Reader Feature: An Escuela in the Hills

Meet Barbara Murphy-Bridge, Our First Reader Feature!

We first heard from Barbara last November. She wrote to tell us how she uses our printable calendars in her escuela (school) in Mexico. We immediately fell in love with her passion and her mission. And after months of communicating via email and on the phone, we’re sharing her with you now as our Reader Feature: An Escuela in the Hills. Barbara’s story is one rooted in community, faith, education and heart.

Reader Feature: An Escuela in the Hills

The Oaxacan Community

Located 90 miles south of Tijuana, you’ll find the Oaxacan (pronounced “wah  haw ken”) community. It is made up of many indigenous agricultural workers who earn only US$10/day for a full day of work in the fields. Some agricultural workers work six days a week. They travel to work via old school bus, some take a micro (meek-ro) bus. Those who don’t have 10 peso fare (one way) will bike or walk.  They survive in very poor living conditions with no running water, electricity, sewer or trash pick-up.

This story begins in May of 2015 near Maneadero, Mexico. A small group of retired seniors raised $7,500 to build a casita for a young family (Maria, Romero and their two children). Under the umbrella of Baja Bound Ministries, Scott Butler, their Field Supervisor, generously waived his $500 fee to oversee the project. Little did Barbara know that this house would soon become the backdrop for their escuela in just a few short months.

An Escuela in the Hills of Maneadero

Three months later, on August 29, 2015, Barbara and her friend, Patty Rodriguez, took a beat up van into the hills of Maneadero, Baja California Norte, Mexico. They were on a mission to teach a few children of Oaxaca and Chiapas agricultural workers “a little English.”  That Saturday morning they opened the doors to their escuela on a piece of flat ground behind Maria and Romero’s new casa. They opened their school with 20 plastic chairs, a white board and no shelter. Soon, they graduated to quilts laid on the dirt with a canopied shelter due to overflow.

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Barbara’s efforts are driven by her faith and her big heart. Her mission is to prepare kids for public schools. She is given one hour each Saturday to spend with these children and their families. And they wrap up their lessons with a snack and milk (a luxury item most families are not able to afford).

Most Oaxacan families cannot afford bus fare, crayons or even milk. Barbara shared that one expectant mother, Lourdes, attended school each week. Barbara would always make sure she had a chair to sit on and that she received juice and water when it was passed around. (Oaxacan peoples are quite shy and reserved.) Such a small gesture on Barbara’s part meant so much to this young mother, that she is now officially her first born’s Godmother.

How She Uses Woo! Jr. Kids Activities in Her Classroom

Each month Barbara prints out Woo! Jr. calendars. She colors in some of the elements so that the students will have a more finished piece of functional art to place on the walls of their casa. They use push pins to display their colorful English calendars in their homes. We are so grateful that Barbara is able to use our free printables in her efforts to improve the quality of education for the families in her village.

Nearly five years after their first trek into the hills, this team has built their school from a dirt lain quilt floor to a sheltered classroom with a cement floor. With support of Pedro and wife Maria (who own the lot where the escuela sits), a core of five super-dedicated volunteers are still building, teaching and serving their community. They continue to make improvements wherever they can and continue to serve their Oaxacan family in such a BIG way.

How You Can Help

If you are inspired by Barbara’s story and want to learn more or make a donation, please reach out to her via our contact form, and we will put you in touch. There is always a need for donated school supplies. In addition, many improvement projects can be done to enhance the community’s education experience.

When asked what Barbara would do with more funding for her school, she prioritized these projects:

  1. Put two walls up at the back of the school for further protection from the sun and wind. Kids love cut ‘n paste worksheets, and if windy…
  2. Paint the roof interior (which looks like particle board) to protect it from the elements.
  3. Get a wider and longer table.

Photo Gallery

Here is a photo gallery that Barbara shared with us.

An Invitation for Future Reader Features

We are so very thankful Barbara shared her mission with us for this Reader Feature: An Escuela in the Hills. This is a brand new feature we are creating, and we love hearing from you. Please write us and tell us about what you do with Woo! Jr. resources. Or if not you, who do you know that should be considered as a future feature? Who is using our materials in a way that’s helping their community, classroom or family.

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Please contact us if you’d like to share how you are making a difference! Can’t wait to hear from you!

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