by Sarah Clark
It was so fun reconnecting with Mario and Cristino this last March in Todos Santos. Mario and Cristino are two sanguine and kind-hearted young men who the GAAP has been sponsoring for the last four years. We first met Mario (age 17) and Cristino (age 19) when they were working in the hotel where the GAAP staff and volunteers stayed during the annual veterinary campaign. Mario and Cristino had to drop out of school in order to help their families make a little income, but they only missed one year of school and were able to return with the help of the GAAP monthly scholarship provided to their mothers. Cristino’s younger brother Roberto also receives a scholarship, as does Mario’s younger sister Roxana.
Mario and Cristino are best friends and love spending time with each other inside and outside of school. They were so excited to report that they’ve both continued their post-secondary education and are working together toward their degrees in teaching! In addition to taking classes, Mario and Cristino participate in “observations”, a type of practical internship in which they observe the teachers working with the children. Cristino said he loves going to the local elementary school in Todos Santos where he “plays, helps, and has fun with the small children”, who are about 6-7 years old. Cristino’s favorite subject is artistic expression, and he loves to draw and teach the children how to draw as well. Mario explained further: “We observe the teachers working with the students: What are the attitudes of the children? How do they behave? This helps so that when I’m ready to start teaching I see how to treat the children. You have to teach them good things so that they have a good future, so that they can advance more than us.”
Cristino and Roberto’s mother only had about 2-3 years of schooling, so it’s incredible that her son is participating in a post-secondary program. Cristino said that his education is having a positive impact on his family, and is giving them hope for the future. Mario is also very proud to be continuing his studies, and wants to help his family and younger sisters: “I’m going to study first and later work and help my family because my sister Roxana wants to be a nurse. So I can help her and my other little sister so that they advance more than me. One day they’re going to thank me. I want to help my sisters so that they all advance. I love my family.”
Mario explained that it is difficult to get a job in Todos Santos as a teacher because there are too many teachers for the amount of positions available. Furthermore, applying for a job and doing all the paperwork can take more than a year. He’s optimistic that he’ll be able to find work outside of Todos Santos, and is also open to working in the campo (in agriculture) if need be until he is able to find a teaching job.
Both Cristino and Mario also love helping the GAAP and Veterinarians International volunteers when they come to Todos Santos each year for the veterinary campaign. In Mario’s words, “You all have helped me, so I want to help you!” Both young men spent hours with us in March helping to set up and then tear down the clinic, as well as helping with tasks like cleaning, carrying or fetching items for the volunteers, and assisting with the handling of animals. Along with Roberto, they even helped keep record of the number of rabies vaccinations! Cristino proudly wore his bright blue gloves during our interview, saying, “I’m wearing these gloves because I’m working with the veterinarians, observing how they do surgeries on the animals. Also cleaning things. That’s why these gloves are important, they’re super cool.”
Mario and Cristino have hearts of gold, and we are continually impressed with their development as kind, intelligent and conscientious young men. Mario and Cristino both speak very highly of the GAAP staff and volunteers as well, saying the GAAP Co-Directors Elena and Guillermo are like their mother and father, and Patty and Natalie like their “abuelitas”. With tear-streaked faces the sponsored students and GAAP volunteers have to say farewell every year, and Mario and Cristino express their profound gratitude for the help they’ve received. In Cristino’s words, “Everyone who supports the scholarship is far from me, but I give them a big hug.”