La Casa de los Niños is an after school enrichment center for children, for primary and middle school age, who live in and around the town of Lo de Marcos. It is a place where children can study, get help with their homework, have access to a library and computers, play games, work on art projects, take English classes, learn about personal health and environmental protection, and most importantly, have fun!
In order to reach our goals, we have three maestros and a student helper from the local community. We also invite volunteers from the local community to coordinate activities; have established links with US universities who have sent volunteer teachers who share their knowledge with the children and staff; and we have solicited donations of monetary funds to meet expenses, purchase supplies, materials and equipment which are needed on an on-going basis.
La Casa was founded by two couples, Patti and David Martinez and Jim and Dulce Hendrich, who happened upon each other with a mutual goal of providing further resources and opportunity to the kids of Lo de Marcos.
La Casa also symbolizes a very personal mission for Patti and David. The Martinez's daughter and her young family were traveling to Mexico to begin an after school program for kids when they were hit and killed by a drunk driver in northern California. Patti and David took it upon themselves to continue their daughter's mission and now La Casa serves as memorial to their lives.
Dulce Heinrich had been tutoring kids in her home and thought that a place for kids to go after school to get help with homework and perhaps do art projects would be a good thing. We decided then and there that we would find a small place in town and call it La Casa de los Niños!
On December 12, 2005, we opened our doors and found 85 kids waiting to come in! Luckily, we had a number of volunteers recruited from the snowbird ranks that come down to Lo de Marcos and split everyone into groups and went off to various parts of town and the beach, as our small space couldn't manage that many kids.
We soon grew out of the small space and moved into a larger space within four months. We have had English classes, ongoing art classes, computers to use for homework, a great kitchen to bake and cook, a game room, sports activities, and most recently, the creation of a library.
Our kids have performed community service work, cleaned trash from the beach and streets, baked treats and delivered them to the senior center, educated others about the importance of recycling, and participated in bi-yearly spay and neuter clinics hosted by La Casa.
Before the creation of La Casa de Los Ninos, there was no learning, community center for kids, and the resources offered at their schools and homes were very minimal. La Casa has filled the void for a safe and enriching gathering place for elementary school kids in Lo de Marcos.
Now these kids have a sanctuary composed of thousands of donations from people across the globe. The building is filled with toys and games, art supplies, computers, educational materials, cultural decorations, a library of both english and spanish books, and a fully equipped kitchen. The compound also consists of a soccer field, flower gardens, patios and soon to be organic garden.
La Casa is open four days a week for two hours during the afternoon. Up to 60 kids attend every day of the year. This is only made possible through the kindness of its benefactors. La Casa is an non-profit organization that functions solely upon the generosity of others through their monetary donations, material donations and the gracious offering of their services as volunteers.
The daily inter-workings of the center is directed by the main instructor, Clara, and her assistant, Triny. These two fabulous women exemplify kindness, sincerity, trust, and joy through each and every one of their actions as the leaders of this phenomenal center. Their lesson plans celebrate the vibrant Mexican culture, cherish the youth and energy of these young ones, inspire the kid's senses with new experiences and challenge their minds to strive towards moral and academic excellence.
La Casa de los Niños is a registered non-profit in the US and is supported by donations of money, supplies, materials, computers and furniture. Our expenses include rent, utilities, salaries for two teachers and the purchase of various materials and supplies. Our estimated yearly expenses are little over $10,000 US.
We have a number of fundraisers throughout the year, a golf tournament in nearby El Monteon, ice cream socials and bake sales in the states, and our Eternal Circle of Light ceremony held on the anniversary date of our family tragedy.
Donations are continually received via the Spencer Martinez Memorial Fund, c/o of Westamerica Bank, 800 Gravenstein Hwy, Sebastopol, CA 95472.
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