The concept for Beyond Beaches is to create a website which foreigners could use to see where they can volunteer time, talent or money; an overview of the various charitable organizations operating in Mazatlan and surrounding area and a calendar of their events and local fund-raisers.
In addition to giving prospective donors and volunteers a database, it is also hoped that the charities which are being featured on this website will be able to use the data base to help coordinate efforts whether it be for lobbying a particular area of government for needs which they all share (strength in numbers); to share resources; to communicate with sister-organizations or simply to schedule a fund-raising event whose date does not conflict with other major fund-raising events in the community.
Melinda and her husband, Peter, were recent arrivals to Mazatlan looking for ways to enjoy their winter vacation. By chance they ended up at a performance given by the children of the Salvation Army Children´s Home at a local gathering of foreigners. The children use their performances as a way to raise money to help fund the programs at the home. These children captivated the hearts and minds of the young Canadian couple who, in true Canadian fashion, knew they wanted to do something to help out. They drove out to the children´s home to see how they could help and in short order, ended up being in charge of the maintenance program and lunch program. As a result of organizing volunteers and donations, they came upon the idea to register the home as a Canadian charity so the donors would qualify for a Canadian tax receipt (there were already US tax receipts available through Tres Islas Orphanage Fund and Mexican receipts via the local organization). After much hard work, they were successful in registering The Gems of Mazatlan as a Canadian Charitable Foundation.
When Judy arrived in Mazatlan, after practising law for 25 years in Canada, she thought she would like to take a fresh look at life and to learn a new language during the winter months while her husband was working in the oilfields in Alberta. She joined The Friends of Mexico and volunteered to teach English at a local school in one of the poorer neighborhoods. It was during this time that she was introduced to the Mothers and children at Ciudad de los Niños orphanage. She began to work with the Mother´s to determine the needs of the children and to look for donations of food and clothing and school supplies. It helped that many family and friends who came to visit, also wanted to help out where they could. An informal network of fund-raising was set up, culminating in the inclusion of the Ciudad de los Niños under the umbrella of The Gems of Mazatlan just this past month so that now cash donations from Canadians are tax deductible.
Judy assists Dr. Juan Fernando Barraza, the Medical Tourism Coordinator at Hospital Sharp Mazatlan, in outreach to the foreign community. Dr. Barraza was instrumental in gathering information for this website as well as working on several community projects, the most recent being Paco´s Project at Ciudad del los Niños. Another was at Asilo de Ancianos, where with two friends from Alberta, Linda and Turid, they raised sufficient money to put an elevator in the aging home´s structure to assist with opening up more beds. It was at a fund-raiser for this event in Mazatlan that Judy reconnected with Melinda´s parents from Kindersley, Saskatchewan, where their kids and hers had been on the same swim team. This is also where she learned what Melinda was doing at her charity and so touched base with her to share ideas.
As they talked, it became apparent that they had much in common, in their charity work as well as in their outlook on life. It also became apparent that there were many foreigners living in Mazatlan who shared similar views i.e. you can´t walk the beach and drink beer all day – you need something more meaningful to do while you share this lovely beach city with the locals – i.e. there is much need beyond the beach. We all have so much to offer which simply does not disappear just because you have retired.
It is our belief that this project will take on a life of its own as it gets up and running and will take us very far beyond the beaches of Mazatlan to where the real needs are.