Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – The latest news from Pasitos de Luz, a marvelous day care facility for children with special needs in the Banders Bay area. 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.
Dear Friends of Pasitos de Luz and Casa Connor,
Welcome to our May newsletter!
When we hear the phrases Just Do It or Because You’re Worth It, we immediately associate them with the brands that they represent. The next time you hear “Working with Love”, we hope that Pasitos de Luz comes to mind. These are just the words that describe the culture and ethos underpinning how we work with the kids in our care.
In this newsletter we share some truly heartwarming stories from the past few months. At Pasitos so much happens in one month, or just one week, that it is always difficult to pick the articles for our newsletters. Each and every child has an amazing story to tell!
In this edition we introduce you to Azahara, Samuel and Leo, new arrivals whom we are already helping to make great progress.
The kids have continued receiving their therapies without further interruptions from the health authorities. This has allowed us to increase the frequency of therapies, producing long-lasting benefits to their health and emotional wellbeing. We began the year with 25 kids per day, and are currently caring for 40-45. Our aim is to welcome 60-70 kids per day by the last quarter of 2022.
One of our main objectives this year is to increase the number of volunteers and monthly donors from within the local Mexican community. Our long-term goal is to welcome 100 full-time kids per day to Casa Connor, plus another 100 kids coming in for one or two specific therapies per week. This can only be achieved if both the Mexican and non-Mexican communities play their parts.
To make this happen we have been getting involved in some great initiatives locally. On 3rd April we took part in the Puerto Vallarta Marathon. Almost 150 runners signed up to run for the kids of Pasitos de Luz!
From March to June we are benefiting from a roundup campaign in local branches of the Mexican supermarket Soriana, while last month Mexican fashion designer Benito Santos dedicated a Puerto Vallarta catwalk show to our cause. We have also began working with pediatric specialists in orthopedia and neurology, who are already giving consultations to our kids.
Just like a fruit tree, people arrive at a stage in life when they are able to nourish their surroundings. If you are already an active donor to Pasitos de Luz-Casa Connor, then we are grateful for your commitment to and trust in our work. If you are not yet a donor or used to give previously, then we invite you to join or re-join our monthly giving program, Love Pasitos Monthly. No amount is too small, while its impact will be great, as you help children on our waiting list to start benefiting from the services that will change their lives.
If you have any questions about our monthly giving program or about anything else you read in this newsletter, I am more than happy to answer them. You can email me at info(at)pasitosdeluz.org.
Pasitos de Luz in Casa Connor
New arrivals at Pasitos this year
It is always heartwarming to see new children arrive at Casa Connor, being helped off the bus for the first day of classes and therapies in their own special Castillo (Castle). Many are wide-eyed and excited, others nervous because it is their first time away from their parents. The important thing is that their journey towards an improved quality of life has officially begun!
Since COVID restrictions were relaxed in this part of Mexico, we have been able to start integrating new kids from our waiting list. This is fantastic news for parents, desperate for their son or daughter to start their therapies. Many parents are also desperate to go out to work, to make ends meet for their families. This is particularly urgent for single moms, who are the sole bread winners in their households.
We would like to share a couple of stories of new arrivals at Pasitos de Luz, whom we are pleased to say are now benefiting from the care and support that will help them thrive.
Little Azahara, pictured above with her mom Araceli, was born in June 2021 and is just 11 months old. She was born with Microcephaly, a birth defect which means that her head is smaller than expected and her brain has not developed properly.
Azahara faces a number of challenges and a difficult road ahead. Her condition means that she has experienced developmental delay. She has not reached the milestones normal for babies her age, such as getting to a sitting position by herself or being able to sit without support. Despite these challenges, our physiotherapists are confident that they can help Azahara to reach these milestones and grow up fit and healthy.
Laura is an experienced physiotherapist who has been working with Azahara for just over two months, three times a week. She has been pleased with the little girl’s progress. “One of the first things I wanted to help Azahara achieve was to start crawling and to roll over. I placed her on the therapy mat and surrounded her with different colored objects. The colors grabbed her attention and she started to reach out and move towards them. Within a couple of weeks she was crawling! Her mom Araceli had the biggest smile when she saw her daughter moving freely on the mat for the first time”.
What is next for Azahara? Laura says that over the next few weeks she will use a balancing ball to help Azahara develop the strength in her trunk to sit up by herself. At the same time, she will encourage the little girl to build up strength in her hands and start grabbing objects. Slowly but surely Azahara will reach those all-important milestones, which will be a huge relief for Araceli.
Araceli is a single mom who is also relieved that she can now go out to work while Azahara is cared for at Pasitos.
Brothers Samuel and Leo
There are two little boys who had been on our waiting list for almost a year and a half before they started their first day at Pasitos just over a month ago. Samuel is 4 years old and his older brother Leo is 5 years old. Both have Down Syndrome, while Samuel has several other severe health conditions.
Their parents, Liliana and Pedro, were absolutely thrilled when we got in touch to tell them the good news that their boys could finally be enrolled at Pasitos de Luz. Liliana sells tamales in the evenings, while Pedro is a driver at a hotel. They are both on low incomes, which makes their case a priority one for us. We are so pleased that we were now able to include Samuel and Leo in receiving our specialized services that they so desperately need.
Samuel (pictured above) is a gregarious little boy who loves his food and playing with toy cars and cuddly bears. Healthwise, though, he hasn’t had it easy at all.
Gerardo, a nurse who is at Pasitos on his placement year, explains Samuel’s medical history. “Samuel was born with a birth defect known as Imperforate Anus” he tells us, “which means that the opening to his anus is missing. Shortly after birth he underwent an ostomy. Surgeons created an opening in his abdomen to allow waste and urine to leave his body through a tube, where it is collected in a small external bag, which has to be changed every 24 hours. On top of this, Samuel contracted pneumonia when he was 2 years old. He has trouble breathing and suffers from a bad cough. Combined with the physical and intellectual limitations caused by having Down Syndrome, Samuel’s is a complex case.”
We care for Samuel in our nursery. Caregivers, such as Gerardo, make sure that his ostomy bag is cleaned regularly and changed when necessary. They also keep a close eye on his waste, to spot any possible infections. Samuel has a big appetite and eats well at Casa Connor, which helps him fight infections. And finally, we make sure he enjoys plenty of play time, to keep his spirits up.
Leo is Samuel’s older brother. He also has Down Syndrome, but other than that he is a healthy, active little boy. The major challenge posed by Leo is his behavior. He struggles to pay attention in the classroom. Our Special Education teachers have been working with Leo by helping him focus his attention and by setting clear boundaries, while also giving him enough freedom to explore his creativity.
We are glad to be able to support Samuel and Leo, aware of the great help it is to their family. Having two little boys with disabilities is a significant burden, especially when one suffers from complex health issues. Liliana and Pedro describe the teachers and caregivers who look after their sons as “angels”.
Adiós Maestra Martha
After 18 years of service at Pasitos de Luz, Maestra Martha celebrated her retirement on April 30th. She will be greatly missed.
Maestra Martha began working at Pasitos de Luz in 2004 and has, for almost two decades, dedicated herself to helping kids with disabilities be the best they can be. It was fitting then that her retirement party took place on the same day as El Día del Niño, the national day of children in Mexico. It was an opportunity for the kids to say goodbye to a much-loved teacher, caregiver and therapist (Maestra Martha has worked in many roles during her time at Pasitos!) and for staff to also pay tribute to a popular and well-respected colleague.
“Martha has been there for the children of Pasitos de Luz through thick and thin” said Pasitos’ founder and Operational Director Yolanda Sánchez. “We will greatly miss her experience and wealth of knowledge. More than that, though, we will miss her deep and unconditional love for the children that we care for”.
Arturo Ayala, the General Director at Pasitos de Luz, also paid tribute to Maestra Martha. “She is the first colleague to reach retirement” says Arturo. “It brought a tear to everyone’s eye to be able to share their memories and experiences of working with Martha, and to join in a round of applause for such a dearly-loved colleague. Maestra Martha demonstrated through her life and work a deep love for the children and for others. She leaves a legacy of valuable lessons. She will always be loved here at Pasitos and will be warmly welcomed whenever she wants to visit.”
We spoke to Martha about her time at Pasitos, asking her to explain its impact on her and to share a couple of favorite memories. “From the very first day that I arrived,” she tells us, “I knew I had found somewhere really special. I realized that this was a place where children were being helped to do amazing things and overcome the challenges life had thrown at them. Over the years I learned such a lot from these kids. Every day was a new lesson, helping me to appreciate the small things in life and to value the individuality of each and every child. What I remember most fondly is helping to organize the choreographies for events like Riverfest and the International Altruism Festival. I loved seeing the smiles on the kids faces when they danced and helping them to pick out their costumes. I will carry Pasitos in my heart forever”.
Thank you Maestra Martha for your years of dedicated service and love for the kids.
Construction of the second floor has begun!
A very exciting project got underway in March that will make it much easier for volunteers to donate their time and expertise to Pasitos de Luz, meaning more help for the kids.
Ten dormitories are being added to Casa Connor that will be available to volunteers who plan to undertake medium to long-term volunteer placements with us. There will be nine bedrooms for two people and one bedroom for three people, to be able to accommodate up to 21 volunteers. This means that trained specialists, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pediatricians and nurses, can spend several weeks or months here, working directly with the kids without having to spend money on expensive accommodation and transport.
The project also includes three washrooms with showers, plus a common area that will consist of a lounge and TV space, plus a small kitchen. These new facilities are being built on the second floor on the right-hand side of the building from the entrance of Casa Connor, above the nursery and laundry areas.
Pasitos de Luz already has a very successful volunteer program that benefits the kids. In the last six months alone we have welcomed a young occupational therapist from Belgium, who spent three months at Pasitos, a group of speech therapy graduates from the US and several retired nurses and physiotherapists from Canada. The children of Pasitos de Luz have always benefited hugely from volunteers, especially those with a clinical background, who are able to work alongside our permanent staff to run diagnoses and assessments, provide more therapies and share experience and knowledge. Now, once the dormitories are in place, we will be able to welcome even more volunteers and for longer periods of time.
This project was made possible by a very generous donation from a donor in Canada who wanted to help the volunteer program at Pasitos continue to grow. The donor identified the donation in her estate, which is a wonderful legacy and a significant gesture for our charity to receive.
The building work is due to be completed by end of July.
A special invitation to celebrate 60 years
Next month Teena and Peter Oudman celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary. They were married on June 4th, 1962, and will have been married for 60 years! Congratulations Teena and Peter! We couldn’t be happier for you.
To celebrate this landmark, Teena and Peter, who have given so much to Pasitos de Luz, would like to extend a special invitation…
The beautiful building in which Pasitos de Luz operates is named in honor of their grandson Connor. Connor passed away on October 10, 2011, when he was just 15 years old. He had a rare genetic condition known as Hunter Syndrome. Connor’s family wanted to do something for the children with disabilities in Puerto Vallarta, to give them a special place where they could receive the high standard of care and loving support that Connor received in his native Calgary in Canada. That was the vision behind Casa Connor.
Teena and Peter have been instrumental in much of the fundraising for Casa Connor and are still heavily involved today. Teena is an active Pasitos de Luz/Casa Connor Board member.
The couple got in touch to say that the best anniversary gift possible would be for people to donate to Pasitos de Luz, to give more kids the chance to access the care and support that will make such a lasting difference in their lives.
Teena and Peter are looking for 60 new monthly donors to mark this special 60th anniversary. Will you help?
Serving the kids in Puerto Vallarta has been Teena and Peter’s mission for so many years now. They would dearly love to see Pasitos de Luz go from strength to strength so that, when they reach their 70th wedding anniversary, hundreds more kids will have been helped to reach their full potential.
Teena and Peter thank you for your kindness!
Our Sincerest Thanks
We have had a busy start to the year, both in terms of expanding our care and support services to integrate more children, but also in terms of the invaluable contributions that have come from you, our donors and volunteers.
Last year, in our September newsletter, we asked for help to buy an item of physiotherapy equipment that would make a massive difference to the physical rehabilitation of children at Pasitos de Luz. This was the MOTOMed Loop Kidz, a movement therapy bike specially designed for kids with limited or no movement in their arms and/or legs. We are thrilled to report that two MOTOMed Loop Kidz were delivered to Casa Connor in February, made possible by donations from the Louis Levin Foundation in the US, and Alan and Lynn Jeffs from Ontario, Canada. Thank you both for such generosity! Kids use the bikes every day, making rapid progress as they start building up strength in their arms and legs.
In March we made some new friends and caught up with some old friends at the annual conference of the American Bar Association, Section of Labor and Employment Law, at the Westin hotel in Puerto Vallarta. Across the week of the conference, delegates donated as part of the ERR Gives Back program. Moved by the stories of kids we support, the ERR group stepped up and donated an incredible $6,800 USD. Thank you ERR Gives Back!
On February 26th and 27th we celebrated our 10th and final Riverfest music festival fundraiser at El Rio BBQ Bar, Puerto Vallarta. The weekend was a huge success, with a sold-out event of over 400 guests helping to raise $653,225.00 MXN (just over $32,000 USD / $42,000 CAD). This will help cover almost a month and a half of operating costs at Pasitos de Luz.
During its decade of fundraising, Riverfest has raised over $3,000,000 MXN ($150,000 USD / $194,000 CAD). All this has been possible only thanks to the vision, hard work and dedication of a small group of people who wanted to do something to help the children with disabilities at Pasitos de Luz. Barb Bremner and Kurt Sinner have put their heart and soul into every Riverfest, meticulously planning and executing every edition down to the finest detail. Without them, ten years of fundraising would never have happened. Larry Leebens, Page Railsback, Shelley Ware, Barbara Crompton, Marlene Hosey and Teena and Peter Oudman have done an amazing job of promoting the event, organizing and coordinating volunteers, securing auction items, finding vendors and helping on-site.
For our final Riverfest event, we were blessed to have Mayan Rental as a naming sponsor which means so much to us! Thanks everyone, musicians and guests alike, for making Riverfest such a fun and life-affirming event that has literally raised millions of pesos and helped hundreds of kids.
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.