More than 20 kids showed up. From places in Oaxaca with names like Eloxochitlán, San Baltazar Guelevila, San Dionesio Ocotepec and Xitla.
They came to work, learn and have fun. It was the Annual Vocational Camp my foundation/ministry hosts for kids from around the state of Oaxaca.
Here are the disciplines we focused on this year…
Photography with Joe Ramirez of Mission Focused, a Humanitarian Photography Organization.
Science with Aaron Wong, Chair of Physical and Life Sciences at Nevada State College.
Sustainable Agriculture practices with Gaspar Chable, Campesino Extraordinaire, working across the Central Valley and the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca to help farmers increase crop yields and better understand healthy practices for raising livestock.
All of this started with a conversation years ago with a group of kids from San Dionesio Ocotepec. I asked the group, all about ten years old, what they were going to do when they grew up. Almost everyone of them said they were leaving Mexico for the United States. When I asked them why, they all had a variation of the same answer… “Dave, there’s no hope here!”
I was stunned that this group, still so young, had already learned that for them, there were few opportunities for things like a good job, a stable family and their own home, unless they left Mexico.
That was the start of my journey and in the years since, I have dedicated my life to helping bring hope to some of the least of these in Oaxaca. That’s why I work at and support options like this vocational camp.
It works like this. If we can inspire kids at a young age to dream, and help provide them opportunities to achieve that dream, maybe we can help change a life and save a few kids from that life with no hope.
So we started thinking. What are some things we can teach, that if you work hard and practice, can provide a job, a good salary and a future. Out of that came the disciplines upon which we are focused.
Culinary Arts in Oaxaca was a natural. With its gastronomic reputation, if someone can learn some basic skills, get excited and practice, or in the words of Chef Rodolfo Castellanos of Origen in the city center, “dice a few thousand onions,” there’s work in the restaurant industry here. And if you work hard enough, maybe one day you can open your own restaurant like he did.
If someone can learn photography, there is always work, as life demands to be chronicled. Whether it is photos of a new born baby, a wedding, a quinceañera, graduation or even a funeral, people want, and need photos. That’s a job.
If someone can get excited about science by actually doing a few experiments and learning the concepts, maybe they’ll want to study and learn more. The world needs scientists and perhaps a week at our camp will be the first step in challenging a young man or woman to be a great scientist from Oaxaca.
Then there is agriculture, or sustainable ag. Here’s the reality. A large portion of the people with whom we work, come from rural, agricultural backgrounds. Sadly, for many of those people, they are still farming and raising livestock with methods learned hundreds of years ago. Today there are many methods to grow more and raise better animal stock, and they don’t include steroids or the dreaded hybrids and genetically modified seeds that are ravaging our farms. The methods and practices we teach are literally putting food on the table of people around Oaxaca!
This Vocational Camp Week is a small effort of my team to give back a little of what we have received from this great and beautiful country. No matter which discipline someone studied with us, they left with a spark of hope. A hope for a better future, and a better life.
Next year our goal is to double the size of our camp. The 2016 camp, in addition to above disciplines, will also have a fine arts component. Hopefully, in addition to painting and drawing, part of that discipline will also include graphic arts.
If you want to be part of bringing some hope to some kids that come from some of the corners of Oaxaca, contact me and let’s talk and dream together. The dates are August 1 – 5, 2016.
I’d love to see you here helping us out, giving back and trying to make a difference in My Mexico!
And now, the honor roll.
Let me express my deep personal thanks to all our leaders. Chefs Pilar and Jose, you were wonderful and I hope both of you able to join us again next year! Brother Joe, it was amazing to see the kids faces when they saw the slide show of their work! Thanks to you and Mission Focused for helping make this a reality. Aaron, your vision and insight helped spark some real science interest. Where were you when I was growing up? Y Gaspar, gracias por todo lo que hizo por los chavos que vinieron aprender mas en nuestras clases de agricultura!
If you want to see more photos, many taken by the kids of the camp, click here to see a complete gallery.