I began traveling frequently to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico at the impactful age of 8 years old. It quickly became my magical home away from home. For many reasons it is a place I've always felt happy. It's a place I have always felt alive! It's the place I have always felt the most 'me'.
Not only was Peñasco the first foreign city I had adventures in that gave little, shy Carly cool stories to tell her friends at recess, it was also the first place that I witnessed real poverty. I'll never forget my aunt taking us to bring food and clothing to families living in shacks. Seeing their circumstances was the first time I felt compassion on such a deep level and it was also the first time I remember feeling love for people that I didn't even know. This experience led me to start pondering young, what really matters in life.
Fast forward to January of 2020. I was at a crossroads in my life after returning home from an 18 month mission trip and was feeling the need to reflect, regroup and re-discover my values, priorities and goals. So, when the chance to visit Peñasco presented itself, I jumped at the invitation to go!
After my favorite, nostalgic drive I arrived to my "home" with a happy heart and a head full of questions. "What's next?" "How can I make my career dreams happen?” and, “Where am I needed most in the world, now?" were just some of the questions that filled my prayers and meditations daily.
While attempting to get these answers I also began looking for somewhere that I could volunteer. I was introduced to the founder of a non-profit foundation- Kathleen Duncan who would soon become one of the most inspiring women I had ever met.
During her own vacations to Rocky Point, Kathleen's heart was shattered to discover how many kids don't get the chance to go to school simply do to things like their families having to choose between feeding their family & school fees, and in 2016 she started a foundation called 'Steps of Love' to aid kids who want to get off the streets and into school to be able to.
At the end of her inspiring story (not knowing a thing about me) she said that the next step in helping them break the cycle of poverty is to teach the kids in her program English, and that she was currently looking for someone with experience to help develop the program. I could not believe my ears!! "What?! Seriously?!" At the exact time in my life that I was in search of somewhere I could help the world with my background- I hear this. My jaw dropped, my heart skipped a beat and I uncontrollably word vomited my passion for and background in ESL onto her lap. (I have a Bachelors Degree in Linguistics with a minor in TESOL, speak 5 languages and have previously taught English in the United States, Belgium, The Netherlands and Guinea-Bissau.)
A few conversations later Kathleen offered me the unexpected, dream position of a lifetime as Steps of Love's first English Program Coordinator- intensifying my beliefs that when you are out seeking to do good amazing opportunities will find you! ❤
Unfortunately, our plans to begin crumbled as schools across the city shut down due to COVID-19 . As bummed out as I was, I knew I had to let go of my dreams for now. There were about to be much bigger issues at hand. I was offered a spot as a volunteer on their crisis team with their sister organization (AIM Peñasco) if I wanted it and I made the decision to accept. I said goodbye to my ride home and spent the next 3 months packaging and distributing food to the community that was hit hard by the pandemic.
What a blessing this choice turned out to be! Not only did I gain a new family for life, but I got to witness first hand how dedicated, honest, successful, resourceful, passionate, loyal, and sustainable both of these organizations are. It solidified my decision to work for them full-time because now I know for sure they are everything I could hope for in an organization and one that I want to proudly represent.
Thankfully the city was fed, things have now settled down, and we are ready to return our focus back to developing the English Language Program! 😃
We believe that with more than 2 million tourists visiting Peñasco annually, teaching the most at-risk kids English is one of the best investments that can be made to help them transform their futures and gain a chance for a better life.
Steps of Love informed me, however, that they currently did not have the funds available to pay me anything. Well. If you know me at all, you already know I couldn't let something like that deter me from pursuing an opportunity pulling at my heart strings such as this and I've chosen to go ahead and attempt to make this program happen anyway, by fundraising my own small salary from private donors. I do not wish to earn a lot nor to pressure anyone, simply to provide the opportunity for those who are already able and desirous to help.
If you would like to- I am hoping to raise roughly $1,000/month for living expenses and all the time that I will spend assessing the needs of the children, coordinating curriculum development, locating classroom resources/supplies, finding tutors/teachers/volunteers, teaching in class myself, etc.
As difficult as it is to ask others for money, meeting the children is what has made me swallow my pride and do it. They've given me the desire to do whatever it takes. They're my inspiration and I pray with all my heart that I will be able to find funds to move forward with helping them have more opportunities and a fairer chance in life- something that every child deserves. I promise to provide a whole lot of hard work, pictures, and blog post updates in return so that you can join me in celebrating the progress/successes of these incredible children!! 😊
I am confident that if I work hard and give it my all- with your help- together we will succeed in getting this program up and running for generations of desirous children to come. ❤️
If you feel my passion in your heart and would like to help- I thank you from the bottom of mine. My Venmo can be found at CarlyHarris55, PayPal at Car.firstname.lastname@example.org or I can receive checks at: 2036 North Gilbert Road. #2-604, Mesa, AZ 85203. You have my word that any penny you donate will be put to good use. If you can't donate I understand and reading and sharing my blog is very much appreciated as well! 😊❤️
¡Muchas Gracias a todos! Thank you so much for believing in me, my passions, talents, dreams and for believing in paying it forward to those less fortunate than we are. I hope we will all remember the wise words Anne Frank once shared-
"No one has ever become poor by giving." 💞
I can't believe I really get to spend this next year giving to a community that has had such a big role the past 20 years in making me the woman I am today, thanks to kind and generous donors like you.💗🙏🏽
With Lots of Love and Warm Abrazos,