SNG Memo Arrives From Mexico

To summarize the memo above, the total amount of the suggested home repairs is $766.39.
This would include:
Purchasing a refrigerator and accessories for safe food storage
Installing a real window where the hole is now
Replacing the home's doors with screened ones that fit better

The main purpose of these home improvements are an attempt to control the fly problem that plagues Paola's household. However, as the memo points out, much of the responsibility for this falls upon the family changes their living habits. I think the fly infestation probably bothers us more than it bothers them! 

It's great news that the roof is already being repaired without our assistance! 

The plan for raising this money is primarily to use Aura's House. Paola has a slot waiting for her, and she's been grandfathered in so that we won't have to pay CI the 10% service fee.

If Aura's House is willing to allow us a total of $1000, I'd also like to look into buying a metallic cabinet to store dishes and kitchen items in a more hygienic manner. This is something that the family requested last year, and the quote given was $187. It could be cheaper, though, because the refrigerator quote has gone down significantly since we first asked about the price.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about fundraising, feel free to contact me and/or the other team members.

Welcoming Newest Group Member, Andy!

Hello, everyone!  

My name is Andy Crank, and I am an associate professor of American literature and culture at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  Yes, I do have a Ph.D., but I won't make anyone call me professor or doctor (mainly because Dr. Andy sounds too much like a pediatrician, and Dr. Crank sounds too much like a call-in radio love-show host).

But, if you want to call me Spider-Andy, that's fine with me! 


I live with my partner of 10 years and our dog of four years, Madison.  

We have both wanted a child in our lives, but until science can grow one of us a womb, we will dispense our paternal love through Children International.

Sharing Paola will be my first sponsorship, but I fully intend to sponsor another child individually -- but first, I must cancel my video game subscription to Gamefly (it seems like a fair trade off).  I can only sponsor one child at a time, so my inner one must wait.

My hobbies are playing tennis, cartoons, video games, and Mack has just introduced me to the exciting international sport of geocaching. I also enjoy writing academic research prose to counteract all the time I waste watching Family Guy and Phineas & Ferb. My first full book (not a compilation) is currently in the process of publication, and I have two others in the works.

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of Paola's sponsorship group!

Letters & Photos from Jennifer's Fundraiser - Part 2


Paola's sister, Tomasa, wrote us the thank-you for their new table!

She did a great job - hooray for education!

Letters & Photos from Jennifer's Fundraiser


Paola signed her name to this letter thanking us for her tutoring money!

Paola's 2011 Christmas Gifts from Barbara - Part 2

Paola's 2011 Christmas Gifts from Barbara

Report on Previous Home Improvements

The past improvements that we've made to Paola's quality of living are still being utilized, but are somewhat in a state of disarray ...

The propane stove is still going strong, but the wardrobe is carelessly stuffed to overflowing. I can't imagine where the family will put all of the new clothes that we brought for the girls. We brought several plastic tubs that can be used for storing clothes, etc. Hopefully, if we provided too much, the clothing can be shared with cousins and neighbors.

The well is still functional, but the brick work is already beginning to crumble:

I didn't take a photo of the toilet area (but it can be seen in last post's video). It's great that the family no longer has to use the great outdoors to do their business, but ... well, ick. I have a fairly strong stomach, but I had to hold my breath to keep from vomiting when I used the family's toilet area to change out of a long-sleeved shirt. The odor is incredible, so I wonder if anything can be done to assist with that.

The toilet no longer has a seat, but I've been told (and have seen) that this is not uncommon in Mexico. Apparently, when toilet seats break, families, businesses, etc. simply don't bother to replace them. This makes sense to me, except for one thing ... when do toilet seats break????? Seriously, I don't think I've ever known a toilet seat to break in our house, and we've got some heavy people living here!

Finally, I was a little disappointed by the cement floor that the Mexican government put down over the dirt/mud. It's just globs of cement - not smoothed or even at all.

You can sort of see the floor in this video of me introducing Maria to her new sponsor:

Home Improvement Ideas 2012

Considering the size of their living space, it's no wonder that Paola's family declined our offer to buy them a bookcase. They simply would have no place to put it!

To try and put Paola's home into perspective, the photo below shows the total size of the tiny bedroom where the family lives/sleeps. (The "family" means the five individuals in the photo, plus Rosa's boyfriend.) The white, glowing area in the center of the photo is the room's one "window" - an small area where some of the bricks were knocked out with a blunt object.

This video shows the sum of "other" space that the family has to work with. Basically, a narrow, dark hallway + another very small room where the family keeps a clothes washing machine (the round, metal thing in the video, a couple of wheelbarrows, and some shelves containing vegetables (and flies).

As far as home improvements for Paola's upcoming Aura's House fundraiser ...

The family has requested a refridgerator and metal cabinet for storing dishes/dry food. They will set these two items in the hallway between the wardrobe and the propane stove.

There is a possible issue with the fridge, which will need to be explored further. Paola's family steals their electricity by illegally tapping into the local power supply (having electricity routed to them legally is not feasible at this time). Running a fridge off of this stolen electricity may not be advisable. Two possible solutions to the problem are:

1. They would only connect the refridgerator at night.

2. We could purchase a smaller unit, rather than a full-sized model.

Now, here's some good news. It has been decided that although the family does not own the land or the house, we can still make improvements to the existing structure. This means that we cannot build anything new, but we can repair or improve upon anything that is already constructed. Some ideas about projects we could finance are:

1. Put a real window in the place of the hole.

2. Install better doors with screens to keep out the flies.

3. Replace the roof (which leaks terribly) with one that will connect to the brick walls without leaving gaps.

4. Purchase some kind of bug zapper (if possible) to help control the flies.

The house is FULL of flies. I'd hate to see how many more show up in the summertime!

*Please speak up if you have any questions/comments/ideas about a home improvement SNG!*

Paola's Home 2012 - 1st Video

This video shows the new entry door to the bedroom shared by Paola, her two sisters, her mother, mom's boyfriend, and her grandmother.

You can see that the bunk beds we bought for the family last year are being well utilized both for sleeping and for storage. Paola sleeps on the bottom bunk with her abuela (grandmother). Don't be horrified - she likes sharing with Grandma. I liked to sleep with my grandma as a child (and even as a teenager!), and in these countries, "family beds" are not at all uncommon and even help children feel safe and secure. The Family Bed has actually become a popular trend in industrialized nations like the United States and Europe ... but, after doing a quick Google search, I can see that the concept is probably as controversial as spanking, lol. I didn't read any of the pro/con articles, but here's a link to one if YOU want to research the debate:

From a glance it seems to me that the primary concern is about small children being accidentally crushed or smothered by blankets. I don't see this tragedy as being highly likely, but, in any case, the Family Bed is hardly an option for Paola's household. The two beds take up almost all of the space in the tiny bedroom, but at least not everybody must cram themselves into the ONE older bed - especially now with Rosa's new boyfriend residing there.

Tomasa uses the top bunk, and Maria is not yet ready to stop sleeping with Mama (and Partner, whose name alludes me at the moment). Don't ask about the girls and an early introduction to sex education. Please, just don't ask! All I can say, is that adult privacy is an issue all over the world. When I lived in Pakistan, I visited many, many family homes. Only in ONE affluent household did the parents have the luxury of a bedroom separate from the children. I always wondered how these parents kept adding more children to the family, with so many already sleeping only a few feet away ... but, I DIDN'T ASK! I don't think that my brain full of Western culture and sensibilities could deal with the answer.

The video of the bedroom shows a lot of clutter, but what is not seen so clearly are the flies. The home is CRAWLING with flies, even in the winter time! In my next blog post, I will list out what we may be able to do about this problem, along with other home improvements.

Packing Gifts for Visit to Paola

Here's some photos of the stuff I'm attempting to pack up for the visit to Paola. It's certainly far different from last trip, when I could take along only one carry-on!



(but the suitcase weighed more than 50 lbs, so I had to split the clothes into two bags).


Still More Christmas DP Photos - 2011

More Christmas DP Photos - 2011

Paola's Christmas DP 2011

Jennifer made some nice stockings for Paola and her sisters, and filled them with cool gifts. A lot of it was Hello Kitty stuff + I added a stuffed dog that sings "Feliz Navidad" to the package. Good choices, because we now know that Paola's favorite animals are cats and dogs.

Paola Answers Questions About Herself

On January 30th, we received what appears to be a standard annual letter from Paola (not a response to a DP or SNG). This one came in the form of a questionnaire.

Q: She likes it when we go ...

A: To play ball, to play with cooking toys and with dolls.

Q: What she likes to do most at home is ...

A: Play and also she likes to watch TV and she likes to run errands and help with chores at home.

Q: What she likes to do most at the park is ...

A: She likes to play ball with her siblings and cousins, and she also likes to play on the swings and the slide and she likes to run and play hide-and-seek.

Q: Her favorite color is ...

A: Pink

Q: Her favorite animal is ...

A: Dogs and Cats

Because Paola cannot write yet, this questionnaire was filled out by Paola's neighbor lady.