October 9, 2015 | Puebla, Mexico | IAD Staff
More than 6,000 children in south central Mexico received backpacks full of school supplies days before the new school year began, thanks to the local Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and thousands of Seventh-day Adventist church members in the region.
The initiative, coordinated by ADRA’s office in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican union, involved thousands of church members contributing funds on Sabbaths in May to ensure that needy children would have the basic supplies to begin their school year.
The distribution took place in eight states where nine church mission offices oversee hundreds of churches. It was the second largest backpack distribution since 2014 said Martin Olvera, ADRA director for the church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union.
“Our states are included among the ten places with the lowest educational standards at the national level, so we wanted to address those school needs of the low-income students,” said Olvera. Cities like Oaxaca which places first nationally among the lowest education standards and in the state of Puebla which is in fourth place and has one of the highest poverty indexes in the country. “There are 221 municipal districts in Puebla, and we only have Adventist presence in 29 of those.”
Every church conference and/or mission chose the target areas to benefit. Then each district pastor established a committee to search for the neediest families in their surrounding communities. Women’s ministries, children’s ministries, youth ministries and education departments across churches joined together for the project. Based on the information gathered, children were identified in communities to be recipients of a backpack.
Each backpack included notebooks, pencils, pens, glue, colored pencils, scissors, erasers, a ruler set, a dictionary, a sharpener and a “I Want to Live Healthy” pamphlet with information on the eight natural remedies to live a healthier life: water, rest, exercise, sunshine, air, nutrition, temperance, and hope in God.
Olvera said the project represents an investment of more than $ 100,000 by ADRA local offices in the union which payed for the printed backpacks and monetary donations which came straight from church members for the school supplies.
Each participating church prepared a special program for children and their families before they were given the backpacks on church premises or at Adventist schools, added Olvera.
“The smiles we saw as the children received their backpacks was so special,” said Olvera. “They all need the love of Christ.”
The project really brought great benefits for those who received but mostly for those giving, said Olvera. “It promoted a spirit of generosity and service in church members of all ages, impacted the community, allowed for each church or congregation to participate their social responsibility and strengthened the image of the church in the community,” added Olvera.
The project has drawn so much interest in the church and the community that church leaders are planning to continue the initiative next year in the territory, said Olvera.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union is one of five church unions in Mexico and has nearly 198,000 church members worshipping in 2,645 churches congregations. The Inter-Oceanic union oversees nine conferences and missions and 44 primary and 42 secondary schools.