International Friendship Club - ESL Graduation Class
Members of the International Friendship Club (IFC) focus on three major activities. Each year the club raises as much money as it can and that takes many volunteers and many hours. All of the profits of the club are given away to charities or spent on the club's own educational, medical or social services programs and that also takes many hours from many volunteers. And we have fun too.
IFC is famous in Puerto Vallarta for its IFC Home Tours, which generate a large part of the money that eventually finds its way to our programs and charities. Generous homeowners allow IFC to escort bus loads of visitors through their homes a few times a season. The tours leave from the Sea Monkey restaurant each Tuesday and Wednesday morning at 10:30 during the "high season" and take our visitors by luxury buses to four architecturally unique homes located in different parts of Puerto Vallarta. The IFC Home Tours program, which has been going since IFC was formed in1986 and is rated as "excellent" on Trip Advisor, takes a crew of over fifty volunteers each week to ensure our visitors are safe and comfortable and that the homes are left as we find them. All profits from the tours are used to support the club's cleft palate program and our charities.
Income for IFC is also generated from the sale of annual memberships, by charging for Spanish and bridge classes, lectures, Monday night movies, Saturday morning yoga and meditation and participation in social bridge on Friday afternoons. These activities all take many volunteers to put the programs together and to collect the money.
IFC Operates three programs that each help local Mexicans living here. Our "flagship" program is the cleft palate program which provides free surgery and follow-up care to children born with cleft palates and cleft lips. We can do this only because the physicians and nurses who travel from Guadalajara donate their time to this program for free and the CMQ hospital provides complimentary operating rooms. IFC provides logistical help while club supporters open their homes to the medical team and provide accommodation. For over thirty years the club has helped change the lives of hundreds of children.
In 2013 IFC started its dental outreach program in Boca De Tomatlan which provides free dental care to children living in Boca and in the surrounding villages. Once the new medical centre in Boca has been furnished with dental equipment, the weekly trips to PV will no longer be necessary and both children and adults will be serviced in Boca.
The English outreach program was started at the clubhouse a few years ago and more than sixty students register each year to learn basic English. About fifteen volunteers teach the children and adults twice a week for three months in small classes. The program requires a tremendous amount of organization to screen the applicants, assign a level of competency, coordinate the teachers and assemble the teaching material.
In any given year the IFC provides financial support to about eighteen charities. Members of the Education Committee are responsible for assigning the annual education budget of the club, visiting each of the charities and ensuring that the money allocated is spent appropriately. The charities supported through this committee include:
• ALAS, Escuela De Canto that provides kids aged between five and twenty-two the opportunity to sing, dance and perform in public. Kharla Barragan achieves a loving, respectful relationship between her and her students and saves lives with the attention that she gives to each of her students, some of whom come from very disturbed families.
• I AM PV - is an umbrella organization involved in providing musical opportunities to all residents of PV. Currently, it has the PV Chamber Orchestra, the Salty Paws Jazz Orchestra and a couple of school programs under its wings.
• Students in the Leer y Crecerprogram at the American School take books to poor, rural Mexican schools and help the children learn to read.
• At the British American School the students also work with schools in poorer neighbourhoods and take part in special school projects that allow the students to interact with other students and adults at different economic levels.
• IFC support for the library, Biblioteca Los Mangos, has been used to enhance the computer system, provide equipment for the coffee shop and....
• The Volcanes Community Education Project provides extra curricular activities including math, computer, English, music and remedial reading for hundreds of children in the colonial of Volcanes. IFC's money is used to pay teachers' salaries.
• The Youth Orchestra encourages its students to become responsible members of society by teaching the cooperation, discipline and teamwork necessary to learn and perform classical music. The club' money is used to buy musical instruments.
• SETAC's involved with the education of residents and tourists regarding the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. IFC pays for pamphlets and brochures that are distributed on the street to vulnerable people.
• Corazon De Nina provides a home for about forty children who have seen the horrors of abuse, neglect and trafficking. IFC's annual donation is used to pay for some of the many education needs of this shelter.
The other committee responsible for allocating and controlling part of the IFC budget is the Charities Liaison Committee. Currently we support the following charities:
• CANICA provides support to families that have children suffering with cancer and who must make the expensive and lengthy bus journey to Guadalajara, sometimes weekly, for treatment.
• The Salvation Army has a community centre that supports Mexicans living in a poor, urban colonia with after school activities and food for families that need it.
• A newly constructed shelter for women and children suffering from domestic abuse benefits from IFC support. Many of the families there come from indigenous area in the mountains surrounding Puerto Vallarta.
• Casa Hogar Maximo Cornejo is a private orphanage out by the bus station. It caters to about forty kids who have been allocated to it by the Mexican Social Services department. They range in age from infants to teenagers and need food, education and medical supplies.
• Clinica Sta. Barbara provides physical rehabilitation at a reduced cost or in some cases at no cost to the poorer families in Puerto Vallarta.
• Dives in Misericordia is an orphanage providing shelter and food in one of our poorer colonias.
• Pasitos de Luz provides a safe and happy place where children with disabilities can spend the day while their parents are at work. During their stay they receive meals and special physical rehabilitation.
• Boca de Tomatlan Dental Clinic provides free dental care to children in Boca de Tomatlan and surrounding area.
• Arroyos de Esperanza is a community centre in one of our outlying colonias. They provide a place to gather, share food in the community and schooling for the children.
One of our members, Susan Davalos, drives around the poorer parts of the city every two or three weeks and distributes food, diapers and educational supplies to poor families whom she knows. The club provides these supplies for Susan to distribute.
A major attraction of the International Friendship Club is that it is a great place to greet old friends and to meet new ones, not just by volunteering to work on the IFC Home Tours or on committees but by playing bridge on Friday afternoons, taking Spanish Lessons on Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays, attending lectures on Thursday evenings and Friday mornings, playing bunco on Thursdays or meditating on Saturdays. The social highlight of the week is the Friday evening social hour at the clubhouse from 5:00 to 6:00 followed by dinner at a restaurant as part of the dine around program. Everyone is welcome whether IFC members or people just passing through town.
Another attraction of membership is that approximately 80 restaurants and merchants in Puerto Vallarta offer generous discounts to members who patronize them. 10% or 15% deducted from meals bought can quickly recoup a person's cost of membership.
Members of IFC are proud of the club's long history and the beneficial effect that the club has had on the education, health and social services in the city. It has also been instrumental in fostering thousand of friendships between visitors and residents as well as between cultures.
For more information and to become a member of IFC Vallarta, visit International Friendship Club.
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