Merida, Yucatan

Yucatan Giving Outreach Community Members Doing Extraordinary Work In Merida

Written by Stephanie Carmon

Since 2016 The Yucatan Giving Outreach A.C. has been providing the community with humanitarian services and goods. The idea was born out of a chance encounter with an elderly people’s home when founder Kim Davin stopped by to drop off some furniture that would have otherwise been tossed away. She was deeply affected by the sight of elderly living in destitute and poverty stricken conditions. As I spoke with her she remembers, “There was a lack of basic human needs, things we need for our own dignity were lacking. It had a profound effect on me.”  From that day she began visiting shelters, including soup kitchens, orphanages and homes for abused girls and women and started asking what she could do to help.

Over the three years the Yucatan Giving Outreach has grown tremendously thanks to the altruistic hearts and hard work of the over 250-300 active volunteers, including its founder Kim Davin and Dave Omar Dodge who organizes the Season of Sharing fundraiser events, and those who have generously donated money and supplies. YGO is a foundation that supports other governmental and non-governmental foundations in the hopes that someday they can be self-sustainable entities and provide all services and goods for themselves.

YGO Services and Programs

They offer educational services, medical and mental health support, food, hygiene bags, clothes, diapers, linens and other material goods to over 40 shelters in Yucatan. Those shelters include children’s soup kitchens, orphanages, Down syndrome care homes, elderly care homes, an animal shelter as well as two of their own half-way houses for teenagers who age out of the orphanages. YGO not only helps shelters, but countless individual cases that come to their door and that are sent to them by the government. They are a foundation of ordinary people doing extraordinary work in their community and who have had a profoundly positive impact on the lives of thousands of people in the Yucatan and abroad.  

YGO Second Hand Store and Depot for all Donated Goods

YGO opened a second-hand store in 2018 right in the heart of the city. They use this space for not only a store but a hub for their volunteers and a storage for donations of food, clothes, suitcases and other material goods that are constantly being taken to shelters. They also get many individual walk-ins who may qualify to receive free clothing or food. All proceeds from the store goes right back into the YGO foundation to continue to serve the community.

Hygiene Bags

They have sent tens of thousands of hygiene bags to people in need not only in Yucatan but throughout Mexico and abroad. They have gone to the migrant caravans heading through Mexico, the Consulate, Child Protective Services over 18 tons went to Morelia for the earthquake victims as well as Texas and Florida for hurricane victims. These bags include some basics supplies to preserve human dignity when crisis strikes such as toiletries, snacks and—for those given in Yucatan—they also include some clothing and shoes.

The Graduate Program

They have rented two fully functional houses to use as halfway houses for “the graduate program” which is for the teenagers who get out of the orphanages, but still need a support system. There are seventeen adolescents in that program now and the houses are divided between males and females. YGO helps those teens integrate back into the community by encouraging and assisting them with job placement, further education, medical support, and adult tasks such as opening bank accounts and paying bills.

No Plastic Bags Program

Another way they make a small difference in the lives of those leaving the orphanages is by providing them with gently used suitcases for when it is time to leave the orphanage. When they saw that children leaving to live in other places left with all their belongings in garbage bags, they decided that they would start the “No Plastic Bags” program and give the children suitcases. It’s the small attention to details that can make a huge difference in the self-esteem and self-worth of a child.

Educational Programs

English Language Classes

English speaking volunteers teach classes at three shelters between two or three times per week.

Art with a Heart

Art with a Heart sends volunteers to teach art classes at six shelters and a separate art program called Artscool at Caimede DIF the largest shelter in the state. The Art with a Heart program has been a huge success. The children find inspiration through art and it offers them a creative outlet. Also, they have an event at SoHo Galleries, the main sponsor of Art with a Heart, where the children are able to display their artwork and the public attending can meet the children and buy some pieces.

Community Outreach Event Days

In April of 2019, YGO organized its first community outreach event in Oxcun, a pueblo outside of Merida. Over a hundred volunteers from YGO and local universities went out to a close by village for an all-day free event.  They set up food and snack booths, sexual education talks, haircuts, dental, eye examinations and free glasses for those who needed them, a clothes giveaway and a general day to have fun with the community members. It was a great success and they are hoping to organize more community event days like this in the future.

Four Major Fundraisers in November and December: Season of Sharing

YGO has four major fundraisers for the yearly activities which pays for one full time salary and one part time salary as well as the electricity and rent of the store and graduate program houses for a year.  It is during the Christmas season, so everyone is in the sharing mood and the energy is wonderful at all events.

The fundraisers are:

Chicas for Charity

Hosted by Patty Rogers, Chicas for Charity is a large group of woman who come to her house for a lovely evening of food, drinks and social interaction. Everyone brings a dish which makes for an elaborate and incredible pot luck! All attendees pay for the ticket for the evening and there is a silent auction as well as a regular auction.

Women’s Polo Tournament

This is an event at the Yucatan Polo Club in the outskirts of Merida where women play polo, there is a hat contest, great food and drinks and lots of laughter! The grounds are stunning and it is an overall a lovely way to spend the day.

Community Breakfast at the Hyatt

Community members gather at the Hyatt Hotel for a wonderful breakfast. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the tickets go to YGO. The Hyatt donates all the food and the space.

Toys for Joy

This is an event hosted by Dave Omar Dodge at Ochenta y Dos Hotel Resort. This is an event where all attendees bring gifts for children which will later be given to every child, woman and man that YGO helps. Last year they gave away over 2,500 gifts. Kimmy recalls one young woman coming up to her about a year after receiving her gift and thanked her saying it was the only gift she received that year and it meant the world to her.

Individual Cases

Apart from shelters, YGO works with countless individuals who suffer at the hands of abuse, trafficking and poverty. They take walk-ins who must fill out paperwork as well as government referrals.

All in all Yuctan Giving Outreach is changing the lives of thousands of people in Yucatan. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed its the only thing that ever has.”

Photos by: Elias Medina

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