Sisters’ Wishes: Children From Underserved Villages To Receive Tuition-Free Education

National Headquarters  |  December 30, 2019
An aerial view of the construction progress from an initial on-site visit. Photo by Jaime Puerta

Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Natasha Palance

Following the 2017 Mexico earthquake, the local Morelos Institute – a school in the municipality of Jojutla – was reduced to rubble. During a Tzu Chi disaster relief assessment, it was revealed that the school’s rebuilding would pose a great difficulty for the community. With sponsorship by the Hermanas Mercedarias of Mexico the reconstruction mission was underway, and the team began to move toward a goal of project completion by July 2020 – just in time for the Fall 2020 school semester. 

This past September 9th through the 13th, the team revisited the site to ensure that the project’s proposed completion date will be met in light of the upcoming rainy season, as well as collaborate with Hermanas Mercedarias to enhance educational opportunities for low-income families. The Sisters’ proposed for an extension of the school’s registration period to accommodate up to eight hundred additional students from ten nearby underserved villages beginning in January of next year.

Local Mexico Tzu Chi volunteers pictured with Tzu Chi USA and Tzu Chi Global HQ volunteers upon arrival at the Mexico airport. Photo by Jennifer Chien

On-Site Assessments and Project Updates

The team of volunteers, led by CEO of Tzu Chi USA Han Huang, Convener for Central and South America Tzu Chi volunteers Debbie Chen, and Tzu Chi Volunteer Coordinator Martin Kuo, together with Director of the Tzu Chi Global HQ Construction Department Minchao Lin conducted thorough on-site assessments to ensure the project’s success despite the anticipated detriment weather for the region.

Upon the team’s arrival in Mexico City on September 9th, the team went directly to the building company “Buenaventura Construction” to meet with Architect Pablo Quintero Valladares and the construction team to get updates on construction progress, design details, selection of building materials and overall development.

The following day, the team drove for three hours from Mexico City to the construction site in Jojutla to evaluate the construction on-site progress and assess developments that have transgressed since starting in June.

Future construction site design and drawing of the new Morelos Institute. Photo by Jennifer Chien

Once an abandoned sugarcane farm back in June, the team made their way across the newly cleared construction site, land that had been preliminarily prepared with the removal of weeds and sugarcane roots. The builders had already sprayed a white line on the ground and dug a deep trench by the building on the far left of the site upon the team’s arrival.

While on-site, Lin presented an updated construction design with suggestions for improvements to speed up progress and avoid potential setbacks from the approaching rainy season in Mexico. Lin led members from Tzu Chi USA and the construction team across every corner of the construction site, observing drainage and soil water storage while reminding the team that constructed borders of the adjacent land will require special attention.

After a preliminary evaluation of the construction site, I found the progress of the project is slightly behind, and there is still room for improvement from the builder’s planning and operation. I’ve given my suggestions for improvement in hopes to help save money and time for this project, and to ensure completion by mid-July next year. Of course, we still need to follow up and carefully monitor every detail of the project.

From right to left, CEO of Tzu Chi USA Han Huang, Tzu Chi volunteer Martin Kuo, and Director of the Tzu Chi Global HQ Construction Department Minchao Lin pictured on-site evaluating the project’s progress. Photo by Jennifer Chien

Extending Educational Opportunities with Hermanas Mercedarias

Being sponsored by Tzu Chi for the Hermanas Mercedarias of Mexico, the team met with Sister Martha, Project Leader of Morelos Institute, and Principal of Morelos Institute Sister Adelina to address additional ways to enhance educational opportunities for disadvantaged community members. 

Hermanas Mercedarias has several private schools in poverty-stricken rural areas of Mexico providing preschool, elementary, middle, and high school-level classes according to local needs. Children from low-income families are admitted free of charge.

Sister Martha (middle) and Sister Adelina (third right) visit the construction site to welcome Tzu Chi volunteers upon arrival. Photo by Jennifer Chien

Sister Martha and Sister Adelina greeted the Tzu Chi team at the construction site, and invited them to visit the previous school site to learn about students’ current learning environment.

Although more than half of the Morelos Institute building collapsed during the earthquake, the school made good use of the classrooms in the undamaged building, and built several temporary classrooms. The corridor between the two buildings has been utilized as a student’s activity space and playground, and the garage entrance has been converted into a student laboratory. These changes have allowed students to continue their studies uninterrupted. 

The former uninhabitable Morelos Institute following damage from the 2017 earthquake. Photo by Jennifer Chien

Sister Martha has been worried about the local children’s future after seeing the collapsed school buildings, and how students would continue their education. She has been praying to God, and is really grateful for the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s efforts to rebuild the school. In an effort to return this favor of compassion to Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi’s selfless volunteers, Sister Martha and her congregation pray for Tzu Chi people every day.

While the majority of the Morelos Institute was damaged by the earthquake, students continue their education in temporary classrooms and converted walkways. Photo by Jennifer Chien

Sister Martha is pushing forward a new idea; as soon as the school is completed, she will extend the school’s registration period to accommodate seven or eight hundred additional students from neighboring communities. This will enhance opportunities for children from low-income families in their access to free education services, and increase rates of post-secondary educational attainment.

In order to help more children from low-income families escape poverty through education, Sister Martha plans to conduct registration in ten nearby villages beginning in January of next year. 

Nurturing For A Future President of Mexico

Sister Martha noted how CEO Han Huang’s groundbreaking ceremony speech inspired and moved students and parents alike. Today, students still remember what Tzu Chi told them: “Thanks for the help of people from all over the world; donations are accumulated little by little and brought together to help fund this school.” Students hope that when they grow up, they can pay this compassion forward to others in the community.

Sister Martha is saving in hopes that one day she can visit Tzu Chi Headquarters in Hualien, Taiwan to thank Master Cheng Yen for sending this team of kind and loving disciples to Mexico and bringing hope to many children throughout the country. She personally looks forward to hearing the wisdom teachings of Master Cheng Yen again.

Sister Martha (second left) pictured with Sister Adelina (front) and the Tzu Chi team from Taiwan and USA. Photo by Jennifer Chien

"I hope that the future of this school (Morelos Institute) will become one of the best schools in Mexico to nurture new generations with commitment, gratitude, willingness to give to the world, and love for others. Perhaps one day, the President of Mexico will also be a child nurtured by this school, with good knowledge and morals in leading Mexico to prosperity.

New School Year, New School Building

While on-site, the Tzu Chi team met with the Catholic Sisters, the architect, and the builder many times to enhance their friendship and mutual understanding of the mission at hand in the united goal for the school’s scheduled completion by the summer of next year. Thank to Tzu Chi’s great compassion, these local students can happily start the new school year in brand new buildings.

Learn more about how our work in Mexico following the 2017 earthquake.

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