Meet our Students – Sept

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“I will always be grateful for the opportunity which was given to me. This experience has broadened my horizons and shown me there’s a totally different and bigger world beyond colonia Volcanes,” Alondra tells me as we sit in in the library discussing her participation in a short-term exchange program made possible through the Heritage Park Rotary Club from Calgary, Canada.

“When you leave the comfort and familiarity of life in your home country, you turn every day into an opportunity to learn, discover, explore, and grow.”

As most of our readers know, colonia Volcanes is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta. Alondra was born and raised here and had never traveled anywhere beyond the state of Jalisco. When the issue of a short-term exchange program was discussed, we immediately knew Alondra would be the perfect candidate to participate. She has a happy and grateful personality. She is quiet but always makes you feel comfortable around her with her welcoming nature. The two-month program was a great success thanks to the help and participation of many people. It changed two students’ lives forever.

FIRST MONTH: JULY 3 – AUGUST 3 IN PUERTO VALLARTA

Fariha Khan is a student from Canada who was also part of this exchange program. She touched down on Mexican soil on July 3, 2019. For one month, Alondra and Fariha stayed in Puerto Vallarta in the luxurious house of Carlos Vasquez who is a member and current President of the Rotary Club Puerto Vallarta Sur. The oceanfront view was stunning. Fariha and Alondra joked that they could spend the whole month lounging in the pool, watching the waves crash into shore and letting the sunset take them to a fantasy realm.

“Hanging with Fariha the first month was fun. I was anxious at first because I never had to use the English I learned at Volcanes in a real live situation. Since Fariha spoke no Spanish, I had to communicate in English. I was also nervous because I had never been away from my home. But the anxiety went away after the first day,” she tells me with her trademark smile. “My favorite part of the first month here in Vallarta, was when Fariha and I painted the mural on the Volcanes wall. It was very relaxing for both us.” In the afternoons, Alondra gave Fariha tours of all the beautiful places she could think to show her. They spent most of the time on the Malecon (Boardwalk), enjoying the beach.

“The biggest learning experience for me during this first month was learning about Farihas’ religious diet and beliefs. My entire life I was accustomed to Mexican traditions and beliefs: I believed in Jesus, the virgin Mary, the Saints and everything else Catholics believe, even though I was not a practicing Catholic. I ate tacos and enchiladas and thought that this was what people believed and ate around the world. Fariha showed me that people have different beliefs, likes and dislikes, but that we were both exactly the same – teenagers who liked music, reading and having fun.”

SECOND MONTH: AUGUST 3 – 30 IN CALGARY, CANADA

After one month in Alondra’s home town, both Alondra and Fariha jumped on a plane headed to Calgary, Canada – Fariha’s home town. “Calgary is a beautiful city. Everything is so clean and orderly. There are no food stands or people selling tacos or food on the streets like here,” she says between laughs. “My favorite memory from my trip to Canada was when Fariha and her parents took me to Banff, a place with majestic, snow-topped mountains. This place was breath-taking.”

Alondra goes on to tell me about all the beautiful places she saw and all the fun things she did in Canada. Her smile and the gleam in her eyes show me exactly how much she enjoyed this trip. “Everyone was so nice to me throughout my two-month participation. I learned a lot and will never see the world the same again. I want to travel more in the future. This experience makes me want to see a bunch of other places around the world. Not only that, my English is a lot better now!” And she is not exaggerating. Alondra’s English was barely passable before. She had a lot of vocabulary but could not hold a complete conversation in English without help. Her English has improved dramatically with two months of being forced to use what she already knew. My conversation with her for this article was conducted in English.

“Please write that I am very grateful to everyone who made this experience possible, Mr. Victor. My life has changed because of this opportunity and I want everyone to know how thankful I am for making it possible.”

We thank Phil and Doug and the entire Heritage Park Rotary Club for making this dream happen for Alondra and Fariha. We also thank Carlos Vasquez and his wife Lupita for opening their home to these two students and for doing all the things you did not have to do to make them feel welcome. Thank you to Mr. Art for always finding good partners to work with in life-changing projects like this two-month, short-term exchange program.


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