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Report on Mexico Earthquake Relief Efforts: Prepared by Drew Vogt, Oaxaca, Mexico

Over the weekend of October 20th, 2017, my team and I lead a relief effort trip to the southern Mexico coastline area of Juchitan in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. It is located six hours drive southwest of Oaxaca city. This region was severely effected by an 8.2 earthquake on September 8, with significant tremors and earthquakes continuing almost daily. 20-30% of Juchitan’s thousands of houses were destroyed or rendered unsafe. Casa de Kids collaborated to expedite this effort with Rainbow World Fund, from San Francisco, CA. A Oaxaca city contact of mine, inspired this RWF trip, donated the use of a 30 foot semi-truck to take the goods.

I was honoured to represent Rainbow World Fund and Casa de Kids, and was the only “gringo” on our trip. Most of our 8 team members were natives from here with connections in Juchitan. Our team visited 5 of the towns that were the most severely damaged. Out of respect for the people effected, most of the worst scenes I did not photograph; I could not, as the residents of the former houses were watching, and/or sitting under a tarp on their empty plot where their houses once stood. Hundreds if not thousands are living and waiting under tarps, fairly exposed to the elements, hoping that somehow they’ll be able to rebuilt. Unfortunately, it was the population who built with very little funds, maybe over generations, that could not afford to lose anything. There is an obvious lack of males between 20–50 years of age, as they’re said to be working up north, meaning northern Mexico or the U.S. We brought relief to the towns of: Santa Maria-Xadani, Union Hidalgo, Ixtaltepec, and Juchitan, comprising a total population of 140,000 persons. In Xadani, for example, about 80% of the homes were decimated or severely damaged. Over forty people were killed by this earthquake in this region.

Arriving to the destination meant leaving the main highway lined with miles of rubble, dumped wherever possible to clear the residential lots of local towns. I was riding in the semi-truck. As we entered the first town, we saw block after block of rubble, house after house had collapsed or been scraped clean with piles of brick and twisted metal lining the sidewalks. After ten minutes drive through the town, I realised that neither my driver nor I had said a word. Nothing. It was too much to process. I’d never seen anything like it, and could not say anything. By the time our truck and van reached the first site that we’d planned to use as a base camp, some of our team members were in tears. They tried to hide them from the crowd that immediately gathered around the van. Before we could unpack they were asking for food and supplies.

Out of sight, we divided up the food stuffs into 450 bags with the basics for a few days, such as corn meal, salt, sugar, oil, sardines, chilis, beans and rice. A second package was designed for nursing moms, that included milk, baby food, diapers, and cleaning supplies. Distributing them into the neighbourhoods, and quickly deciding who needed them, or who needed sleeping pads and drinking water meant scouting for decimated lots. This was uncomfortable for us as residents watched us from under their tarps. When our van would stop, people would come from all directions. We gave out bags of food to about 5-10 households, then had to quickly take off before the crowds overwhelmed us. For two days we distributed the food packages plus 50 tarps, 50 sleeping pads, medicine, drinking water, clothes, a few toys and school supplies for kids. The sleeping pads were usually distributed to the elderly and children who had no bed or mattress. We usually had to carry them into their tents or “sleeping quarters” to place them on the concrete flooring, or wooden slatted frame.

A few temporary tent structures could be seen here and there, on empty lots, or public parks that had been donated by China and a few from Canada (they are marked in obvious ways to signify their country of origin). I saw none from the USA nor other countries. The Mexican government is processing claims for assistance, but I imagine that similar to the difficulties of such an effort, as the US experienced after Hurricane Katrina, it may be years before some people have a home. The people in this tropical region like to cook and relax outdoors, so only a very small 1-2 room structure is needed for even a large family.

In collaboration with Rainbow World Fund, we may be planning another trip very soon with a focus on longterm solutions, which may include water purification methods, temporary shelters, and more tarps. Any Readers who have contacts for these can refer them to me at: DrewVogt@yahoo.com

If you’d like to donate to this cause, almost 100% goes to help the people with almost zero used for administrative costs. To make a tax deductible donation to this effort, go to our website, donate, and notate on the form “Mexico Relief”: www.Rainbowfund.org . Thank you very much for caring. –Drew L. Vogt, Oaxaca, Mexico, October 24, 2017.

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Sincere Thanks

We at Casa de Kids would like to thank the many recent individual donors for their generous donations, most of whom prefer to remain private. You have enabled us to send a new female student to a local university, whose dream it is to become a teacher, and for us to send two new young men to attend local high schools.
 
We also wish to thank the members and friends of the following communities for their generous support to our non-religious work: Celebrate Life Spiritualist Community (San Francisco, CA), Fraternal Spiritualist Church (San Diego, CA), and Sarasota Center of Light (Sarasota, FL). Their donations have made it possible for us to fund over 20 students’ remedial classes preparing them to enter local colleges and universities; without which they would not quality.
 
Thank you for your love and belief in our world’s children! We know that even one educated child can help change the world. Thanks to you we are now sponsoring three full time college students, and two high school level students. We continue to support the residents of Casa Hogar orphanage as needed, for example supplementary foods, school uniforms and supplies, and hygiene items. In last twelve months Casa de Kids has hosted over 20 social events with these worthy kids. These were fun and educational events outside the orphanage, such as birthday parties,  graduation celebrations, museum outings, and recreational trips to local parks.
 
If you are inspired to donate to these amazing students’ ongoing expenses, your tax-deductible donation can be made securely on our website here, or you can mail checks to CdK to: PO Box 51282, Sarasota, FL 34232.
 
Thank you.
 
Sincerely,
Drew L. Vogt, CdK President & co-founder

Inspiring Ten More

Recently Jeanne and I hosted the first luncheon to meet with our ten new students and their moms.

A few relatives also showed up, but no dads. They all loved Jeanne’s salad and home made brownies.

CdK is sponsoring these five girls and five boys who were on a waiting list for sponsors, unable to attend school till someone “showed up.” Well, thanks to many of you, our CdK sponsors, we are able to do this.

They started out very shyly, but we used humor and games to break past that.

We also accepted an invitation to attend one their birthday parties (for Mario) a few days later. The party was in their home in a nearby village, where they graciously received us, dined with us, and so we celebrated Mario’s ninth birthday! CdK gifted him an assortment of school supplies he’ll need in August when he goes back to school.

We are glad their futures are looking brighter! Their mom’s smiles and appreciation is priceless. Thank you for helping to make this possible.

–Drew Vogt

Appreciating Volunteerism

IMG_0291Humanitarian projects are dependent on humans making choices to volunteer. This week the entire Casa de Kids Board and I would like to thank you Martha Lopez from the bottom of our hearts for her many hours of volunteering.

She has been a dedicated wellspring of talent and service on our Board. While she is moving out of her CdK Vice President’s role to focus on her career, we wish her all the best of personal success and joy. Her many efforts with our social media and fundraising have been invaluable and we are forever grateful.

Thank you Martha for inspiring us so much.

Yesterday, on your behalf, we took some of the kids out grocery shopping at a local Oaxaca market. They especially needed cheese (a rare luxury in their dining room), so here they are showing off cheeses we bought with Jeanne Avery’s help.

Thank you!

Casa de Kids Sponsors Schooling for Ten Children

Here’s our exciting news from Mexico!

Last Friday, June 3, 2016, representing Casa de Kids, my associate Jeanne and I were scheduled to meet with supervisors of a street children’s project. We were arranging to sponsor ten children’s education, here in Oaxaca, for one year each! So-called “street children” are kids who cannot afford to go to school and so they end up working in the streets alone selling trinkets while their parents (if they have them) are away or at work.

To our great surprise, when we arrived at the appointment, not only were the ten kids present–so were their moms! These five girls and five boys could not go to school due to lack of funds and were on a waiting list for sponsors. (Here in Mexico, public school is not “free”, there are fees such as uniforms, books, etc. without which enrollment is prohibited. Their appreciative moms were glowing with smiles while the kids were bright-eyed and beaming with promise. Several of them gave us little gifts, or wanted their photo taken with us. The shy moms gratefully shook our hands, seemingly in awe at such generosity by strangers for their babies. The amazing thing is that sponsoring all ten kids for one year each totals a mere: $2,500. USD!

Soon we will be able to meet individually with their families as well as receive report cards from their schools. We are thrilled by so many donors’ assistance that makes this possible. For every child we help out of poverty–we change the world!

We will keep you updated with more good news in the near future!

Muchas gracias for your interest and support!
In gratitude, Drew L. Vogt, CdK President, Oaxaca, Mexico.

We’ve Had a Busy May

Dear Friends of Casa de Kids,

CROPEDBPE_5834What a busy month it has been thus far! May 2 was our travel date to return to Sarasota for the third annual Cinco de Mayo fundraiser. Thanks to all of you who supported CdK in this endeavor and special thanks to JimmyLee Trautwein and Michael Mrazik for their countless hours of preparation. Together with their team of volunteers, this event was once again a great success–just ask anyone who attended.

Now back home in Oaxaca, life is getting back to “normal” but hasn’t slowed down one bit! Last evening, we celebrated Santiago’s 21st birthday by treating him to a nice dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Zocolo. (For those of you who don’t know, the Zocolo is the beautiful town center in Oaxaca. It is lined with trees, has a huge fountain, and is always bustling with activity.) Santiago is currently employed at a company in Oaxaca center doing computer work five days a week. He lives approximately 45 minutes out of town and rides a bus to and from his office every day. His dwelling is small, not allowing him the ability to prepare meals. So, most days, sandwiches are his only option. Dining in a nice restaurant was a rare treat and something, I believe, he will remember for years to come. It made my heart joyful to see him smile. What a fine young man he is! So much credit for the boys’ successes are due to the “mother” they have in Lulu who has taught them life skills during their time in Procasa Hogar and continues to mentor them into adulthood.

My focus is now turning to Daniel. He is a teenager and struggling in school. His grades have been poor. But, I am convinced that with some effort on my part, CdK can find Daniel tutoring to help him over this rough period. I have already made a contact and plan to investigate further who might be best able to assist us in getting Daniel the help he needs.

Luborio is a young man who tries not to smile. He would like to but the need for dental work keeps his smiles to a minimum. Two years’ ago, there was a group of dentists from Michigan doing volunteer work in Oaxaca for a two week period. Perhaps there is another group of dental volunteers planning to visit. I know there is help out there–free or not! Dental work for Luborio could change his life. CdK can make it happen for this deserving young man.

Drew has watched these boys grow up during the years he has been travelling to Oaxaca. Now that we are living here, we can zero in on where the need is the greatest. Daniel and Loborio will be my focus until their needs are met. I will keep you updated on the progress. It takes time to make the contacts and implement a strategy. But, it will happen. Two years ago, when I was visiting Oaxaca for the first time, I realized that we only need to help one child and that child could change the world! That thought will remain with me for as long as I can make a difference. Together, the differences we make will be huge!

Proud Board Member of Casa de Kids

Oaxaca Update from Jeanne

Dear Friends of Casa de Kids,

CROPEDBPE_5834Life in Oaxaca is everything I thought it would be and much more. I feel I have arrived “home” with a purpose. Drew and I have been living here since February 1. As you can imagine, it took us time to get settled into an empty house. I can’t tell you how many times I needed something only to realize I hadn’t brought it with me on the plane but had it “shipped” (the dreaded word!). But, finally, all the shipped items arrived mid-March. Another step closer to making the house feel like our home. In spite of all we needed to accomplish, we have been able to find time to focus on our true mission. We began reacquainting ourselves with the young boys ages 6 through 11 at Procasa Hogar in Oaxaca Centro. There are currently 13 boys residing in the orphanage under the direction of a wonderful woman named Lulu. She is their everything! Together with the boys’ athletic director, Enrique, Lulu somehow manages to truly care for each and every youngster. I can feel the good energy throughout the orphanage from the moment I walk through the door. The boys and staff are always extremely enthusiastic to see us arrive. But, not surprisingly, Drew can light up their little faces. During our first visit to the orphanage this year, we found Christian with two broken arms. He was unable to attend school or play with the other boys. Sad face ? I must say! When the time came to say adios, Drew had brought a smile to Christian’s face and a sparkle back into his eyes. I am happy to report that Christian has mended and is back in school and back to rough-housing (yes, rough-housing) with his friends.

Continue to follow our adventures and accomplishments in Oaxaca and learn how you can make a difference. We have only just begun!

Proud Board Member of Casa de Kids,
Jeanne Avery
April 22, 2016

Why Me? Why You?

By CDK President and Co-Founder Drew Vogt

12049175_478666955646317_1736322585375022107_nWhy Me? Why You?  Recently when I was asked if I’d been an elementary school teacher, I said No. My background in business management and the non-denominational ministry had no connection with working with children. So, they asked, “Why are you doing this orphanage work?” Immediately, I responded, that when I became aware of this life-changing work, “How could I not respond? Like many, I was from a place that assumed food and education were available, and here I could see the opposite. SO, why ME? I cared for these orphaned boys less fortunate than many. Why YOU? For every child we assist out of poverty, we change the world in measurable ways. Entire families are helped.  I hope you too will care.

When Shoes Are More Than Shoes

IMG_9733By CDK President and Co-Founder Drew Vogt

A few years ago I learned how important shoes are for impoverished children barred from classes if they weren’t wearing shoes. So, here in Oaxaca, I’ve been extra conscious that when “our boys” need shoes, it is a top priority. Yes they need them, but having proper shoes for classes and sports events are more than “needs”, they are symbols of being cared for, and symbols of access. Through classes and sports they access new opportunities that most of their parents never imagined. Some of our older students are now in college or schools of higher education. Our love and generosity is expressed to them through new shoes. Recently we took four of them out to buy new shoes. You can help make this ongoing support possible with a monthly, or one time, tax deductible gift. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Settling in to Our New Home

By CDK President and Co-Founder Drew Vogt

What color house would you like when you grow up?

What color house would you like when you grow up?

Our first few weeks living in Oaxaca has been surprisingly smooth, but yet we realize we are learning about a new culture. We are guests here among people who date their ancestry back to before the time of Christ. Caught up between the old world and the new are our orphans. The brave new world includes the possibility of self-reliance and a career. When they are asked, “What color house would you like when you grow up?” they will not answer–for they’ve not ever imagined owning a house. They have no recollection of comfort or the privileges brought about by education and fair wages. Besides food, clothing, and schooling–we at CdK are offering them a route OUT of poverty, a way to break the cycle of poverty and move up to self-fulfillment. Thank you Reader for helping to make this possible, through us.

Heartfelt Connections between Sarasota and Oaxaca

By CdK VP Martha Lopez

CROPPEDMarthaLopez-10022014-079(Sarasota, Florida, February 23, 2016) – Recently, a message popped up on my phone that caused a huge smile to spread across my face. Out of nowhere, a message from Liborio! I first met Liborio at a dinner with our group that traveled to Oaxaca for the Guelaguetza Festival last July. Several of the young men that lived in the boys’ orphanage we support were there. We loved Liborio for his polite and gentle manner. We connected even further when we found out that he is Wilberth’s older brother. Wilberth is a current resident at the orphanage we visit. He first captured our hearts in the summer of 2014. Many of us on the board have gotten to spend time with him. We’ve had ice cream, shared meals and toured AtDominosmuseums together. I was so happy to be able to catch up with Liborio and ask about his little brother. I love that technology allows us to offer friendship and nurture connections, no matter the distance.

A few days ago, I met with Jimmy and Michael, who both serve on the CdK board. We all share a favorite memory from our 2015 trip that involves Liborio and Wilberth. Drew, Jeanne, Jim, Michael and I were all together in Oaxaca for the second year in a row. The boys’ gym teacher and coach, Enrique, invited all of us to watch the kids play a soccer game. It must have been apparent to him how affectionately we took to the boys. These young people don’t have parents in the stands cheering them on and making a raucous on their behalf. All of us were absolutely thrilled to go watch the kids play. Most of them don’t have proper soccer uniforms or cleats. One young man’s shoe flew off his foot as he was trying to kick the ball. Proper equipment or not, they had fun. In the midst of the game, it began to pour. The kids got soaked. The five of us WilberthandLiborioaftersoccerwere seated on some bleachers underneath a tin roof. There we sat, huge smiles on our faces, the rain falling on all of us. It didn’t matter. The afternoon could not have been more perfect.

The soccer field was behind a large mall. After the game was over, we found a Domino’s Pizza and we ate together with the children. Through this experience, much bonding took place. Friendships were formed and memories were created.

This spring, Jimmy and Michael will host their 3rd annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Sarasota, Florida to support these orphaned and abandoned children. This is personal for all of us. We know these kids. We know how bright and deserving they are to have an education. We may not be able to cheer them on every weekend on the soccer field, but they do have Drew and Jeanne’s support in Oaxaca. And they have our support from afar.

Save the date and join us for our Cinco de Mayo Celebration on Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 6 p.m. Jeanne and Drew are flying in from Oaxaca to attend, so you’ll hear about the kids’ progress and their work with them first hand.  Come celebrate and support a great cause.  RSVP here!

When Moving is Coming Home

By CDK President and Co-Founder Drew Vogt

As CdK President, I relocated to Oaxaca, Mexico, Feb. 1st, with one of our Trustees, Jeanne A.  After coming her for orphanage work 8 years in a row, it feels much like coming home. This capital is alive with the hustle and bustle typical of urban centers. It attracts people looking for work and opportunity. Orphans are a part of this mix, sometimes they were unwanted “accidents”, sometimes abandoned by families that cannot feed them, or parents who’ve gone to the USA for a “better life”—without them. Thus the importance of our CdK work for them: Food, shelter, education.

We’re On An Adventure

Hello Friends and Big Hearts,

Snip20150714_18We are on an adventure! I and one of our Casa de Kids co-founders are moving to Mexico in January! THIS is huge. For over 8 years I’ve been assisting the brave and charming orphans in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico….now I want to do it full time!

Helping from a distance is challenging, being there in person will be amazing. So we created a 501(c)3 and ready now to establish our own orphanage.

Some of our kids do not have enough food, medicine, school supplies and shelter. This is SO REAL. You can make a difference! I’m inviting you to “Like Us” on Facebook, or make a tax-deductible donation on our website.

Thank you for caring!

In Sincerity,

Drew Vogt, President & Co-founder.

Casa de Kids is now a federally recognized 501(c)3 organization. EIN: 47-4062411

All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. You will receive a US Dollar donation receipt via email.

Please consider donating and helping orphans in Mexico. Donate today.

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Our Mission

Our mission is to care for and empower orphans by providing housing, education and life skills.