We talked with many families in Villa Garcia, Zacatecas, Mexico, and asked them how we could best help.  Almost all of them asked us to help to keep their children in school.  They wanted better lives for their children, and they knew that education was the answer.

Educational Sponsorship’s (main project):

Our primary work is a sponsorship program that helps young people, with a real chance to succeed, to stay in school.  There are currently over 60 sponsored students.  The majority of students are in the university, however, we do have students of all ages.  We focus on university students because they are soon able to graduate, find work, help their families, and become the community leaders of the future.

Our students need to maintain an overall average of 80%, attend monthly student meetings, perform community service, write to their sponsors regularly, and generally have good attitudes.  We want to nurture responsibility, leadership, appreciation, and the sense that we are all members of a team, working together for common goals.

Sr. Fran Smith and Scarlett Shaffer are our leaders in Villa Garcia.  They monitor our programs with considerable wisdom, insight, and kindness.  They have personal relationships with each sponsored student and with their families.  They have formed and mentored a parents’ committee, and have helped them to become full partners in monitoring and leading our program.  They regularly consult with village leaders, school principals, and faculty to help them in deciding which students we should sponsor. This grass-roots involvement helps us to select students who are motivated to succeed, accept their responsibilities, and have supportive families.

Fair Trade (smaller project):

In the early years of our travels to Villa Garcia, we began to notice hand- made looms in many of the homes and work areas.  We learned that the village had a tradition of weaving that went back hundreds of years.

So, we started a Fair Trade program in conjunction with a family business of local weavers.  We pay them a fair price for their hand-crafted rugs and tapestries, then sell them at various fair trade and craft shows around the Austin area.  All of the profits from these sales go back into our sponsorship program.  Both the weavers and the students are helped thru this program.