Ciudad de Angeles, (City of Angels).
Cozumel, Mexico (translated meaning Island of Swallows) is a popular destination for beach getaways, snorkeling and in particular scuba diving as the islands sit on one of the longest coral reefs in the world. For more specific information about Cozumel and it's history and geographical facts, see: http://www.cozumel.net/about/
Patti and I have been to Cozumel several times by way of Carnival ships, however this time, we wanted something more than just the typical beach and lunch then back to the ship excursion. Luckily, Carnival provided an excursion into the town of San Miguel de Cozumel, to explore the culture of her people, and learn about the "City of Angels" orphanage. We were a group of five on this trip, this is our annual Carnival Cruise Lines post-Thanksgiving cruise: Tina Reed, Patti Taylor, and Jim and Linda Samples and myself. As we drove into the area where the church and orphanage was, i was struck by the cleanliness of the streets, almost all the buildings were painted with colorful colors and there were several people sweeping the area in front of their homes and businesses.
We stood outside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish of Cozumel, and watched as passersby would honor the church as they drove and walked by the parish. The guide took us into the church and past the rear doors was a prayer garden, where cloth strips that contained specific prayers were tied to lines between trees. Prayer requests were on white strips, answered prayers were on brightly colored strips making the garden oddly solemn. I had never seen this before and was saddened and joyful at the same time, and the world seemed to slow down as we walked below the cloth strips hung above our heads, appearing like Spanish Moss, fluttering in the gentle breezes. The grounds were very well cared by a full time keeper who offered us a white strip to place amongst the other prayers, this was an honor and privilege.
The dirt road was a short detour and rounding a sharp corner that seemed to follow the outline of a home built nearly in the road, the site came into view through some thicket and a rather large wall. Later we were told it wasn't to keep kids in but to keep vandals and thieves out. The Director, Les Johnson and his wife Jeannell Johnson met us at the locked gate of the compound with a smile and English greetings. They were missionaries from the states before taking over managing this facility. Joe (not his real name) a senior member of the children who had been raised here was also in the welcome group. Joe constantly smiled and was full of energy and passion for this ministry.
During our tour, Joe hosted a discussion with our group about the facility, the vision they had and successes attained. We then visited some of the living quarters in the facility, concrete houses very nicely painted and well maintained. Inside the "host" parents would reside full time and the children, up to 4 we observed, lived comfortably in well lit and clean "homes" along the inside perimeter. The children have chores, and are enrolled in private schools with the goal of helping these kids get caught up from year(s) of lack of education and living sometimes on the streets, to having a college goal and career in mind. The colleges in Mexico are quite different from the states, there are no "core" classes, instead you dive directly into the teachings needed for your trade. Changing your career goals is very difficult once started as the student has to start over with nothing transferrable.
The program there seems comprehensive and successful, they are receiving donations to expand the facility inside for a transition building at the present time. This building will serve to house those kids in transition from high school to college. The kids aren't left to their devices after turning 18, they are further cared for but expected to enter a career path in college in order to become a participant citizen. Our tour lasted about an hour, we purchased some t-shirts designed and made by the kids at the facility. Most of the children were at school that day, we did get to meet one little fella who was still learning English, and learning to write. The director cleared photos of the kids and grounds, so long as we didn't use the children's real names. The mural walls were solely done by the kids and we found a new friend in one of the resident canines, i snapped a pic of her lying in the meeting room with us as we were briefed on the facility.
The orphanage maintains a website and facebook for newsletters and other activities including donations and up-to-date information on their progress to add additional housing. The website is: https://www.ciudaddeangeles.org/
The website also contains a listing of current items needed and we were told it is updated monthly in order to balance what is shipped and when they have enough of certain items at any given time.
Current Needs can be found at: https://www.ciudaddeangeles.org/current-needs/
Clicking the link at the bottom of the page will download a pdf file for printing or reference.
I asked the director if books were needed, she said books in English are requested as they try to teach the children English and the "best way to gain knowledge is to use and read in English".
Donations and registered office space in the US at 5240 Roswell Rd NE, Marietta GA 30062, where any shipments must go to reach the facility in a reasonable timeframe. The director told us anything shipped to the orphanage itself can take months to reach them due to customs, etc.
The church, and Ciudad de Angeles pamphlets (we were encouraged to take and publish) are scanned and placed below this heading for reference.