services. You can make a cash or cheque deposit at the Banamex in Ajijic by depositing the money to: “Cruz Roja Delegación Chapala” (account number 433-5520373). Or visit the Cruz Roja in Chapala for other methods of making a donation.
The Lake Chapala Society
The Lake Chapala Society uses some of its membership fees to cover the cost of the programs that it offers to the local Mexican community. These programs include the children’s art and photography programs, and English as a second language classes for Mexican students 15 to adult.
The Lake Chapala Society’s Student Aid Program helps over 40 low-income students pursue their dreams of post-secondary education at a local university. You can make a donation to this program on their website.
They accept online donations for specific causes, such as teaching English, Spanish books for the Spanish reading library, the children’s art program, and other causes. You can also sign up to be a volunteer.
Ancianitas is a group of non-paid volunteers who provide assistance, food, and companionship to elderly Mexican women at a nursing home at Lake Chapala. They make monthly food deliveries and also make visits to spend time with the women.
Pathways helps teenagers and young adults attend university. The program has helped probably more than 500 young people attend college.
The best way to help out is to sponsor a student.
Do you know of an organization that should be on this list? Contact me with the information.
Last updated April 12, 2020