Amigos del Magisterio was born by Lyse & Phil Rioux when they observed the colony of Magisterio, otherwise known as the Puerto Vallarta dump, where the poorest of families live in abject poverty.
In this part of Puerto Vallarta, the residents exist by sorting garbage at the dump. There is no more stock-piling at the dump now, there is no more room. But in Puerto Vallarta almost no recyclables are sorted at the home or business, it all goes into the same recipient.
Therefore, the dump is overloaded but much of it is recyclable material. So the Magisterio people sort through the refuse to find plastic, glass, metal and paper which they are able to sell for a pittance. The remainder of the refuse is loaded onto semi-trailer trucks and taken to a new dump out of town.
If the recyclers received a decent income from their collected materials, it would be not as bad. Unfortunately, the area is tightly controlled and the real income is not passed down to the sorters.
The dump workers make between 50-70 pesos a day, $4-6 in North American terms. They cannot relocate because they cannot afford to and cannot live further away, they cannot afford the bus fare to go to work or the housing further away.
Our support comes from many sources, tourists who come to Puerto Vallarta, friends and families of the organising committee, some staff of the Canadian Grain Commission in Winnipeg, Club Richelieu in Ottawa, special collections at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Maria Reina de la Paz Churches in Puerto Vallarta, to name a few.
We also have a corporate sponsor, Frigorizados La Huerta, vegetable farmers who also freeze their product. They have many lines of frozen foods in Mexico and export the world over. And they are nice people with big hearts. They donated 1300 bags each containing pizzas, lime pies, cheese fondue and 4-5 kilos of vegetables. These we distributed to the schools.
Every year a considerable number of people work with us, from a board of directors coming from all walks of life, mostly North American tourists to people helping with distribution and packaging.
We organize the only project that is 100% donation. No overhead! All our expenses are covered by the volunteers. Even the expenses for the trucks we use for the deliveries, are covered by the truck owners. Given the need, we are all happy to give of ourselves.
Ours is, so far, a winter project operated by tourists. Our contribution is much appreciated. Hard to believe, but without good caring souls, there would be starvation in this part of our beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta.
In 2007, Father Jacques Landry from Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada was in Puerto Vallarta Mexico enjoying the winter and doing Catholic ministry at Nuestra Senora de la Guadalupe Church. Often tourists would give him money "for the poor." He approached us in order to decide how to spend these funds for the utmost benefit of the poor. We also discussed at length where this aid would be focused.
At the time we travelled to Puerto Vallarta with our truck and fifth wheel trailer so the truck would be useful to bring loads of food to any location.
We are semi-retired farmers from Manitoba Canada and are not strangers to volunteer work. We have been married 45 years and have 3 children and 7 grand-children.
We investigated what to purchase and settled on the Mexican staples of rice, beans, cooking oil and sugar. Sugar because the poor gather flower petals and herbs and brew "teas" which are more palatable when sugar is added. Sugar is also used for babies and small children. We also observed many pockets of abject poverty in Puerto Vallarta. But the poorest without a doubt is in Colonia Magisterio, also known as the garbage dump.
We discussed this with several neighbors at Tacho's trailer park and friends and family members in Puerto Vallarta, at home and elsewhere. Soon many wanted to pitch in and a project was born.
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