The current COVID-19 situation in BCS is critical. Specifically Los Cabos and La Paz are now at “Level 5: Critical” and are on the brink of a full lock down. Measures are being taken locally by governing bodies to try and mitigate the propagation of the virus.
The local population and tourists are reminded of the mandatory use of masks, are encouraged to wash hands frequently and socially distance in order to prevent further spread. Hospitals, both private and public, are all at maximum capacity.
Currently extremely high demand for COVID testing, hospitalization, and consultation has created a strain on resources. BCS is third nationally for active COVID-19 cases per capita. Six out of every 10 people tested for COVID are positive. The federal government has accelerated the vaccination rate in BCS in an effort to vaccinate as many people as possible.
Vaccination registration has begun for those over 30 years old and on June 24 the government announced that the Pfizer vaccine had been approved for those over 12 years of age.
Lesly Melissa Montejo is from a single parent family. When her father left, Melissa’s mother became very depressed and knew that her housecleaning income would not support the family. Encouraged by Liga MAC’s Executive Director, Elva Haro, to better her elementary school education and helped by Liga MAC’s food voucher program, Melissa’s mother went back to school.
Meanwhile Melissa (who had entered the Liga MAC student support program thanks to a former Liga MAC graduate, her cousin Enrique) is pursuing her childhood dream of becoming an architect. Three weeks ago Melissa’s mother received her middle school diploma and just recently, Melissa has been notified that she will receive a full university scholarship to study architecture at ITES. One of the annual benefits of being a Liga MAC student that thrilled Melissa, was receiving her new school uniform. As one of 3 children in a low income family, receiving something “new” is a special gift.
All 3 of our profiled students this month were asked individually and separately to share their favourite aspect of Liga MAC’s student support program. In all three cases the answer was the same: the feeling of being part of a family. Sergio expanded on his response to say that he felt like there was always someone walking with him. Melissa added that she always felt encouraged to do her best.
All 3 students have decided to put their careers ahead of plans for a family and mentioned Liga MAC’s personal awareness programs, Alas and Águilas (see last month’s profile), had empowered them to think beyond the cultural norms.
Sergio Amador has been in Liga MAC’s student support program for 3 years and ranks English As a Second Language as his favourite Liga MAC program. The ESL program conducted by volunteers via Zoom this school year, connected native speaking volunteers, some of whom were participating from their homes in Canada and the US, with Grade 12 students anxious to improve their English language skills. Sergio felt a strong connection with the ESL volunteers and respected and admired their dedication.
He also appreciated the guidance provided by Liga MAC’s staff who helped him apply for a university scholarship of which he previously had no knowledge. As a result, Sergio, through his hard work and some Liga MAC encouragement, has won a full scholarship for the Business Management Program at the local technical college, ITES.
To increase his business acumen and make a little cash during the pandemic, Sergio started an online sales and marketing company selling customized baseball caps. His dream is to own multiple companies that aspire to hire inclusively. In his short career, Sergio has noticed that minorities and those with disabilities struggle to find employment. His focus and strong values will help him strive to make the changes he feels are necessary.
Luis Herrera has been with Liga MAC for 6 years. He entered the program after applying to an ad on the school bulletin board. The oldest of 3 children, Luis would not have been able to continue in school due to family finances. His parents, employed as a cook and house cleaner, were further financially hampered when Luis’s father became diabetic and developed other subsequent health issues.
From an early age Luis exhibited an affinity for fixing things. His love for all things mechanical and his outstanding GPA of 9.9 has led him to a full scholarship at ITES in Electro-Mechanical Engineering.
Luis’s favourite Liga MAC activity was the Liga MAC choir which he attended for two years (up until the pandemic). Liga MAC volunteer, choir leader, and professional entertainer, Mario Lozano, encouraged Luis and gifted him one of his guitars. At home, Luis practiced and watched online instructional videos and is now a proficient guitarist. Music has become his release and sanctuary in difficult times.
Luis and his father have set up a food venue near Liga MAC’s Centro de Apoyo which they operate from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Luis’s goal is to run his own mechanical repair company – a much needed service in Los Cabos!
Just two weeks after our last update, where we painted a rosy picture of the coming days in Los Cabos, the unthinkable happened: a sudden and violent spike in COVID cases. Even though vaccinations continue, the local hospitals are now filled to capacity. Dr. Deneb Poli will clarify the current situation in Los Cabos later in this update in her “Doctor’s Corner” segment.
Meanwhile, Liga MAC’s Educational Support Program Coordinator, Karen Castro, was stricken with COVID and her husband, Omar, was hospitalized. Gracias a Dios they are both now recovering.
Returning to a higher level of restrictions (level 5 from level 3) on June 23 has effectively shut down most activities and certainly any thoughts of in person celebrations for Liga MAC’s graduating students. In our profile this month though, we will celebrate 3 of our graduates.
by Dr. Deneb Poli COVID cases are still on the decline in Los Cabos, as are hospitalized patients which means that transmission is decreasing.
Frequent hand washing, mask use and general sanitary measures are still encouraged, as well as distancing.
Vaccination has continued and the government is now closing its first round of vaccination for over 50 year olds and pregnant women over 18 years of age. Second doses will likely be available in 3-4 weeks time and appointments for these vaccinations are made online.
Los Cabos also experienced a 4.3° earthquake (on the Richter scale) on May 9th at 01:48 hours. I strongly encourage everyone to be prepared not only for this type of an event but also for hurricanes as we move into the season. Please make sure you have taken a look through your first aid kit, cleaning out and replacing any expired supplies and preparing yourself with canned foods, water and enough prescription medication in case of a meteorological event.
Remember to respect signage and warning flags at local beaches as waves grow and tides become stronger over the summer season in Los Cabos. Temperatures are beginning to increase so carrying a water bottle, electrolytes, a hat and sunscreen are more important at this time of year.
Enjoy the warm weather, pool season and beaches responsibly, maintain safe distancing and have fun!
One of Liga MAC’s first supplemental programs, Alas (Wings in English), was designed for young women to help prevent teenage pregnancies. At the time, Baja California Sur had the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the country. Premiering in 2006, the successful Alas program addressed only half the problem.
In 2015, a complementary program for young men called Águilas (Eagles in English) was introduced. Originally led by professional psychologist and sexuality clinician Heddy Villaseñor, the program expanded to include therapist Tomás Llamas.
In October 2019, Tomás and Heddy made a presentation based on their work with Liga MAC’s Águilas program at the 24th World Congress of the World Association for Sexual Health and the XII Congreso Nacional de Educación Sexual y Sexología and received recognition for their work from the Department of Psychology of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
This year the Águilas program represented the first of Liga MAC’s student programs since the COVID lockdown to be held in person in a rented facility large enough to maintain social distance. Unfortunately Tomás was unable to attend but Heddy proceeded with help from Liga MAC staff, Elva and Consuelo.
Being the first in-person event in 14 months the course required special parental approval and received unanimous support from the parents of all 24 grade 10 and 11 students. One of the reasons the parents were so supportive of the program, is that the subject of sexuality in Mexico’s male dominated culture is still very much taboo. Parents have difficulty broaching the topic openly with their teens and in many cases lack the knowledge to properly handle the information.
Over 5 consecutive Saturday mornings starting April 17, Heddy, in a non-confrontational manner, introduced such topics as: the socio-economic consequences of teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, gender rights, societal and domestic violence, and the legal rights of children in Mexico. Participants explored topics through role play and were encouraged to ask questions. Heddy emphasized the importance in these transitory times of taking time to get to know their partners. She invited them to become responsible not only personally but to lead by example in all their relationships.
At the end of the program the students were asked to provide feedback by responding to a questionnaire. Universally their comments reflected their appreciation for Heddy’s expertise and her ability to provide a safe environment for their sensitive discussions.
Although much of the information covered in the Aguilas program is supposed to be taught in public school, teachers are seldom properly trained to successfully deliver the course content and many students acknowledged that much of the information had never been covered in school.
Perhaps the most provocative questionnaire response related to the fact that 30% of the course participants were the product of teen pregnancies and that many did not know their fathers. Today Mexico leads all Latin American countries in teen pregnancies – a statistic Liga MAC is helping to change.
May 2021 Dear Friends of Liga MAC, After more than a year of uncertainty the veil of COVID is lifting and we are finally able to dare to look ahead. For Liga MAC’s students, that means assembling the pieces of a shattered school year so that they can move on with their education.
For Liga MAC the organization, it means taking the next steps towards non-virtual fundraising and volunteer activities, and strengthening support mechanisms so that we can best assist our students in finding their way forward.
Rather than profiling a student this month, we are going to highlight a program that best exemplifies how Liga MAC is serving one segment of our student body. And, we will take a peak at preparedness during the summer months with Dr. Deneb Poli’s words of advice in Doctor’s Corner.
Active COVID cases continue to decline in numbers in Los Cabos and we are seeing fewer hospitalized patients.
As of April 27, there were only 32 hospitalized cases in Los Cabos which represents 20% of available acute care hospital beds. At the same time vaccinations continue at a steady pace. The rolls have opened up for those aged 50 to 59 years. In addition, teachers will start to be vaccinated in the next couple of weeks with the hope that schools will be able to reopen. Good news for Liga MAC students and for Los Cabos!
Sign up for the vaccine continues online at https://coronavirus.gob.mx/vacunacion-covid/. Once registered, you will receive a call back to book a vaccination appointment or you can also just show up early at the vaccination location with a piece of ID and a proof of local address. PCR and Rapid antigen tests continue to be available at the airport daily and are still offered at hospitals, clinics and private laboratories.
Keeping kids on track during this pandemic year has been a monumental task for Liga MAC’s staff but through their perseverance, 57 grade 12 students will matriculate this June. Unfortunately, as State restrictions require, there will be no live graduation ceremonies. The more pressing matter for the graduates now is: what’s next?
Elva, Consuelo, and Karen at the Liga MAC Centro de Apoyo have been working with those graduates who qualify, roughly 43 students, to prepare applications for university scholarships from 3 local organizations. The 3 groups, Building Baja’s Future, Green Scholarship, and Grupo Questro, require in addition to a well written application, evidence of students who have clear career goals, a good work ethic, community involvement, and good personal skills. Liga MAC’s staff help to groom Liga MAC students to be both physically and mentally interview-ready.
Elva, who sits on the community advisory board for ITES (Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios de Superiores), reports that one of the concerns of post secondary institutions in Los Cabos is that schools prepare students to be ready to learn, but not ready to work. To that end, over the past few years, Liga MAC has been ramping up its programs to deliver supplemental Math and Spanish educational instruction and personal development courses to better prepare students for the world beyond school and encourages parents to take an active role in their children’s education.
Josue’s (his real name) academic story began not as a result of Liga MAC’s influence but with inspiration from his father. In almost every respect, Josue is not a typical Liga MAC student. He does not come from a severely impoverished family; both his parents are present and involved in his life; and he is self motivated.
During Hurricane Odile in September 2014, Josue’s little brother was a newborn who suffered from the heat and high humidity. To relieve the baby’s discomfort, Josue’s father jerry-rigged a fan from a car battery. Fascinated by his father’s ingenuity, Josue who was only 12 at the time, began to explore alternate forms of energy. In fact, he became passionate about creating clean energy solutions.
Josue was referred to Liga MAC by the school social workers at CETMAR, a trade high school specializing in ocean technology. By the time he reached Liga MAC, Josue already knew what he wanted to do with his life: save the planet, his country, and his community, not necessarily in that order, from the ravages of climate change through the development of alternate clean and renewable energy sources.
In his quest to learn more by starting small, Josue fashioned a small solar system for his family home from discarded parts. In his spare time, Josue has honed his self discipline through the practice of martial arts and placed 9th in a recent national tournament. Josue recognized that his dream of becoming an engineer in clean technology meant he would have to attend a large university on the mainland, something that was beyond his parents means.
Enter Liga MAC! When asked by Liga MAC’s Executive Director, Elva Haro, what he had hoped to receive from Liga MAC, Josue answered, two things: the discipline, commitment, and personal skills he knew he needed to realize his dream; and, the ability to learn to speak English from non-judgmental, empathetic native speakers through Liga MAC’s volunteer run English as a Second Language program. Josue graduates from high school this June and with Elva’s help has applied for a full university scholarship for which he is a virtual shoe-in. Josue has displayed all the attributes which will allow him to succeed in life: perseverance, hard work, and the ability to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves. Ultimately, Josue hopes to become an environmental entrepreneur. Look out Elon Musk!!
Not all students come to Liga MAC preprogrammed like Josue. In fact most don’t. But Josue knew he needed guidance to fulfill his dreams. He knew he needed to be in an environment of learning and discipline. We have no doubt that Josue will achieve success and Liga MAC is grateful to have played a small part in his quest for excellence!
Since 1997, Liga MAC has helped to nourish, heal and give opportunities for education to thousands of individuals in the community of San José del Cabo, B.C.S. Mexico. This includes over 5,000 grants to children and young adult since 2004.