Queen Elizabeth II once famously described the year 1992 as an “annus horribilis”. That designation may find a new home in 2020! Globally, it has been one of the most medically challenging, economically devastating, and deadly twelve months in modern history. With a vaccine on the horizon and a medical conclusion in sight, there will be many takeaways from the experiences of the past year. In the case of Liga MAC, and in light of the many hardships faced by the students Liga MAC supports, some of the most impressive discoveries have been the resilience of our students and the dedication of our donors and volunteers.
When school began in San Jose del Cabo in August and September and classes shifted out of the classroom and onto computer screens and television sets, the learning environment was in chaos. Teachers were forced to acquire a new skillset and students needed to find the self discipline to juggle school work with home life. But gradually as the first semester came to a close, students were adapting to the new normal of online classes.
Liga MAC too, has had to adapt its programs to an online format. English as a Second Language (ESL) was hugely successful before the pandemic and is an example of how well our students have adjusted to online learning. Liga MAC volunteers recently completed a pilot ESL program for eighteen Grade 12 students. Not only did the students join the online classes on time, dressed in their school uniforms (even though they were joining from home), and with their homework completed, but they were also able to assist their instructors in the nuances of Zoom! The pilot program called, Escuchando y Hablando Inglés, afforded students individual screen time and was well received by facilitators and students alike. As a result, a full ESL program for our Grade 12 students is being planned for January 2021.
Another Liga MAC program organized in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club, is providing students with a social outlet during the pandemic. Parents have commented that the Community Involvement Program has opened up a much needed social network that allows their kids to talk with peers about things that interest them. And Liga MAC’s other volunteer supported programs like Alas and Águilas are being modified to accommodate technology so that they can continue to deliver the kind of support our students so desperately need.
But none of this – online classes, Liga MAC programs, social networking – would be possible without the incredible response from Liga MAC donors to our laptop campaign.
Elva, overwhelmed by the response, called donors’ generosity, “unbelievable”! She went on to say that when parents and students come to the Liga MAC Centre to pick up their laptops and record a thank you to individual donors, parents are often holding back tears of gratitude. She calls the life changing gifts, the students’ “window to the world”. The campaign has been so overwhelmingly successful that, in addition to the 72 high school students, Elva is now able to order laptops for an additional 25 Grade 9 students.
But the challenges continue for students and citizens of San Jose del Cabo. Federally, Mexicans have been asked to forego all celebrations surrounding Christmas: Dia de la Virgin de Guadalupe, Christmas posadas and family gatherings, and Dia de Reyes. If COVID numbers continue to climb, the state and country will be forced back into the “Orange” level which will mean a suspension of all non-essential activities. The federal government has declared that school will continue remotely until the “green” or all clear level is achieved. It is not inconceivable that the entire school year will be conducted online.
So as 2020 draws to a close, our takeaway from this year is that no matter what degree of horrible passes our way, together – students, volunteers, staff, and donors – will find a way to meet the challenge.
On behalf of Elva, Consuelo, and Karen at the Liga MAC Centro de Apoyo and the entire Liga MAC Board of Directors, may we wish you Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!
Our students still need our support … So we continue to reach out to our donors and our fundraising efforts are going virtual!
Deneb Poli, a LigaMAC board member and practicing doctor in San Jose del Cabo, is chairing our newly created fundraising committee and they are ready to launch our first virtual fundraiser
A Week without Challenge
In order to be successful, we need this online campaign to go viral and that can only happen if each of our volunteers and supporters can help with sharing the fundraising link anywhere and everyone online.
Can we please count on your support to share this link within your online social network (email, facebook, twitter … )
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! Despite the fact that we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, there are many things for which to be thankful. As the President of a Mexican educational charity, I am thankful for our hardworking staff, our wonderful benevolent donors, and our selfless volunteers without all of whom the students Liga MAC supports would find the challenges they face overwhelming.
In our last update, we made a plea for help to acquire laptops and internet access for Liga MAC’s high school students. As we reported, high school classes for the current year are being conducted online making access to computers essential. After our staff surveyed Liga MAC’s 136 high school students, it was determined that 79 students lacked access to a computer and 39 lacked internet access.
Our call to arms garnered a tremendous response thus far, enabling us to provide 52 students with laptops (refurbished by authorized dealers to a like-new condition including Microsoft software). Although the laptops remain the property of Liga MAC, students sign a contract allowing them exclusive use for educational purposes. When the student graduates from high school and proceeds to university the laptop becomes their property but if they do not graduate, the laptop reverts to Liga MAC for the next student’s use.
Liga MAC’s functional year revolves around the local school year. It also coincides with the arrival and departure to Los Cabos of our many expat volunteers. Now that our students are again engaged in their studies, both remotely and virtually, Liga MAC must rethink how it delivers its support programs and how it engages our volunteers.
One of the ways Liga MAC has been able to deliver such great value to donors and students alike, is through our extensive network of volunteers. However, due to COVID, both the return to traditional volunteer roles and the delivery of programs are in the process of being reworked.
On the bright side, working from home via the internet means that facilitators, volunteers, staff, and students can connect wherever in the world they might be located. Redesigning programs to fit the new reality presents some challenges including a heavy dependency on technology. Let’s have a look at some of the redesigned programs:
English As a Second Language (ESL) – Our ESL lead facilitators (English speaking expat volunteers) are reviewing options on how to safely and effectively deliver a modified ESL program for our Grade 11 and 12 students. The use of Zoom, WhatsApp or an alternate will be essential for virtual connections. These volunteer leaders acknowledge there will be challenges, however they also appreciate that students will benefit both psychologically and scholastically. We hope to have all our senior high school students outfitted with laptops and internet connectivity in order to facilitate this vital program.
Self Esteem & Social Skills – Consuelo has identified 24 Grade 7 students for the program who will be divided into smaller groups. Consuelo will prepare video lessons which she will share by What’s App. The purpose of the classes is to welcome new students to Liga MAC and help them to attain the confidence and self-respect to participate in both the classroom and their lives outside of school.
Math & Spanish tutoring – a small cohort of local professional teachers have committed to designing tailor made and remotely administered classes using a new platform for grade 7 and 8 students.
Leadership Program – Liga MAC will partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Los Cabos on Saturday mornings to present Zoom meetings for our Grade 9 students. The program engages students in problem solving activities which promote public speaking, co-operative interactions, manageable solutions, and advocacy.
Health & Nutrition – Liga MAC Board member, Dr. Mauricio Mercado, will work with local health professionals to develop a remote program advocating proper nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyles which will engage our students as well as their families. The program will be offered to our Grade 10 students from January through April 2021.
Alas – Professional Sexuality Therapist, Hedy Villaseñor, is developing a fall program that may involve home visits employing PPE and social distancing. The course is designed for Grade 10 girls and focuses on sexuality awareness, all forms of abuse, continuing education, employment opportunities, and personal awareness.
Águilas – Local professional therapist Tomás, will prepare an Alas equivalent for Grade 10 boys which will be presented in the late spring of 2021. Details TBA.
Vocational & Personal Counselling – Elva, Consuelo, and Karen provide year round counselling to our students which may include family counselling, emotional and personal therapy, as well as vocational guidance. With staff help many of our graduates have received scholarships for continuing education.
The work continues to assist our willing and hopeful students towards a brighter future. Their gratitude is manifested everyday by their ability to pursue their studies. My gratitude is the realization that without you, our donors and volunteers, these kids would have little for which to be thankful.
If you would like to help us continue to support our students through monetary donations please click on the link to.
And one final note about thank yous. We very much want to acknowledge our donors with a personal response. If you have made a donation through Baja Community Foundation or Monarca Canada Foundation and have not received a personal acknowledgement from Elva, please let her know at: [email protected]
Con mucho cariño,
Maria Lindenberg, President
Board of Directors, Liga MAC, A.C.
Click on the video (1:13 min) to see the happy faces of the first 20 computer recipients
As September approaches, a hot topic in most jurisdictions has been the re-introduction of students to some kind of modified education model.
In June, the Baja California Sur ministry of education announced a staggered return to the classroom starting in August, 2020. That plan has been revised. Students will not return to the classroom until the state has received its “green zone” designation. Instead classes ranging from kindergarten to grade 9 will be broadcast via national public television 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, starting August 24.
In September, high school content will be handled locally when students resume classes remotely. A snowball effect has further complicated an already stressed education system. With so many businesses still closed resulting in a chaotic economy, families who formerly could afford to send their children to private school can no longer. The affect has been the closure of some private schools and more students being added to the public school system.
Precipitating the school start restructuring, is a dramatic rise in the number of COVID cases. Although the state has increased COVID testing and the ratio of deaths to positive tests is relatively low, in-hospital COVID care has increased to 60% of capacity.
On a more personal level, whereas none of Liga MAC’s families had previously been directly affected by the virus, regrettably at least 3 parents of Liga MAC students have tested positive with one parent requiring hospitalization. Private family parties are to blame for some of the new outbreaks.
And as COVID cases multiply, employment stagnates. The local construction workforce has seen projects restarted only to terminate under onerous and expensive COVID protocols. With the lack of tourists and a local economy in tatters, many restaurants are closing leaving restaurant workers struggling to provide for their families.
For Liga MAC students receiving educational support, news that school would become virtual was not good news. In a recent telephone survey of Liga MAC families, our staff discovered that only 44% of students have access to home computers and about half have access to dedicated internet.
High school students will be required to submit their assignments via the internet. Having the means to access lessons, complete assignments and submit them via the internet will now be critical for our students.
As a result of this situation, we are announcing a new campaign:
The Liga MAC Laptop Drive
Donate your old laptop – Are you about to replace your laptop? Please consider donating the old one to Liga MAC for our students. Or,
Donate cash for the purchase of a new laptop – for $250 USD (approximately), Liga MAC can purchase a new laptop for our students. Or,
Pay for a family’s internet service for one month – for approximately $18 USD or 400 pesos provide internet service for one month.
The “new normal” in Los Cabos resembles the situation in many other parts of the world: social distancing, face masks (mandatory on buses), economies reopening at less than 50% capacity. After the state governor, Carlos Mendoza Davis, officially declared BCS downgraded from the “red” category to “orange” on June 16, there was a rush to resume previously normal activities such as attending parties and crowding onto beaches. Those activities came with a spike in COVID cases, a government warning, and then a correction. Mendoza Davis has promised more ventilators and oxygen monitors to combat the virus but warns, after the deaths of 3 BCS medical doctors due to COVID, that health care workers are a valued commodity in short supply. Meanwhile, a representative from the San Jose del Cabo airport (SJD) has reported no increase in the number of flights entering Los Cabos but an increase in the number of passengers on each flight. And the Los Cabos Hotel Association has stated that 85,000 tourists visited Los Cabos in June, 2020, significantly down from 200,000 in the same month last year.
Meanwhile, Liga MAC staff have been conducting telephone wellness checks on Liga MAC’s students and their families and can report that none have contracted the virus. However, treatments for pre-COVID conditions (kidney condition, cancer, lupus) have been neglected as doctors are only treating emergency patients in hospitals. An arguably graver situation exists regarding employment. Family breadwinners working in the construction industry have been called back to their jobs but on a part-time basis while others especially older workers with health issues have been let go. And employers who advanced workers’ wages during the crisis are now calling in those advances as employees return to work. Elva and her team have found family members embarrassed to share the true nature of their situations but after some coaxing uncover that dietary nutrition has been severely cut back due to limited budgets, meals are deficient in protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and some families have taken in relatives increasing the strain on the household budget. But, the good news is that thanks to Liga MAC’s many sympathetic donors, nearly $11,000 USD worth of food vouchers has been issued to our families so that they can enjoy nutritious meals. In addition, Liga MAC has been working with the Community Alliance of BCS to distribute a second round of “despensas” (food baskets) to 128 families.
Typically at this time of the year, Consuelo, Karen and Elva would be testing applicants for our educational support program to select those with the aptitude, good grades and work ethic to receive help continuing on to the next level of their education. However, this year not only has the process been slowed by school shutdowns but also by funding shortfalls. Due to the wide reaching effects of the pandemic, Liga MAC’s Board of Directors has taken the necessary but difficult decision to reduce the number of students receiving support for the coming school year. Additionally, the Board has cut costs wherever possible and made the decision not to replace an employee who left in March. Even with these cost cutting measures it is possible that no new students will be accepted into the program this year. In the coming weeks, we will revisit these decisions based on available funding.
On a positive note, thanks to your donations in 2019, 76 students graduated this school year – the largest group of Liga MAC graduates in the past five years! If you are considering making your annual gift to Liga MAC this year or are a new donor and wish to help, please consider donating now so that with your help Liga MAC can support as many students as possible!
We recently sent out a survey designed to aid Liga MAC’s Board of Directors decision making. It takes less than 2 minutes to complete and will help us to better serve you, our donors and volunteers! Thanks to those that have already responded; if you haven’t yet, we welcome your response.
Thanks to your support, this Summer 76 Liga MAC students have obtained their high school diploma.This is the largest group of Liga MAC graduates in the past five years!In this short clip (1:27 min) we present you some of our awarded students and a lovely thank you note from one of our brightest and most committed students of the 2020 class.
Wow, Liga MAC’s COVID relief fund now stands at nearly $16,000 thanks to your generosity! Liga MAC will continue to dispense food vouchers and pay utility bills as they arise for our Liga MAC families. In the meantime, a good news story! Liga MAC has been able to join forces with the CABCS (Community Alliance of Baja California Sur) to better serve our families. Through advocacy, Elva and her team have been guiding families to apply for food hampers from both the municipal government and the CABCS. Connecting the dots has not always been easy due to high demand and slow response. However, on Saturday, May 30, Liga MAC was able to coordinate delivery of despensas from the CABCS via their network of volunteers to 105 Liga MAC families. The families are now in the CABCS system and received barcoded identification for future deliveries. Thanks go to CABCS for supplying and delivering the hampers and to Elva and her team for contacting each family to coordinate the deliveries.
Despite the fact that the entirety of Mexico remains in the red zone (complete lockdown of activities) according to the National Ministry of Health, activities considered essential have been exempted. Effective June 1, mining and construction activity was authorized to resume in BCS and are operating at 30% capacity as companies put the required physical distancing and PPE requirements in place. When the red classification turns to orange, some hotels and golf communities may open as early as June 15. As well, many unofficial businesses are in operation despite the threat of fines and imprisonment. Some 400 individuals have been fined or jailed in the past 3 weeks.
The state ministry of education has announced that schools will remain closed until the 2020 – 2021 school year begins. The graduates of 2020 will receive their transcripts online and will not be required to complete the usual 400 hours of internship. Next year’s classes will have a staggered start with primary and junior high school beginning on August 10, high school on September 20, and university on September 7. Classroom protocol will be reorganized such that each class will be divided into two groups with each group attending school two days per week leaving Friday reserved for tutoring as needed.
Elva, Consuelo, and Karen have begun the annual registration process for the Liga MAC Educational Support Program. They are contacting schools and students and gathering transcripts and applications, and canvassing students about their electronic device capabilities. Reliance on electronic devices (computers, laptops, tablets) will have increased importance in the post COVID classroom and Liga MAC wants to ensure that our students are not left behind.
The toll on students and families continues to mount. As rents become due, families are moving in with relatives, finding cheaper accommodation or leaving the area entirely to seek support of family. Some family breadwinners have received notice of termination from their employers; and, the informal economy that includes maids /cleaners and helps support many of our families, has collapsed. Although payment due dates to banks for cars, credit cards, and other small loans, have been relaxed, individuals must call the bank to make alternate arrangements for payment. The filing dates for some government taxes (payroll, property, car licensing) have also been extended. Overall though, the perception by the business sector as expressed on the media is that there has been little in the way of federal government assistance to businesses or workers.
The cause of all this chaos, the COVID19 virus, is still wreaking its havoc in all parts of Mexico. As evidenced by some countries now in recovery, there will be many more months before the economy of Los Cabos can make even a partial return. Liga MAC strives to keep our students and their families safe and nourished. During this difficult economic time, we are also focused on keeping our students on the path of education (as some are at risk of becoming the family provider). If you are able to add your support please click on the DONATE button below or visit our website at ligamac.org. If you have a question or comment please contact us at [email protected].
With sincerest gratitude,
Maria Lindenberg, President
Board of Directors, Liga MAC, A.C.
See some of the thankful faces that received help on May 30 (1 min)
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Liga MAC asked for help and you responded! To date we have received $7,000 USD that you specified should be spent on food vouchers and utility payments for our students’ families during the COVID crisis.
Thus far we have issued 63 food vouchers at 750 pesos each for a total of $2,015 USD. We have also helped 2 families with electric bills and 4 students with cell phone payments for a total of $50 USD.
Maintaining cell phone accounts is critical to high school and university students as contact with teachers, and homework and assignments are managed digitally through a What’s App account. Electric bills are issued bi-monthly and we expect to be helping more families as the bills come due. Each 750 peso food voucher feeds a family of 4 for 10 days.
Meanwhile, the federal and state decreed lockdown continues in Los Cabos. The federal Secretary of Health has designed a symbolic “stoplight” (semaforo) to indicate when states can resume activities.
At the moment BCS is in the red zone which indicates only essential services will be in operation. As soon as the number of cases per 100,000 population is reduced to a level acceptable to the health ministry, the state will move into the orange level.
At that point mining activity, construction, automotive sectors can resume work with restrictions. During the yellow zone, limited public activities will be allowed and full economic activities.
And finally the green level will indicate resumption of school, social and leisure activities as well as full economic activity. The next two weeks for Los Cabos will be critical and business leaders as well as civic leaders are calling for strict adherence to the COVID protocols.
The state Ministry of Education has announced that schools will remain closed at least until late August. Online learning will continue until July 17 with year end transcripts being digitally produced. There will be no graduation ceremonies and high school admission tests will be postponed or determined by allotment.
Our students, supported by Elva and her staff, are persevering in the face of adversity. Please take a few minutes to view the video our students and staff have prepared for you. If you would like to add to the relief fund which will provide food vouchers and pay for utilities for our students and their families, please click on the DONATE button below or visit our website at ligamac.org. If you would like to leave a comment or have a question please contact us at [email protected]
And finally, we are delighted to announce that our Board member and revered member of the local medical community, Dr. Mauricio Mercado, has recovered from his bout with COVID19 and will be returning to normal activities soon. Welcome back Dr. Mercado!
Dear Friends of Liga MAC, an update from San Jose del Cabo:
Baja California Sur (BCS) now has Mexico’s second highestincidence rate for COVID19, second only to Mexico City (coronavirus.bcs) Most of the BCS cases have occurred in Los Cabos. Governor Carlos Mendoza Davis has declaredthat BCS has entered phase 3 (of 4) of the COVID19 crisis meaning that the state medical system is at risk of beingoverwhelmed. On April 25, the Governor issued a directivesuspending all non-essential activities until May 30, withoffences being punishable by heavy fines and imprisonment.
In response to the growing need for medical and foodsupplies, the Community Alliance of Baja California Sur (CABCS) was created and is comprised of representativesfrom businesses, charities, foundations and various levels ofgovernment (acbcs.org.mx). Cash and in-kind donations are being organized to supply personal protective equipment tohospitals and food for those in need. Food distribution beganin La Paz/Cabo San Lucas during April 13-19 and in San Jose del Cabo the week of April 20-26. Delivery volunteersregister each family, providing them a barcoded card tofacilitate future deliveries (planned every 15 days). TheMunicipal government through its DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) arm is also dispensing food to its vulnerable population – the elderly, those with disabilities, teen mothers, and now the unemployed.
The Department of Education resumed school electronicallyon April 20 and announced that classrooms are expected toreopen on June 1 and that the school year will be extended toJuly 17. Our Liga MAC junior and senior high schoolstudents receive their work via open learning television and are in contact with their teachers via What’s App. Moststudents have pay-as-you-go cellular phones and are able tophotograph their homework and send it electronically totheir teachers. Our university students on the other hand, must use the internet to receive and post their work.
Liga MAC’s staff, Elva, Consuelo, and Karen have beencanvassing our students and their families to discern theirlevel of need. With the latest directives from thegovernment, most of our families, who have already beenidentified as marginalized, will lose their sources of income. Community food distribution packages (which contain onlybasic food items and no hygiene products), have helped butwith increased demand, the system will be strained. As thecrisis continues, money for rent, electrical bills, propane, etc. will have to be found. All these demands have created notonly tangible strains but emotional ones. Our students are feeling the anxiety of uncertainty.
Liga MAC’s commitment, indeed, our mission, is to supportour 328 students through our educational program. We, theBoard and staff of Liga MAC, are committed to ensuringthat our students receive whatever help they need tocomplete their education. In these trying times, thatcommitment means grocery vouchers to purchase freshvegetables and meat or soap, bleach, disinfectant and otherhygiene products. It might mean emotional counselling orhelp to pay the electrical bill so that our students can complete and submit homework. Whatever the need, we willbe there.
On a final note, one of our Board Members is on the frontlines of battling COVID19. Dr. Mauricio Mercado chairsLiga MAC’s Health and Nutrition Program which teachesstudents about healthy lifestyles and food choices. In addition to his private practice, on weekends Dr. Mercado isthe director in charge of the IMSS Hospital in Colonia Guaymitas – one of the public hospitals in San Jose del Cabo dedicated to COVID19 triage. Last week we learned that Dr. Mercado had contracted COVID19. We are with you and your family Dr. Mercado and wish you a speedy recovery!
The economic fallout from the COVID19 pandemic is yet tobe determined but we do know that those on the lowestrungs of the socioeconomic ladder will fare the worst. Ourstudents are our hope for our community’s future. Please, ifyou can spare the funds to help these students, visit ourwebsite at ligamac.org or click on the Donate button below. If you would like to leave a comment or have a questionplease contact us [email protected]
In these unprecedented times we want to keep you, our friends, volunteers, and supporters informed of the COVID19 situation as it pertains to Liga MAC’s staff, students and their families. First let me reassure you that all precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of our staff. Our Centro de Apoyo located in Zacatal has been closed since March 20 and our staff have been working from home. Elva Haro, Liga MAC’s Executive Director, Consuelo and Karen have set up student chat groups to monitor any student concerns whether educational or personal.
All schools in Los Cabos closed on March 23 and are slated to remain closed until May 4 (although that date may be extended). During the first 2 weeks of school closure our students were sent home with assignments to be completed by April 3. The Easter Break or Semana Santa holidays which began April 6 will end April 17 but further school work has not been assigned.
Hotels, restaurants, construction projects, and many other non-essential businesses have been forced to close due to the COVID19 crisis. As a result, most of our families’ incomes have been impacted and we have seen requests for electronic food vouchers increasing on a weekly basis. With family resources dwindling, future expenses such as electric, propane, and water will present a problem.
Normally at this time of year, our staff would be preparing to accept applications for next year’s student support program. Our staff work with school administrators and social workers to select applicants for testing and then interview both the student and their parent(s) before making the final selection. At the moment this process is on hold.
So much uncertainty has created an environment of fear and anxiety amongst some students and indeed the general population and our staff has offered counselling and advocacy wherever needed. An increased police presence has maintained order in the community and there are no food shortages although extra measures are taken in the grocery stores to combat contamination.
Elva and her team will continue to monitor our 328 students and their families and provide whatever support they might need and we will continue to provide you with updates as the closures continue. We thank you for your concern and if you have been considering a donation to Liga MAC in 2020 and are able to donate, please visit our website at ligamac.org
Our appreciation to Joe Garcia, who has completed his tenure as Liga MAC President, and continues to volunteer in a board advisory capacity.
I have been actively involved with Liga MAC for several years, most recently as a board member, accountable for volunteer activities. I am honoured to step into the Board President role effective today; and I am grateful for your past and continued support of Liga MAC.
Everyone is being impacted by the Covid-19 public health crisis, including our charity. We suspended volunteer outreach/fundraising activities on March 14 and our staff of 3, have been working from home since March 20.
Elva, Consuelo and Karen continue our critical work in this time of increased need – focusing on assisting our students and their families navigate their education requirements, mental health well being and financial concerns. They are guiding students on how to continue their studies/assignments (finding access to computers, internet or assignment hard copies), manage their household stress and are providing electronic food vouchers for staples (flour, beans, water) where jobs have been lost due to this crisis.
We thank all of our donors for your donation pledges. If you have already made your donation, THANK YOU! For outstanding pledges and/or new donations, a reminder that 100% tax deductible donations can be made as follows:
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.