My parents travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico a few weeks each year. I’m fortunate they often invite me to join them for a week. I’d been to Puerto Vallarta many times and had a desire to try something new. As I was researching ideas, I ran across an article about “Families at the Dump”. It was a local mission created by a resort developer and visitors to assist families who literally lived at the dump. Many of the workers built make-shift homes and lived off items considered “trash”, because they simply did not have enough income to own or rent a home. I immediately emailed the coordinator and set up a date to volunteer on my trip. I was genuinely excited to have the opportunity to volunteer for a day, but wanted to leave something that would help beyond my visit. I started collecting toiletries and reached out wherever I could to get donations. With this small effort, I was able to fill up an old suitcase to the brim with the toiletries.
The night before my volunteer opportunity was scheduled, I stopped at a local Mexican grocery store to pick up a few items. I noticed a display of soccer balls on sale and made an impulse purchase. I thought “maybe the kids at the dump would have fun with this”. The kids loved it! As soon as I pulled it out of the bag, they had it on the dirt ground kicking it around with their bare feet! The sound of their laughter still rings in my ears. The toiletries weren’t quite as exciting as the soccer ball, but the coordinator was extremely grateful for the items and told me they were much needed at the time.
Families at the Dump is now known as Families de la Esperanza. With the help of its founders, and many visitors, the families no longer live at the dump. However there is still help that is needed. Next time you take a vacation, consider getting involved with a local mission for a day. It gave me an appreciation greater than any tourist attraction ever has. I look forward to doing it again soon!