Kids Of La Paz Getting A Hand Up

Long established program addresses needs of the poorest
BY: JAMES BELL

If you don’t know about the Fanlap charity of La Paz, you should, because this group is doing good things for good children. Well, even for the bad children.

In 1996, some people came together to address the urgent needs of some of the city´s poorest children, children who were not being properly fed or educated. School teachers in some of La Paz´s most impoverished neighborhoods began to notice that many children were falling asleep in class or couldn’t concentrate because of a lack of food, and were falling behind. Today, thanks to the efforts of many people inside and outside the community, hundreds of impoverished schoolchildren are provided essential nutritional assistance, educational support, and positive encouragement to finish school and become successful members of society. 

 The Fundación Ayuda Niños, a non-profit that helps children, was  originally created to provide breakfast programs for  kids who were being sent off to school without a healthy breakfast—or no breakfast at all—and who struggled to keep up in their classrooms. Today, Fanlap is giving children a better chance at succeeding at school by providing solid meals, counseling, tuition, and educational and emotional support. They have programs for scholarships, a child psychology center, and a library/study center.  Fanlap´s hardworking volunteers and supporters are actually making a real difference in the lives of many good children; kids with great potential, but who were born into poverty and are vulnerable to poverty´s unfortunate effects. And bad children, too. Let’s not forget those.

Fanlap has a strong reputation as a responsible, transparent, reliable and honest organization that is succeeding in its basic mission. It is backed, in part, by the International Community Foundation, which requires strict accountability of all donations and expenditures. In other words, generous people who donate don´t have to worry about how their donations are spent, which is not always the case with other charities.

The organization relies on professional support by many of its international associates, and the selfless help of its dedicated volunteers. According to Fanlap´s operating team, “other than three employees, our administrative director and two librarians, everyone who works with Fundación Ayuda Niños La Paz is a volunteer. Some of these people drive more than 300 miles a month on foundation-related business without receiving reimbursement for gasoline.” 

The children served come from some of the poorest neighborhoods of La Paz, including residences near the city dumps where many of the homes do not have running water or basic services such as sewer systems or electricity. Most of the homes are built of tar paper and salvaged materials. Often there are problems with alcohol and drug abuse, where families—or broken families—constantly struggle to make ends meet without steady employment. In many cases, the children are raised by single mothers or grandparents, or in households where the father works in another city or is otherwise separated from the family.

In 1998, yachties from the Club Cruceros de La Paz, a group of mostly foreign boat owners, pitched in to support a breakfast program for young children that had been started a few years earlier by a priest and a nun. They taught several of the students´ mothers how to prepare proper meals for large groups of children. Club Cruceros recognized the tremendous need to help and stepped up to the plate. Some of their members later formed the Fanlap association and both groups now participate in important fundraisers and auctions, (subastas), for the foundation.

Currently, Fanlap´s supporting partners include a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, and important contributions from the International Community Foundation. Fanlap has also received some support from two government social development agencies, (DIF and Sedesol), and other civic organizations. In 2015, Fanlap received generous public donations collected by the OXXO  convenience stores as well.

In spite of this important support, there continues to be a great need to provide assistance to these disadvantaged children, and any help by individuals or agencies will be appreciated. An average of 170 girls and boys are provided meals five days a week. According to Judith Peterson, who served for ten years as President of Fanlap until 2015, “This would not have been possible without the help of seven women, (all volunteers), who are mothers and grandmothers from Colonia Laguna Azul, who prepare the breakfast and lunch, and then serve the food and clean the dining room and kitchen afterwards.”  In addition to the food programs, the group provides a library and study center as well as a scholarship and child psychology program. Judith Peterson also volunteers as an English instructor on Saturday mornings.

On May 6th, the Sixth Gastronomic Festival, La Pazión por el Sabor, will be held at the Coromuel beach just north of La Paz. This all-you-can-eat-and drink event—and party— is being sponsored by the Canirac restaurant association and will feature musical performances (Magical Guitars) and, of course, great food and beverages served up by area restaurants. The proceeds will benefit DIF, various youth programs, and Fanlap. Tickets for the event are reasonably priced at 600 pesos and include the use of the beach, unlimited fun, and a good look at a beautiful sunset. 50% of the tickets purchased through Fanlap will go directly to Fanlap. It is a good deal and a good cause. Donations to Fanlap can also be made through their informative website: Lapazninos.org.