Retired priest taking donations for education project in Mexico
ST. CHRYSOSTOME – Last year, Father Eloi Arsenault made a commitment to raise $2,500 for the Mexican charity he’s worked with every winter since his retirement as a priest in 2010.
Father Eloi Arsenault (centre) accepts a donation from the Tim Hortons Angels. Arsenault is collecting money for a school project in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The group is (from left), Emma McGraw, Teresa Bernard, Kay Profit, Father Arsenault, Doris DesRoches, Louise Doiron, Marcella Bernard, Joyce DesRoches, and Sophie Richard. Also pictured is visitor Gilles LaPerriere (back left). Other Agenls members are Millie Perry, Melvina McLellan and Irma Curley. Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer
He floored everyone in the room when he returned to the community of Puerto Vallarta this year and reported that he’d actually managed to raise more than $11,000, thanks to the kindness of Islanders.
The original total would have paid a volunteer teacher’s honourarium for a year at the charity’s school.
“He just about fell off his chair,” chuckled Arsenault, talking about the colleague who had asked him how much he’d raised.
“He started to cry and said ‘It’s a miracle, it’s miracle, it’s a miracle.’ He explained that the guy who used to send us huge donations, a rich man from the U.S., had died three months after I’d left to come home. He said we had no more money for the teachers, but that our amount would just about cover the whole thing, seven teachers out of the eight. So he was quite excited,” said Arsenault.
For the past three years Arsenault has been working with the Volcanes Community Education Project. It’s a charity that is trying to help give kids, who used to work sorting garbage, a future through education.
It has renovated a formerly dilapidated school in, the community of Volcanes, collected and refurbished computers for the kids use, provided uniforms and organized various celebrations for the students.
Arsenault said that at this time last year, the program had 250 kids enrolled in its education programs.
Now it has more than 400.
That increase, along with the above mentioned loss of their major benefactor, has meant that volunteers, who are all mostly from the U.S. and Canada, have had to step up their own fundraising efforts.
Arsenault said on Wednesday that he’s booked to return to Puerto Vallarta on Oct. 28, and he’s hoping to raise as much as he can before then. He’s been knocking on doors of some local businesses for the past couple of weeks and he’ll be accepting donations right up until he leaves.
The amount of the donation doesn’t matter, said Arsenault.
“Last year there was a lady who said to me, ‘I want to give a donation.’ She gave me $3.83. That’s all she had. I said to her that a small donation is just as important as a big one. All the money goes directly to the project. Nothing is kept for overhead,” he said.
The community has been extremely generous to date, he added, including a group of local women, who call themselves the Tim Hortons Angels, who gave him a significant donation for the project on Wednesday.
The group is made up of retired women who get together for coffee five days a week and chip in a couple of bucks into a pot. They donate their collection to charity every few months.
“I’m a retired school teacher and children are always part of my heart,” said Louise Doiron, one of the Angels.
“I know that sometimes the children that have the least are often the ones that are most eager to learn. They really appreciate it more,” she said.
Anyone who would like to donate to the Volcanes Community Education Project can do so by contacting Arsenault at 854-3531. They can also contribute by direct deposit at the Evangeline Credit Union in Wellington; just ask to deposit into the Volcanes School Project account. Anyone who would like a receipt for income tax purposes should contact Arsenault.