The Gems of Mazatlan

Staff
By Staff January 22, 2020 12:36

The Gems of Mazatlan

When Peter and Melinda Gebraad arrived in Mazatlan in 2014, they fell in love with what the city had to offer: the beaches, the blue skies and the Mexican people.   There was no question that Mazatlan would be their retirement destination, but they were troubled by that nagging, existential question:  How do we accelerate the retirement plan so that we can start to experience the retirement destination a little earlier than planned?

Both Peter and Melinda were deeply involved in the corporate world that is Calgary, Canada.  Peter had just sold his pyrotechnics business and Melinda works online as an accountant.  Returning to Calgary, they quickly figured out how to make definite plans to live their winters in Mexico and their summers in Canada pre-retirement.

It was while watching the children of the Salvation Army Children’s Home perform in the streets of Mazatlan to raise money for the day-to-day needs of survival, that Peter and Melinda found their calling.  “We decided to reach beyond the beaches and margaritas and get involved in the community.  It’s about finding purpose,” states Melinda.  Many families in Mexico are crippled by poverty and it is children who pay the ultimate price. In Canada and the United States, society talks about children who fall through the cracks; in Mexico, children stumble into craters that rapidly become sinkholes.    Both Peter and Melinda realized where they could put their business skills to excellent use in helping Mexico to protect its most precious resource, its children—the gems of Mazatlan.

Having always participated as volunteers in Calgary, they started “Make a Difference Mondays”, a lunch & maintenance program at the Salvation Army Home for Children.  The couple reached out to others and the volunteer base grew. There were signs to be made, walls to be painted, toilets to be fixed and endless ongoing jobs to do.  In sharing their vision with others, they were eventually able to raise funds for a dental program for the home.

A major breakthrough occurred in May of 2016 when their application to the Canadian Government to have their project recognized as a charitable organization was accepted:  The Gems of Mazatlan became an official Canadian Registered Charity.  Melinda and Peter were now able to provide tax receipts to the many Canadians who had generously contributed to their Mazatlan project.  Prior to this, Melinda and Peter were amazed at the generosity of their Canadian and American friends, but now, charity status was paving the way to financial legitimacy.

Summers in Calgary were not a time to forget about their work in Mazatlan.  Since 2015, they have hosted the “Lupe Cup” every September. In the spirit of the Terry Fox fundraiser, Peter and Melinda challenged ten of their friends to raise $500.00 each for their cause in the hope of returning to Mazatlan with $5,000.00.   To their delight, the first Lupe Cup raised $13,000.  There has been a Lupe Cup every year since.  The 2019 Lupe Cup raised an incredible $48,000 which Peter and Melinda are partially using to help fund a joint project with Un Futuro Mejor Inc.

The project, entitled Mi Futuro, is the establishment of a transition home for any children aging out of an existing Children’s Home in Mazatlan.  Mi Futuro aims to help these young adults acclimatize into the adult world from what was essentially a home for children.  The home consists of a fourplex of two bedroom apartments where the young adults receive instruction on budgeting, house management, job application and post secondary educational opportunities.

The Gems of Mazatlan is also working with other organizations such as Refugio Mazatlan, Floreser and Ciudad de los Ninos.  Canadian donations on behalf of these institutions can now receive tax receipts under the umbrella of The Gems of Mazatlan and donors can specify where they would like their money to go.

Peter and Melinda’s vision has expanded exponentially over the last few years.  In founding The Gems of Mazatlan, they have found their place in the community and have firmly established their life and purpose in Mazatlan.  They invite all newcomers to Mazatlan to get involved.  There are projects, both temporary and on ongoing to keep everyone busy.  The irony according to Melinda is that we come into this situation thinking that we can teach and help the kids, and really it is the kids who are teaching and helping us.  The benefits are truly reciprocal.  Says Melinda:  “One of my favorite sayings is it takes a village to raise a child, and we’re overwhelmed with the support and generosity of the endless people that have joined our village in helping to do our part in caring for these children in hopes of a better future for them.

More information on Gems of Mazatlan can be found on its website:  gemsofmazatlan.com or by emailing the Gebraads at  melindagebraad@msn.com  Gems of Mazatlan is also on Facebook.

 

 

Staff
By Staff January 22, 2020 12:36