Having recently returned from the Rotary Los Amigos Project, I’d like to share with District 5495 newsletter readers what, to me, was an eye opener to the pressing needs of Mexican communities and how Rotary is seeking to assist in filling them.
My adventure began with the October 14 arrival in Kingman of 14 Lethbridge, Alberta, Rotarians, along with six decommissioned ambulances and handicapped buses en route to Mazatlan, Mexico.  
Upon arriving, additional emergency medical gear and equipment was added by Kingman Route 66 Rotary Club and we hosted our fellow Rotarians to dinner that night at club member Karen Brown’s home. The following morning I joined the group on their trek to Mazatlan and assisted in driving the vehicles.
Despite the heat (some vehicles were not air conditioned) and a long wait at Mexican customs, we arrived in good shape in Mazatlan Wednesday, October 18. Upon arrival, several additional Rotary Ambassadors, who had flown down from Alberta, joined us. Over the next several days we accompanied the recipients of the vehicles to their outlying communities including Tlaquepaque, Acatlan, Tepatitlan, Coquimatian and Culiacan for formal acceptance ceremonies.
It was heartwarming to see how very welcoming and appreciative each community was. For example, in Tepatitlan, we followed the ambulances and handicapped buses up and down the streets in town, sirens going full blast, followed by an address from the mayor in front of city hall.
Back in Mazatlan, two Lethbridge University Rotaractors joined us in visiting Preescolar Estatal Urbi Villa del Real preschool, established four years ago by the Lethbridge University Rotaract Club. The preschool came about when the Rotaractors learned that, in Mexico, a child must attend preschool before being enrolled in primary school. Many families cannot afford the cost of preschool and, as a result, the children face a life of poverty – working in the fields, etc.
The first preschool building consisted of pallets wired together, topped with a metal sheeting roof and came with two volunteer teachers. Since then, with additional funding, it has grown to include a stucco building with seven classrooms and a paid teaching staff serving 200 children.
As part of the Los Amigos service project, three firefighters from Lethbridge were flown down to Mazatlan to instruct area firefighters there in firefighting techniques. It just goes to show how Rotary can have a major positive impact on alleviating poverty and suffering of those less fortunate. I’m hoping that more District 5495 Rotary clubs can join together in donating decommissioned emergency vehicles and school buses to this worthy Rotary project in 2018. If your club would like additional information on this international service project, I can be reached at jaoxsen@gmail.com or 928-727-7890.