For the past few years, a caring group of Playa del Carmen residents and frequent flyers banded together to help spread a bit of Christmas joy to the less fortunate children of our region. In December 2011 this program, now known as "Christmas Dreams Playa" was able to provide gifts for over 200 children who might otherwise receive no present at all for the holidays. We were proud to not only feature "Christmas Dreams Playa" in our 12 Days/12 Ways blog series but also to contribute persoanlly to this amazing effort of good will! In total over $86,000 mn worth of presents, school supplies and food essentials were distributed by "Christmas Dreams Playa" during the 2011 holiday season, an amazing accomplishment.

Keep Kids in School 

During the Christmas Dreams project, one of the cooperating schools identified themselves as an organization that would benefit from and be welcome to sustainable assistance beyond the annual gift giving. The Pelopides School, an elementary school in the under-served Guadalupana neighborhood on the north side of Playa, was very receptive to the idea of creating a long-term partnership through which an outside group could offer assistance to the school, its students and families throughout the year. The school is run by the La Salle organization of the Catholic Church. While it is a private school, they take in a lot of students that can't afford to go to the public schools. Their tuition is based on family income so they get a lot of students who need assistance. These students usually come to school without the required school supplies and, therefore, can't keep up with their peers.

In response to this need, the new KKIS "Keep Kids in Schools" initiative was created. Their mission: to help keep kids enrolled in school by supplying uniforms, providing school supplies and backpacks, securing English language materials for the classroom and providing volunteers for the classrooms to help students learn English.

Playa del Carmen CharityThis particular school was selected because they are one of the few schools to provide financial scholarships their students. At the moment, 50% of their student population is afforded reduced or free tuition, known here as "becas". Some students only require a partial subsidy while others have their tuition covered in full. This school teaches English to all students for half of the day, a skill that is so helpful for later job placement and advancement. The school administrators are also willing to allow KKIS volunteers into their classrooms to help students learn English by reading to them. This may not seem like an extraordinary request but within the Mexican School system it is very unusual indeed.

As Pelopides School is small and their resources few, much is needed. If you are planning a trip to Playa del Carmen please consider packing some extra school supplies in your luggage. Blue ink pens, pencils, scissors appropriate for grades K-4, erasers, glue sticks, colored pencils and backpacks are all needed and considerably more expensive to obtain here. (Please don't bring notebooks as the schools and the Mexican Board of Education (SEP) require very specific notebooks to be used.) English language materials such as beginning reader story books, games, etc are also needed to help the children to learn English. These items can be dropped off at Carboncitos Restaurant on Calle 4 between 5th and 10th. Of course, monetary donations are always welcome and can be made via Paypal at: KKISProject@gmail.com.

Wah Wah Beach Bar Playa del CarmenIf you are living here in Playa or will be visiting soon, you can find out more about the project in person at the first KKIS Fundraising Luncheon and Auction which will be held on March 7th at 11am at Wah Wah Beach Bar located on the beach between Calle 2 and Juarez. The luncheon will be a traditional pig roast with roasted veggies, green salad, chocolate cake, and coffee, lemonade or iced tea. Tickets are $200 mn per person and donations for the school will be accepted at that time. Samples of the kinds of school supplies needed will be on display. There will also be an auction of donated items after the luncheon and a group of local artists will have art work for sale. All proceeds from the event will go to benefit the KKIS Project. Tickets are available at Wah Wah Beach Bar or from organizer Gayle Collins sgcollins[at]charter.net.

It sounds like a great event for a great cause...and another great excuse to go to Wah Wah! As special requests for supplies and other scholastic items come up, I will be sure to post them on the BuyPlaya Facebook page.