BECOMING A FAMILY
Sixth Grade Graduation at Narciso Mendoza
AUGUST 15, 2018
Our lives are full of transitions, changes and achievements. These stages mark important times in our growth and development. On July 10th the families of the students of Narciso Mendoza celebrated the graduation of their sixth grade class.
In Mexico, graduating from sixth grade isn’t a small thing. The families show up in hummers and big traditional dresses, prepared to dance and sing. Many of the families in the community are actually single mothers with little to no help from the fathers of their children. Raising a family is hard work, anyone can attest to that, but doing so with limited funds, on your own and after a natural disaster is so much harder. Many children are forced to drop out of school to start working to help support their families.
On September 19th, 2017, these same students were in the middle of class when an event occurred that would change their lives forever. On the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake, at approximately 1pm, an earthquake hit with a magnitude of approximately 7.1.
The natural disaster devastated the states of Morelos, Puebla, Mexico City and outlying areas. As a result, countless homes, schools and stores in Jojutla including Narciso Mendoza were damaged so badly that they had to be completely rebuilt from the ground up.
On March 5th, All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response started work on Narciso Mendoza helping to rebuild the school. Work has continued at an incredible pace and it’s completion is expected mid-September.
During the graduation last month, many speeches were made, congratulations were given and it was clear how proud the students, parents and teachers were of their achievements. Once the formalities were out of the way, there were a myriad of performances, including a parent/child dance and beautifully choreographed traditional Mexican performances.
Beyond working on the school’s construction, the All Hands and Hearts staff and volunteers love spending time with the students, whether they’re playing fútbol together, teaching Spanglish or taking part in an art class.
The last art class started with a game of musical chairs, children and volunteers running around together trying to secure the quickly disappearing seats. After the crowning champion was decided, each All Hands and Hearts volunteer was paired with a student and they were then tasked with creating representative pieces of their partner. Rather than doing portraits they did scenes depicting what they thought/saw in their partners.
One of the volunteers, Oluchi Fenquiu chose to draw a tree for her drawing partner Francisco. She explained to Francisco and his family that in her culture, trees symbolize unity and togetherness in families. She wanted to be able to share something that was very dear and close to her family with theirs. They were immediately taken with the drawing as well as her gesture so kisses and hugs were passed all around.
When the volunteers arrived at the ceremony, you could immediately see the look of happy surprise on their faces. The parents went up to the volunteers, on countless occasions to thank them for coming and being such wonderful role models to their children. One of the parents Anahi, had the following to say “I want to thank all the volunteers for everything that they’ve done for us. I wish they could stay longer but I know that they all have homes and families they need to go back to. I want to thank them for being here and being a part of our family, if only for a short time.” Though the event did come to an end, the memories created will never be forgotten because what Anahi said is true, though it was only a short amount of time, we are all family.
Photo & Story Credit: Heaton Johnson for All Hands and Hearts