History of Project Amigo
What eventually became Project Amigo began informally when Ted Rose first visited the state of Colima in 1984 to climb a volcano. Instead, he took the wrong bus and found himself in a little poverty-stricken village called Cofradia de Suchitlan. That mistake, and a few other fortuitous events, led to his decision a couple of years later to trade his comfortable life as the owner of an office machine company for a life surrounded by wonderful, and very poor, children who appeared to need a helping hand if they were ever to break out of poverty.
In December of 1984, Ted and his wife Susan Hill went to Colima to hold a Christmas party for the 50 disadvantaged rural poor children that Ted had met a few months earlier. The children lived in an albergue (a room and board facility provided by the State Education Department to help families send up to three of their children to primary school).
In 1986 Ted and Susan moved to Mexico and set up a small typing school at the rural albergue. Boys and girls in fifth and sixth grades learned to type, and discovered that such a skill could help them find better employment in the future.
With growing support from and participation by friends and fellow Rotarians in both the United States and Colima, Ted and Susan extended their involvement with other state albergues in 1990, bringing educational materials, access to dental care and cavity-prevention programs, and stimulating field trips to nearly 200 children each year. These programs were (and still are) intended to keep children motivated to stay in school to finish their primary school education.
Project Amigo Canada Society has been in existence since 2009 and has applied for charitable status. It gained formal recognition in Mexico as a non-profit association civil in 1998. Formal association with Rotary International was ended in 2002, resulting in today's fully independent Project Amigo. Represented by a separate Board in Canada, the Project Amigo Canada Society is presently awaiting formal designation as a recognized charity.
Acting on the ideas and expertise of both staff and many long-term volunteers, the program of inviting service-oriented Rotarians and others to visit Project Amigo in Mexico on humanitarian service "work weeks" was regularized in 1998. Likewise, that era and collaborative effort also saw the creation of weekly "homework clubs" (offering tutoring, counsel, emotional support, and distribution of the weekly scholarship funds), establishment of a school for children of migrant sugar cane workers at the Queseria labor camp, and of a boarding facility near the Universty of Colima (today's Casa Amiga).
The state-run albergues were closed in 1999, and the Queseria migrant school was formally integrated into the Mexican education system in early 2014. Project Amigo has continued to offer incentive programs to needy 4th, 5th and 6th graders in rural communities in the Colima area. The scholarship program in place today (for students in 7th grade through high school) had its humble beginnings in 1996, growing from the initial seven junior high school scholarships to approximately 100 per year now available to qualifying students in junior high and high school.
In 2002, a small handful of recent high school graduates expressed their desires to continue on to college. The first college scholarships were given that year.
In the Spring of 2012, Coke and Cindy Newell were hired as directors-in-training, and the following April Coke assumed his role as the 2nd Executive Director of Project Amigo when Ted Rose retired. Lifelong educators and parents of seven children, Coke and Cindy directed the Project for three years, streamlining organizational focus, expanding college-to-work capabilities, instituting English-as-Second-Language training programs for both staff and students, and inaugurating both a micro-enterprise incubator program and Project Amigo's web presence in Spanish.
As of June 2014, 45 Project Amigo scholars have received college degrees and more than 90 percent of our graduating high schoolers each year choose to continue their educations at the college level.
Lives have been changed. Horizons have been expanded. Futures, families and communities have been altered forever.