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Every once in a while, we as conditioned modern beings need somewhat of a spiritual reminder, something to bring us back to the center of what it means to be human. The small fishing village of Chicxulub Puerto, at the northmost point of the historical mexican province Yucatan, managed to open up wide and give us that reminder. The warmth experienced throughout our stay at Chicxulub was like nothing we had ever experienced, coming from cold Ottawa, Ontario. Wandering the streets of this mexican settlement that time forgot, you feel anything but forgotten, as locals wave by and illuminate the air with their comforting acknowledgement and warm, genuine smile. We immediately had the inner confirmation we were wanted here, and wanted to help.

Our group is composed of sixteen young people, aged sixteen to eighteen, from different schools all over the city of Ottawa. We are accompanied by four adults: our group teacher Julie Meloche, her mother, retired nurse Danièle Meloche, a Franco-Ouest high school teacher, Tanya Gatien, and retired high school teacher and Jeun’ Espoir founder and president André Clermont. Our helping efforts were concentrated on three major fronts: a retirement home, two local elementary schools, and renovating a valuable member of the community’s home, Carmen. We proceeded to clean and landscape the schoolyard of the Benito Juarez elementary school, and give new life to forgotten volleyball posts, thoroughly sanding and repainting them before planting them in concrete. We also donated the necessary painting supplies to a second local elementary school, Andres Quintana Roo, for volunteer parents to paint.

The retirement home was in dire need of new, solid furniture for the men’s quarters, as the vast majority of them simply stacked their belongings directly onto the building’s concrete floors. With the help of two local carpenters hired for the week to mentor the students, we constructed, finished and delivered ten solid three-drawer dressers for Chicxulub San Joaquin residence’s men to use. At the same residence, we also sanded and participated in maintenance work on the metal beds in use to get them ready for a fresh coat of paint.

We took a day off from work and visited the historic town of Tecoh, the caves and cenotes nearby and the ruins of Mayapan. In the afternoon we had a traditional Yucatan meal to crown a day of cultural experiences.

The work accomplished in symphony with Chicxulub’s Andres Quintana Roo and Benito Juarez elementary school took the form of a four-day camp for the kids, with various classes teaching them various basic skills. Among these classes were technical volleyball, basketball and football teachings, english and french language classes and associated activities, arts and crafts, pinata making, as well as various bonding and exciting stations we hope served as a fuel for hope in these young children’s life.

Thanks to Sharon Helgason for the contacts, to Addy Velazquez Sosa for the lodging, to Duncan and Bob at the Albergue and to Carmita, Milo, their family and friends for all the help.

We served.  Gabriel Merritt, youth participant of Jeun’Espoir Mexique 2018

Check out the video on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhZTrqSQ1_s&w=740&h=447