Little Mother of Mexico


She looked at the rubble pile, this piece of real estate, already in disrepair then devastated by an earthquake, and she knew somehow they would raise the money needed for the purchase, some $130,000. This was to be the new location for an organization that helped street children in one of the poorest states in Mexico. Jodie Bauman had not come this far to doubt what could be done with faith.

It seemed a million years ago when Jodi Bauman first heard of Oaxaca (sounds like Wa HA ka). Back in the early 1980’s she and her husband, Harold had a nice home and a comfortable life. Both had jobs and the couple was happy. Then in 1985 Jodi read a three year old article in an old National Geographic magazine. It talked about an indigenous people, the Triquis, of the San Juan Copala region in the state of Oaxaca. In 1986 Jodi traveled to Mexico and in Oaxaca saw first hand the problems and extremely poor life that the people were experiencing.

She and Harold were to discover a people who were so in need, that the word poverty seemed less than adequate. Families had been separated both by deaths and the warring conditions in their area. Hundreds of children and women fled to the city of Oaxaca (population over 350,000). Many of the males remained behind to protect their campesinos. If the family leaves the land, the government can take it back.

Those who left traveled with what they could carry. Some were able to find refuge with relatives; the majority squatted where they could, seeking shelter.

Some families pay $30 per month for a tiny tin building close to the size of some garden sheds. Most have dirt floors. They do not have sewer or water. Some only have three walls.

Jodi and Harold returned to the States aghast at what they had seen; little children in the streets of the huge city, unable to get an education, begging in the streets, selling Chicklets and beads to buy food and water. They were to see toddlers suffering from malnutrition and a high death rate due to bad water, insufficient medical help and a lack of food. Jodi discovered that over fifty percent of the children die before they reach their sixth birthday.

“You can not go home and sleep on soft pillows and eat your hot meals and not want to help,” says Jodi.

She returned home and prayed that God would send someone to help the street children and their families. Her answer was startling, “God said to me, I did send someone, Jodie. I sent you"

Knowing that the real estate market was in a bit of a slump Jodie said , "We'll put our house up for sale and go, if that is what you want God, but you'll have to help."

The house barely got on the market and was sold. Their belongings followed suit. Everything they needed to sell, was sold in record time. Jodie knew they were truly destined for Oaxaca, Mexico.

The couple moved to Oaxaca, bought a home and began the work to help the Triquis people and others who were equally poor.

For ten years the Baumans supported the children independently, using money from the sale of their belongings.

“Each time we ran out of money, or faced an insurmountable problem, miraculously we were aided, sometimes in most surprising ways,” says Jodi.

Jodi Bauman is like the “little mother of Mexico”, protective of the poor, and never fearful to wade into dangerous circumstances if it means helping “her people”

In 1996 friends of the Bauman’s, advised the Baumans to form a non profit organization and get others to help in the quest of helping the street children. By then numbers had reached over two hundred children to feed daily. Patsy a friend had arrived from the States and joined Jodi in the search for property. When they came across the building that looked more like a pile of rubble than a building, Patsy peered in through the gate and said, “we can do it!”

This would be a place where the street children could come for a hot meal. It would be a place where visitors could get information on how to assist in both a financial sense and with their volunteer hours, to teach the children to speak the Spanish they would need to survive in the school system. (At that point the majority of all the families spoke, Nahuatl, the language of the Triquis)

“We found this place, a wreck, more a rubble pile than a building,” said Jodi of the building we sat in for part of our interview. They bargained and argued for a decent price and then set about finding a way to raise one hundred and thirty thousand American dollars.

Jodi sent up a prayer, “ God, I did not put me here, so if you want me to get the building, then it’s up to you. Jodie's faith was not in vain.

The first help arrived in the form of a phone call. A friend told Jodi ,”My mother died and has left me money, but because I believe in the law of tithing, I must give you $11,000 for your street children.”

Next, Jodi was also given some “worthless stock” by a friend but she thought, “we’ll hold onto this, because with God, all things are possible.” Two days later the stock skyrocketed and brought in $9000. Good things continued to happen.

Soon the money was raised for the new building on a street called Crespo. Volunteer labor restored the place and Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots became a reality.

Today, the center feeds over 400 children, and offers training on computers, through volunteer teachers, often international students who have arrived in the city to learn Spanish. People from many different countries sent money to develop different rooms in the center. Money is donated in memory of a loved one, or simply because, in Jodi’s words, "going home and sleeping on soft pillows after seeing the children is impossible.”

Asked what he would like most in the world, one boy of ten said, “to have a shower once a week.” Now all the children may come and shower at the center. Here also they can learn to sew and are given instruction in hygiene.

“We have come a long way,” says Jodi, “but still there is so much left to do.” She often takes on chores that no volunteer will accept. Following this woman around even for seven hours of the day is a lesson in patience, and understanding.

“I have to wash for lice every three months,” says Jodi, but then she is one of the volunteers who visits the hillside tin homes where babies crawl on dirt floors. Her love for the children is apparent. “If you see the children, you can’t help loving them and holding them.”

“There is always an emergency. There is always something to do and with God’s help even more people will come to help”, says Jodi with her ever ready smile. This little “Mother of Mexico” continues her work, with an energy born out of her love for the people and the knowledge that she never works alone.

By Ellie Braun-Haley shaley@telusplanet.net

Footnote: In the United States the Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots is non profit organization 501-C and contributions may be sent to them in care of Frank Vannini, treasurer, 449 Crane Avenue South, Taunton, MA 02780 Their web site is www.oaxacastreetchildren.org and e-mail is streetchildren@spersaoaxaca.com.mx In the city of Oaxaca they are known as Centro de Esperanza Infantil A.C and they are located at #308 Crespo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ellie has done research in Mexico over the past few years. She is the author of three books and co author of a fourth with her husband Shawn. Ellie has written short stories for numerous publications to include, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Heartwarmers of Spirit, 2theHeart and Emerging Courageous. She says, “helping others is a privilege and often an unexpected learning experience.”

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