At age 72 most men think of perfecting their golf swing or cruising or traveling to exotic destinations.  Not Art Fumerton. We Rotarians in Rotary Clubs of Santa Barbara North, Santa Barbara Sunrise, and Carpinteria have an incredible program collaboration with the Volcanes Education Project in Santa Barbara Sister City Puerto Vallarta. It is built and operated by an amazing Rotarian, Art Fumerton.

Art and his wife, Mayra, moved to Puerto Vallarta from California in 1994.  Art became involved with the International Friendship Club and the School of Champions providing English and computer programs to underprivileged children in areas surrounding Puerto Vallarta.  At one location, the Magisterio (former dump), they provided a hot breakfast and lunch to 250 children.  But like all  noble endeavors, funding became scarce and the program came to an end.  However, two sponsors continued their support - Cafe Roma and The Hard Rock Hotel.

Art approached the principal of the Public Primary School in Volcanes. Art suggested they use the old buildings to provide English lessons before and after school to the students, as the only industry in PV is tourism and English is necessary.  They started to offer classes to the Grade 5 and 6 students.  Having an organized activity where children feel safe and valued is incredibly important to the children, their families, and the community.  Most of the children would leave school around age 12 to find some way to help the family survive.  This was the opportunity for them to have a different life.  About the same time, Art became a member of The Rotary Club of Puerto Vallarta Sur (RCPVRSUR) and the Volcanes Community Education Project (VCEP) became a part of the club.

Things began to expand rapidly.  Cafe Roma provided a redo of the electric in the old school buildings.  Rotarians, and others, took advantage of the government regulations allowing them to bring a used laptop computer to donate to the project, the program was expanded to include grades 3 and 4, and computer studies became part of the program.

Art says that for a project like this to be successful, there are four requirements:

  1. The community is small and separate
  2. Existing buildings and infrastructure are available
  3. To have teachers who are dedicated to the program
  4. The Becas Scholarship Program*

* The Becas Scholarship Program is administered by the RCPVRSUR.  Students receive scholarships from grade 7 through to completion of university.  Volcanes has 90 students in the program and eight have graduated in the past two years from university programs.  Art is proud to boast there are 30 students currently in university programs....think BIG.

The school philosophy is to commit to work...hard work...and to participate in the community and to give back.  Volcanes students have participated in RCPVSUR activities such as Cleaning the Rivers.  With the hard work are perks: Swimming with the Dolphins, Pizza Parties, River Swimming, Vallarta Adventures, Movies, etc.

Several Rotary Clubs and individuals contributed to the funding of building a library and computer lab.  There are now numerous books in English and Spanish and 60 functioning computers.  The library was handed immediately to the community and is open evenings for use by all members of the community.  It is, needless to say, very well used.

The Volcanes Community Education Project was started in February of 2010 by Art Fumerton, a proud member of the Rotary Club of Puerto Vallarta Sur.  Who knows what he will accomplish in the next 11 years, and no, he still is not golfing.

Presented by Malcolm Laird, Director of Water Programs, Rotario Puerto Vallarta Sur

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