In 1994, Mark Mulligan, singer, songwriter, and author from the United States, gathered a group of friends to provide financial support to a Guaymas family who could not afford to send their children to school. As time moved on, the group of friends grew and so did the number of families they helped. The evolution of Castaway Kids had begun.
The name “Castaway Kids” arose because, without the intervention of these well-meaning friends, these kids could have been left behind by society, unable to rise out of poverty without an education. Some mistakenly think that Castaway Kids helps children who are abandoned by their parents or that it is an orphanage. In fact, many of the students who benefit from Castaway Kids live in loving family homes.
Our mission to help families overcome poverty through education has never wavered. However, the scope of our work has expanded. We sponsor low-income, high-achieving students through school and provide vocational training to adults. We also supply other essential assistance, such as housing and emergency relief, to the greater Guaymas community so that basic needs are met and education can be a priority.
Adelante Estudiante is our student sponsorship program. Education in Mexico is not free past 8th grade and many low-income families cannot afford to send their children to school. The goal of Adelante Estudiante is to match high achieving students from low-income families with donors who can afford the costs. Donors are guaranteed that 100% of their donation will go to the student they select. Since its inception in 2009, Adelante Estudiante sponsors have supported over 300 students. Many who might not have been able to attend high school have graduated university.
Adelante Estudiante also encourages cultural exchange. Other organizations in San Carlos offer scholarships to students from low-income families; however, Castaway Kids is the only organization that pairs students with sponsors and facilitates direct communication between them. Each student-sponsor pair is assigned a bilingual liaison. These liaisons are responsible not only for arranging meetings between the sponsors, the students, and the students’ families, but also for tracking the students’ performances and keeping the sponsors informed of their student’s progress in school. Many sponsors say that the opportunity to build a relationship with a student and his or her family has not only enhanced their time in Mexico, but it has enriched their lives in general.
Our first venture into vocational training also began in 2009 when Castaway Kids volunteers started the Tipton Sewing Program. Volunteers taught women to sew and provided essential mentoring in design and business practices. These women now supply hand-sewn and crocheted items for sale at our Thrift Store and various other local bazaars.
Castaway Kids has always helped with housing needs by building and repairing houses for families. We have built new houses, replaced roofs, added rooms, and even retrofitted motorhomes and boats into housing. Collaboration with the Charles D. Trover Family Foundation began in 2016. Since the beginning we estimate that Castaway Kids has improved the living conditions for over 100 families with our construction program.
We have also built playgrounds and collaborated with Mesa Sister Cities to relocate an entire playground from Mesa to different neighborhoods in the Guaymas area. In 2016/17, Castaway Kids, in conjunction with the Charles D. Trover Family Foundation, built a shade structure and classrooms at Club Jerry (an after school recreational facility) in Guaymas. This facility provides a safe place for kids to play after school.
2012 marked the beginning of Castaway Kids’ collaboration with Esperanza Azteca Symphony Orchestra and Choir in Guaymas. Esperanza Azteca is an initiative of Grupo Salinas Fundación Azteca, a Mexican non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for youth in low-income and marginalized Mexican communities. Esperanza Azteca uses music to enhance lives.
Recognizing the value of musical education, Castaway Kids entered into a partnership with Esperanza Azteca, Guaymas. Castaway Kids provides a tax-deductible means for donating to Esperanza Azteca, Guaymas. Castaway Kids also purchased and donated a 20 foot cargo trailer for transporting instruments to and from concerts. In addition, Castaway Kids has completely funded a steel pan band for aspiring musicians. In 2019, the Youth Steel Pan Band Program moved from Guaymas to the Ranchitos Community Center, which is next to the San Carlos Secondaria School. What started as one music class for steel pans has now turned into a music school for brass instruments, steel pans and guitar instruction.
In 2015, Castaway Kids opened the door to its thrift store in San Carlos. The goals of the thrift store are two-fold: (1) to provide a constant income stream to fund Castaway Kids programs; and (2) to supply essential clothing and household goods to the local community at low cost. All goods offered at the Thrift Store are donated and volunteers manage the store.
Having a stock of clothing and household items enables Castaway Kids to contribute to disaster relief efforts on a moments notice. Castaway Kids assists the Sistema para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia de Sonora in Guaymas, a government social services organization, to distribute clothing and household goods to families affected by storms or needing assistance.
Castaway Kids expanded the scope of our work once again in 2018 with the opening of the Community Education Center in San Carlos. The Center provides learning and enrichment opportunities for disadvantaged people in the Guaymas/San Carlos area. Supporters of Castaway Kids donated sufficient funds to purchase property and construct the facility on San Carlos’s main street. It houses the Castaway Kids Thrift Store and provides classroom spaces upstairs. Castaway Kids is currently teaching vocational sewing classes and conversational English in response to labor demands in the local marketplace.
Castaway Kids also supports other organizations who assist people in the greater Guaymas area such as local orphanages, homes for the elderly, prisons, schools, youth sports teams, organizations for the mentally and physically challenged, and environmental education groups.