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Mrs. Mercedes Obregón, Director of the Instituto Pedagógico para Problemas del Lenguaje (Pedagogical Institute of Language Problems) in Mexico City, requested assistance from FAVACA related to sign language needs in the community. The Institute provides education and services to support children with hearing, language and learning disabilities at the preschool and elementary levels. First time volunteer Pamela Crawford, Jacksonville attended the 2nd Annual Conference held in Mexico City on May 31-June 10, 2006. Crawford is a Speech-Hearing-Language Pathologist and a certified Teacher of the Deaf, who currently provides services at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine. She specializes in working with deaf students who use cochlear implants, an electronic apparatus that allows people with severe hearing loss to recognize some sounds via a processor that converts speech into electronic signals. Her wide range of professional experiences with the deaf includes public and residential schools, and private therapy. During the conference, Crawford conducted workshops and lead discussion session entitled "Language Development and the Preschool Deaf Child” which involved more that 90 participants. She shared teaching techniques and strategies to optimize learning opportunities for hearing impaired children.


Mexico Promotes Small Business Development

The Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network has a 26-year history of helping the state’s small businesses in a variety of ways. Now the organization is also instrumental in promoting and aiding the development of small business centers in Mexico.

FAVA/CA sponsored a Florida SBDC Network project from May 12 to 25, 2002 that provided consulting, assistance and support for small business development centers in Villahermosa, Tabasco and in Merida, Yucatan. The center in Villahermosa is housed and sponsored by the Universidad Tecnológico de Tabasco and was expected to begin seeing its first clients in early Fall. The Merida center is currently functioning and planning on expanding its role within the business community.

John Hosman, a graduate student from the University of West Florida, helped in the development of a strategic plan for the Universidad Tecnológico de Tabascos’ small business development center.

Jorge Lopez, a graduate student at Florida Gulf Coast University, assisted in the development of a survey instrument to assist in determining the status of current export/import activity in Merida, Yucatan. In addition, he is compiling a database to be used by the economic development organizations to reach out and market services provided by the small business development centers in Fort Myers, which will be made available to the center in Merida.

Both students received college credit for their work. Their missions were funded by FAVA/CA through a grant from the Florida Department of Education.

“This mission would not have been possible without the aid and support of FAVA/CA,” said Marcia Sergent, Director of International Programs for the Florida SBDC Network.  “Through this support, we have been able to provide resources to our consortium partners in Mexico.

“I cannot say enough good things about FAVA/CA. This partnership enhances our ability to serve as a resource to help entrepreneurs in Mexico. The stronger we are as neighbors, the stronger we are as a community.”


Mexican Cancer Center Builds Volunteer Program

The Albergue Asociación Mexicana de Ayuda a Niños con Cáncer (AMANC), a home away from home for children with cancer and their parents, has been in the process of moving to a larger facility where they will have many more patients. As a result the association needed to quickly develop an organized volunteer program.

Maria Cao-Lopez and Erolinda Budí, director and assistant director, respectively, of the Volunteer Resources Department at the Public Health Trust/Jackson Health Center System in Miami, traveled to Mexico for four days in November 2001 to offer guidance to AMANC founder and president Guadalupe Alejandre and her staff on building and managing a volunteer program.

The consultants made suggestions for ways to recruit, retain and recognize volunteers, as well as how to do background checks and create orientation programs. They also plan to email policies from their own program for AMANC to use as a model.

The Volunteer Resources Department at Jackson Health Center System is the largest of its kind in the southeastern United States. According to Cao-Lopez the department coordinates more than 1,000 individual volunteers and about 330 community agencies, civic organizations and companies who deliver programs at the hospital.

"Because we are a teaching hospital, our department also serves as an educational resource and guide for many health-care organizations in Florida," Cao-Lopez said.

"We learned a lot from them in a short period of time about how to build a volunteer program," Alejandre said. "Both of them worked wonderfully. They were truly the ideal people for the job and helped us to form a clear idea of how to proceed in an efficient manner."

According to volunteer consultant Budí, working with the founder of AMANC and her staff was especially rewarding. "Ms. Alejandre is such a humanitarian. She's got a mission and a vision. She is so enthusiastic about her program and so eager to accomplish her goals that it made our mission that much easier. We really enjoyed helping her and will continue to offer any assistance that we can," Budí said.


Governor Promotes Food Banking Collaboration with Mexico

In September 1999, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba , invited FAVA/CA president David Pasquarelli to meet with leaders of various Mexican non-profit organizations in Tallahassee. As follow up, Pasquarelli and staff conducted a fact-finding mission from November 29 to December 2 last year to determine how Florida’s expertise can benefit her across-the-gulf neighbor. Accompanying Pasquarelli were Marie Coffey, executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Big Bend in Tallahassee, and Hawley Botchford, executive director of the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers.

The goal of the mission was to meet with two organizations in Mexico City, Sólo por Ayudar and Grupo Altía Banco de Alimentos, which are trying to develop their food banks to meet the overwhelming requirements of the needy populations. The FAVA/CA consultants gained an understanding of their operations and challenges and were able to offer recommendations for any necessary training.

"I felt the visit, while brief, accomplished several things," Botchford reported. "We got a good overview of the problems they face and the resources currently available to meet the tremendous needs. We also developed warm relationships and opened excellent communications with the staff and boards of both organizations. "I do feel they are open to assistance from any source available and have the abilities to implement any training into their organizations," he continued.

The consultants have recommended that both organizations visit Florida. Additionally, Botchford offered to set up a tour to give them an overview of food banks in Florida. "I enjoyed the visit and would enjoy working with these organizations in the future," Botchford concluded.

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