For nearly 15 years, the Palapa Society of Todos Santos has administered educational, medical, and environmental programs for local children and their families in the coastal town of Todos Santos, Baja California. Located less than an hour drive from the bustling tourist hubs of Los Cabos, Todos Santos is known as an off-the-beaten-path artists’ colony and surf destination, backed by the Sierra Laguna mountain range.
Recognizing the needs of local children and their families, a group of long-term, dedicated volunteers has worked with other organizations in the community to establish the Palapa Society and provide programs for children to better their lives and the community of Todos Santos. Among the host of programs and initiatives that the Palapa Society offers to the Todos Santos community, here are four that have a big impact and deserve your support.
Opening Doors to Education and Future Opportunity
Education is widely understood to be the key to future opportunities — but unfortunately, the opportunity to get a good education it is not available to everyone. For many students in public schools in Mexico, basic education costs like uniforms and supplies are obstacles to enrolling and staying in school. The Palapa Society’s Scholarship Program helps students to pay for costs like tuition, books, uniforms, and school supplies to attend public school. Scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate academic merit and are in financial need.
Thanks to this program, last year more than 90 scholarships are awarded to local middle school, high school, and university students in Todos Santos. Since 2003, the Palapa Society has awarded scholarships to more than 550 students who not only devote themselves to their studies, but also give back to their communities through community service.
Thanks to the support they received, many of the Palapa Scholarship students (becarios) have become teachers, architects, engineers, and more. Throughout their professions, they are living out the values that they learned in the program, and continue to improve the lives of those around them long after they’ve graduated.
Keeping Children Safe through Water Skills
Todos Santos is a renowned beach and surf destination, perched on the Pacific Ocean. While the ocean is a precious resource and driver of the regional economy, if local children aren’t taught to swim, they can’t take advantage of this amazing natural resource — and the ocean can be dangerous.
For eight years, the Palapa Society has teamed up with Mario Surf School to offer a Water Safety Program. These classes teach children how to swim and other valuable water safety skills — not to mention a love for playing in the ocean, as kids should!
In the Water Safety Program, children literally get their feet wet in a pool, where they first learn to swim and build confidence, before classes move to the beach. In the ocean, they learn about tides, waves, and safety skills. On the final day of classes, students surf for the first time.
After they’ve completed the Water Safety Program, children can enjoy sun, sand, and surf and even seek out water-related job opportunities for years to come.
Cross-Cultural Exchange and English Language Skills
As international tourism in Baja California Sur continues to expand, English language skills become increasingly essential to finding job opportunities for the young people of Todos Santos. The Puente (Bridge) to English Program offers a fun and creative atmosphere for students to learn English from native English-speaking volunteers. Every child who wants to learn English is welcomed; no child is turned away.
With many of the English teachers coming from other countries, students not only learn English, but also learn about other cultures and how to relate to those of other cultures. This cross-cultural exchange enriches the students’ learning experience and also helps to set them up for success in the local job market.
The Palapa Learning Center: A Higher Quality Education
As part of its commitment to ensuring children and youth in Todos Santos receive a robust education, after years of fundraising, curriculum and construction design, and permitting from the Mexican Ministry of Education, the Palapa Society was thrilled to open the doors of the new Palapa Learning Center for their inaugural school year on Aug. 16, 2017.
This new school will offer middle and high school students a high-quality, rigorous curriculum and an environment where they are encouraged to learn through methodologies that will prepare them for the 21st century job-market. The three-building site houses all of the Palapa Society’s current programs, including the Community Library, the Puente (Bridge to English), Adult English community courses, and Children’s Arts & Crafts. Currently, students are participating in the selection and design of new programs, such as sports teams and advanced math, that they wish to receive at their new high school.
The cumulative effect of these programs is that the Palapa Center is more than just a school — it is a center for learning and exchange for the entire community.
It is exciting to see the construction completed, and students in class, but continued support is needed to keep the new Palapa Learning Center running. Make a donation today to support the future for the youth of Todos Santos.