Co-operation and partnership in Mexico
John Smith of Sol Kids with FT volunteer Megan Johnson
A 2015 report from the True and Fair Foundation entitled ‘A Hornet’s Nest’ looked at 5,543 charities which raised more than £500,000 last year. It claimed that one in five spent less than 50 per cent of their donations on good work, and that 292 charities spent 10 per cent or less on charitable activities.
How refreshing it was then, to hear about the activities of Rochdale-based charity Sol Kids, run by 8 unpaid trustees and supported by a team of unpaid volunteers who cover their own travel expenses. The charity was rescued in 2008 by ex-teacher John Smith, who had been working with the community in the shanty community of Bella Vista on the outskirts of Ensenada, after the large charity that started the project ran into financial difficulties. With the support of friends, family and the Rochdale community, John and his team raise £10,000 per annum to support a daycare centre and provide other help to improve the lives of children in Bella Vista.
The daycare centre provides after-school care for the children, that includes a hot mid-day meal which for some is the only one of the day, followed by sports, arts and crafts activities, help with homework and a late afternoon snack before heading home. In addition there is an all-day nursery for younger children not yet of school age. Sol Kids also help some of the poorest families with providing secondary school uniform and bus fares to school – a real obstacle to education for many families as the add-on costs of free state education, that most of us in the UK take for granted, make going to school very costly for these families.
We also heard from young Fair Trader volunteer Megan Johnson from the 32nd Rochdale Rangers who are visiting Mexico this summer for an international cultural exchange and social action project in Cuernavaca. On the eve of Inauguration Day, our spirits were lifted to learn that, despite Mr Trump’s threatened wall, young people from all over the world are showing their concern, solidarity and support for their less fortunate peers.
As an example of how fair trade is contributing to providing dignified and sustainable employment for poor communities in Mexico, Fair Trader displayed a selection of the beautiful range of 100% re-cycled glassware from Tumi. Since 1978 they have been building up personal relationships with their suppliers in Tonala, who now employ 15 glass blowers who in turn are training a younger generation. The venture also provides work for young people to collect the old beer and soft drinks bottles from which these unique tumblers, jugs and wine glasses are made.
Members enjoyed chilli bean tacos with fair trade ingredients washed down with organic Tod’s Blond from the excellent Little Valley Brewery near Hebden Bridge. Ticket sales and member donations on the night raised £300 to be split between Sol kids and the cost of the Rochdale Rangers' visit to Mexico.