Chris Jacobs, Pasitos de Luz volunteer
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico – Last year, the much-loved Puerto Vallarta kids’ charity, Pasitos de Luz, turned 20. It’s official 20th birthday as a registered Mexican charity was on November 22nd, but sadly there was little or no fanfare to mark this impressive accomplishment. COVID restrictions meant that friends and supporters couldn’t gather to celebrate its two decades of life-changing work.
In many ways, this low-key anniversary was in keeping with the understated work ethic of an organization originally founded by six single mums, desperately struggling to provide for their disabled sons and daughters. In a country where there is no government disability funding available, Mexican families have to absorb all the costs of caring for a disabled child, including paying doctors’ fees, buying medication and funding expensive private therapy.
The six mothers who started Pasitos de Luz were so overwhelmed by the burden of caring for a disabled child that they decided to unite to create an Asociación Civil (or Civil Association, which is the Mexican term for community charity) that would meet their specific needs. And so Pasitos de Luz was born!
Pasitos, as it is known locally, started as a small rented room where the mothers would gather to feed the kids from a single stove and receive guidance from a single volunteer physiotherapist. Twenty years on, Pasitos de Luz (which means ‘Little Steps of Light’) is a light in the dark for over 130 families across Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, all of whom are living on or below the poverty line.
The charity now works from Casa Connor, located just a few miles from Nuevo Vallarta, a fabulous facility that was donated by a group of big-hearted Canadian families and supporters, where disabled kids receive all the care and attention they need from Monday to Friday at absolutely no cost to their families; physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, special education, nutrition, personal care and much more.
Ian Jesé is a sweet 8 year-old boy who arrived at Pasitos de Luz in a desperate state, his mother Yaritza equipped with a diagnosis but with absolutely no guidance or support for her son. Jesé has global development delay, which means that it has taken him a lot longer to reach his developmental milestones.
When he arrived at Pasitos de Luz aged 6, he could not even crawl, let alone stand up or walk. He also had little or no control over his sphincter muscles or bladder, which made him very shy and withdrawn, with a tendency to lash out if he felt uncomfortable about anything; sometimes hitting or even biting his teachers.
One of the very first things that Pasitos did for Jesé was to draw up a weekly eating plan, which was shared with his mum. He was worryingly malnourished. The children who attend Pasitos de Luz always receive two healthy meals a day, based on vegetables, fruit, grains and good proteins. We explained to Jesé’s mum how she could continue making sure he ate healthily at home too.
Thanks to this improved diet, within weeks Jesé had put on a good amount of weight, which really helped with his physical rehabilitation too. Physiotherapists began their work with Jesé gently, using exercises to gradually strengthen his leg muscles, so that he could stand up unaided.
From there, they helped him transition to the parallel bars and then eventually to the treadmill. By the end of 2019 Jesé was confident on his feet and had also become increasingly confident in his social interactions. His tantrums had all but disappeared. He was paying more attention to his teachers and he had started to make more friends in the classroom.
One thing that Jesé really loves is travelling to and from Casa Connor on the Pasitos school bus. He excitedly points out things he sees through the window, which is such a positive contrast to the frightened little boy who first came to Pasitos in 2019.
Jesé’s story is just one of hundreds that the staff and volunteers at Pasitos de Luz could tell you from the past 20 years. Very few Civil Associations in Mexico make it through their first year. Pasitos is blessed to have matured into a sustainable and well-run project.
In an under-regulated and underfunded charity sector, many organizations fold due to a lack of expertise or financial resources. Pasitos has bucked that trend, going from strength to strength, thanks to the support of its local community, which includes both Mexicans and non-Mexicans.
Every week we take call after call from families desperate for their children to access the kind of therapies and support programmes that have helped kids like Jesé to shine. One family arrived unannounced at the gates of Casa Connor in June. They had walked almost 6 miles under the blistering afternoon sun, pushing their little boy Carlos in a battered stroller. Carlos is now on the Pasitos waiting list.
To be able to serve more families, Pasitos is looking for monthly donors. It has a monthly giving programme called Love Pasitos Monthly, which enables donors to fund its core services; replenishing diapers, wet wipes, and baby powder, purchasing food to ensure proper nutrition for the children, and purchasing essential therapy equipment.
If you would like to become a Love Pasitos Monthly donor, you can do so by visiting its campaign page at pasitosdeluz.org. You can also contact me, Chris, with any questions, by email at info(at)pasitosdeluz.org, or by phone/WhatsApp on +52 322 137 1890. Your donation will genuinely turn lives around and provide hope where there was no hope.
Located north of Puerto Vallarta near San Vicente, Nayarit, Pasitos de Luz is a marvelous day care facility for children with special needs. This non-profit organization provides children with various handicaps with a caring and loving environment, along with treatment for individual rehabilitation, nutritional meals, physical stimulation and therapy. For more information, Click HERE or visit PasitosDeLuz.org.