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We all need a “Why” in our lives!

Terry Challis, her student Paola, and Paola's mom

One of the questions I'm most often asked is, Wow, Terry, I see you everywhere, you are involved in everything around here. I usually make the true statement, “It's work of my heart, it brings me joy.” But upon reflection, there are some deeper reasons.

Not many people know this about me, but almost 30 years ago now, I experienced a near-death experience in Costa Rica. My husband and I were traveling a lot in those days, looking for the place where we'd most like to spend our “golden years”. This trip to Costa Rica started off badly, I had a cold. But we were scheduled to spend a month there, ready to explore the entire country so I went to a walk-in clinic in Phoenix, and they gave me an antibiotic that I'd never taken before. I got on the airplane and was very sick to my stomach. I slept on a couch in the airport in Mexico City waiting for our connecting flight, turns out I had an allergy to KEFLEX, but what a terrible time to find that out!

We finally made it to San Jose, where we had a little apartment and I just continued to get worse. My poor husband finally asked our landlady about the great medical system we'd heard so much about and got directions to a clinic. That's when I had the out-of-body experience, where my point of view was from an upper corner of the room, looking down on myself lying on an examination table, and watching my husband sitting nearby talking to the doctor. I had a severe case of pneumonia by this time, and I found myself in the position where I could choose to stay or leave. Leaving certainly seemed to be the easier choice, but I made a conscious decision that I would stay and fight it out. My poor husband looked so sad and I knew he would have a hard time going on without me.

Not too long after that, my mother was diagnosed with Altzheimers Disease in her mid 70's and my father went into deep depression. It was a very difficult time for all of us. Many of us have gone through these terrible times with our loved ones.

The sum total of these experiences, subconcsiously-- until recent reflection-- made me want to do something with my life that would help make a difference. My father died 19 days before my mother-- his choice. My mother died with very few people even noticing the loss. I didn't want that to be me.

Our travels through Mexico in our RV's during the 1980's caused us to love the Mexican people, their generosity, their resilience, the music in their souls. We chose to retire right here in San Carlos when we purchased our lot here in 1984. I didn't realize I was searching for the “why” I get up for in the morning until I realized through my volunteering at a local children's home that I wanted to enable local gifted kids to further their educations-- many of them had family circumstances that would not allow this to happen and they may end up washing windshields at the corner, or worse.

I remembered my disappointment when my parents told me that they only had enough money to send one of their 2 kids to College and even though I was the oldest and had always been on the honor roll and wanted to be an architect, my brother would get the nod. Don't feel sorry for me, I learned to use a CAD program on my computer, my husband was very supportive and I got to design and build multiple houses and projects and we're doing fine. I was always a big supporter of vocational education and apprenticeships and the US system didn't seem to value that. I went to secretarial school and became a paralegal, then to another school to learn machine shorthand and became a court reporter, but designing and building was always my goal.

When I visited Alamos and saw what they were doing for their young people through their scholarship program, I was inspired. I was directed to LeeAnn Wehr, who had served 8 years on the Board of Amigos de Educacion in Alamos-- she had just moved to San Carlos. Another friend, Diane Wine, was teaching with me at Hogar Paz y Bien and her teacher's pet, Humberto, had dropped out of sight. His mother was having her 4th baby out of wedlock and could not afford the $30 usd equivalent in pesos for his tuition in Jr. High, and she needed him to help her with the kids and with making a living for the family. He was 13 after all, almost a man. A friend volunteered to sponsor him in school. This is where the idea for Adelante Estudiante was formed. We approached Castaway Kids with the proposition to join them as they had all their non-profit organizations in place. Shortly after, Mark Mulligan asked me to take on the presidency of this organization. I felt this was the “Why” I was looking for. Why I get up each morning. This is a cause I am willing to fight for, fighting poverty in our little area of Mexico, through education-- vocational and higher education. The world is changing so quickly and the Science, Technical, Electronics and Math, STEM, schools will be the future. Through collaborations, we have built a STEM school in one of the poorest barrios of Guaymas.

We have so many enthusiastic volunteers, board members, and others and I feel we're all rowing in the same direction. Our new Community Educational Center and new Thrift Shop/Donation Center is just the next step in our progress and we're all so excited about the possibilities this next step will bring to our community.

Our community has always come together to support each other and I hope to see a lot of community support for this next step for Castaway Kids.

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