In early January, we volunteered to help organize the 5th annual Zihuatanejo Sailfest (www.zihuasailfest.com), which is a fundraising event organized by cruisers to benefit local needy schools. Sailfest was scheduled for February 2-6, less than a month away.
The funds raised by Sailfest go to Indian schools in the Zihuatanejo area. In order to attend a Mexican school, children must speak Spanish, and most of the Indians do not speak Spanish at home. In addition to teaching the children Spanish, all other subjects are taught at the Indian schools. In the past, the Indian schools were not supported by the government, although we understand that is starting to change.
Rich volunteered to head up the Seminars Committee for Sailfest. His job was to organize some panels of folks to share their experiences on cruising in both directions from Zihua - "Northbounders" for Sea of Cortez and "Southbounders" for Central America. We also had a "Radio" seminar, and Jim Corenman, the author of the "Winlink" e-mail program traveled to Zihua, gave a presentation, and also provided individual counseling with folks who had questions on using the program.
Jan volunteered to work on the Donations Committee, which involved soliciting local merchants to donate gifts for raffles and auctions. We got a wide variety of donations - everything from beach bags to silver jewelry to dinners at restaurants to free stays at a couple of the really nice hotels in Ixtapa. Although Rich insisted he didn't want to do donations, he was a good sport and helped out quite a bit. Most of the local merchants do not speak English, so our Spanish was quite challenged. Our brains were exhausted after a few hours of pounding the pavement. However, it was a great opportunity to meet some of the local people, and afterward, the merchants we called on always smiled and waved to us as we walked by their stores. It was also amazing to see how generous some of these folks were, many of whom seemed to be barely getting by themselves.
Sailfest was five days of events including several parties, a beach barbeque, sail race, boat parade, chili cook-off, live auction, silent auction and daily raffle drawings. Jan cooked chicken chili for the chili cook-off and got 6th place out of about 12 entries. She participated for the fun of it, not thinking she would even get any votes for the best chili, so she was happy to finish in the middle of the pack. We won a couple of raffle prizes, the best one being 10 margaritas at a local bar, which we shared with friends.
In the end, Sailfest raised over $20,000 U.S., which was matched by a charitable foundation, for a total of over $40,000 U.S. That kind of money goes a long way in Mexico.
In addition to working on Sailfest, we participated in a "work day" at one of the schools, which receives a good portion of the money raised. Jan painted classroom walls, and Rich helped fix desks and bookcases. Some parents of the school kids helped out and made us lunch. We all received thank you notes from the school kids.