William Penn

Do good with what thou hast, or it will do thee no good


The following is reposted from Facebook with the permission of the author, Jessica Ireland. Jessica is a newcomer to San Felipe but she is a welcome addition, for sure!
Jessica and kids

Jessica and some of her new friends in San Felipe

Another story that I would like to share with you…. This isn’t about the children in San Felipe, this is about me. What I have finally come to realize through all of this is that very few of you actually know my story.

I came from a divorced family and although I had many trials and tribulations, I was never burned, neglected or extremely abused. I always had a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I was always taught right from wrong and through it all, I grew up having strong values, morals and respect, more for others at times than myself.

I was very young when I had my children. I met my ex-husband when I was 18 years old and 3 months into our long-distance relationship, I found out I was pregnant with our unplanned child. I thought that I was making the “right” choice by relocating myself 800 miles from my home and moving in with him. After our first son, Conner was born, I married him and soon after we began trying for our second child. When I was 5 1/2 month pregnant my ex husband and I split. I was a full-time stay at home mother with no income and I was terrified.

My children were my life. I slept, breathed and lived for every moment of my children’s lives until they became teenagers and decided that they wanted to live with their dad. It was one of the most painful moments in my life but I agreed to let go and allow for the pieces to fall where they may.

Donated school supplies

Donated school supplies

After a year and a half of deep depression, I finally reached out to my doctor and apprehensively agreed to begin taking anti-depressants. Within the following 6 months, my life went from rarely leaving my home in Calgary, Alberta Canada to traveling to the sunny city of Phoenix.

In March/April of the same year, I spent 3 weeks exploring and slowly appreciating the sun, surroundings and spirit of Phoenix. Everywhere I went, people were friendly, kind, helpful and happy. Despite the extreme hardship a lot of people were facing, many were still able to begin their days with a smile on their faces, put their best foot forward and create positive in their day to day life.

This was something that was foreign to me. I had spent so many years searching for my “soul mates” only to discover they were nothing but difficult lessons to learn. I had always tried to be the very BEST mother I could be only to realize that everything I had done was dismissed because the “grass was greener on the other side”. During the real-estate boom, I was an extremely prosperous mortgage broken but at the end of the day, when the turn hit, I was left unemployed and without any form of income to rely on.

It was during my 3 week vacation in Phoenix that I decided to begin looking for a “home” to purchase. I returned to Phoenix in July and spent 2 months here enjoying monsoon season and trying to get my bearings. In August, I purchased my condo and enrolled at SWIHA. Little did I know how much my life was going to change.

some of the backpacks collected

some of the backpacks collected

In September, I returned to Calgary, listed the home that I had raised my children in since 1995 and began packing all of my possessions. In December I officially moved to Phoenix, sold my home at the end of December and began attending SWIHA full-time in January.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that my life would be what it is today! I still recall being at my first Gifts and Graces listening to one of the past graduates speak about how much her life had changed in the previous 2 years and thinking that I really wanted to know what her secret was……

FFWD 1.5 years. Some of you I have known for many years, some of you I have never met, while others I have only grown to know over the last 1.5 years. What most of you don’t know is that my life has not always been as incredible as it is now.

I’m Canadian and only in Phoenix on a Student Visa while I’m attending school. What this means is that I’m not able to work while I’m here. I have solely been living off of my savings while I have been attending school. The funds I have remaining in my bank account is less than what most people make in a month but yet I’m happier now than I have ever been in my entire life.

You see, I went to San Felipe, Mexico last Christmas with $60 worth of stuffed animals I had purchased from Goodwill and toys I had purchased from the Dollartree. I was given the gift of $100 from my father for Christmas and although I could’ve come up with 100 things that I could’ve purchased with the money, I decided to invest it. I invested it into making children smile and giving them gifts that I wasn’t sure would’ve been given.

I drove town to San Felipe, Mexico alone with my 3 loyal dogs and was fortunate enough to meet a missionary that was happy to show me around San Felipe and introduce me to several families he was confident could not afford to provide gifts to their children on Christmas. This was truly my first experience with “giving” to people.

I have volunteered and I have given back to many organizations throughout my life but I have never experienced what I felt when I was giving to these children. This was the most incredible gift I have received and to be honest, I believe that it is the most incredible gift I will ever receive….. Besides the gift of my children choosing me to be their mother that is.

To see the joy in the eyes of a child is the greatest gift. I was able to personally touch the lives of so many children and families in the 2 weeks I spent in San Felipe, just by delivering used stuffed animals and toys from the Dollartree.

What some of you do not know is that during the course of those 2 weeks, I was also able to spend the remaining $40+ saving the lives of two dogs. One of the dogs was a puppy and within a week of the owner’s having him, he lost a tremendous amount of weight, wasn’t able to keep any food of water down and was close to passing over. When I saw the condition of the puppy, I took him to the vet (the owners would not have been able to afford the expense) and was able to purchase medication to save his life. The same family also had another dog that had mange and the sadly, the flesh deterioration left holes large enough to see his bones. I was able to pay for the medication to assist with the mange and prolong this gentle animal’s life.

When I returned to Phoenix, I immediately began volunteering at 2 of the local animal shelters, and as many of you know, have taken a huge interest in doing what I can to assist our four legged friends. This has included taking in puppies for short periods of time, volunteering at the shelter and taking in foster dogs. People often look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that I have 6 dogs at the moment, but this is why.

My experiences in San Felipe have left me feeling inspired, extremely grateful and hopeful on many levels. When I returned to Phoenix in January, I decided to give up Starbucks and use the funds I would’ve otherwise spent on Cafe Lattes on buying more stuffed animals from Goodwill. When I returned to San Felipe, I again was able to deliver about 65 stuffed animals and see so many children’s eyes light up.

When I returned to Phoenix after my trip I decided to begin a backpack collection. When I first began the backpack collection I set a goal for myself to collect 200 backpacks. I had been attending SWIHA for just over a year so I decided to “strive for greatness” by also committing to filling the backpacks with school supplies. This would ensure that 200 children would be able to return to school in August. It meant that 200 children and their families would not have to worry about the financial investment of purchasing school supplies but could use the money to put food on their table without worrying for a few extra days.

I had begun the backpack and school supply collection immediately upon returning from San Felipe in February and I naively believed that it would be “easy”. By the middle of May (2.5 month after it began) we had collected less than 100 backpacks and I began to doubt that I would meet the goal. I managed to set aside all of the doubts I had created in my mind and sure enough, on June 28th when I left for San Felipe, I had 210 backpacks stuffed into my 2001 Subaru Legacy.

I have to be completely honest when I share this with you…. Although the experiences I have had in San Felipe are incredible and I could never imagine my life being any different now, it is because of people that have stepped forward to help that has truly changed my life.

I will always remember the moment I counted all of the backpacks and realized that the donation of 32 gently used backpacks (including her own) from one of my fellow students had exceeded the goal. This incredible woman had spent weeks collecting backpacks from Goodwill and met me at school before class one evening to give them to me. When I arrived home after class that night, I counted all of the backpacks and I literally broke down in tears. I spent an hour crying because I was consumed with so much inspiration, love, faith in humanity, hope and the list goes on.

Prior to leaving to disburse the 210 backpacks filled with school supplies to the poverty stricken children in San Felipe and upon my return with the 2 collections I now have in the works, it is because of so many of you that ALL of this is possible.

I feel as though it is nothing short of an absolute miracle and an incredible honor that I’m the person that is able to deliver ALL of the gifts you have all provided for me to bring down to these children and their families. I often receive wonderful messages from people commending me for my efforts and for all that I do but it is all of the people that have contributed to this that have made it possible. From reposting my posts, making donations (backpacks, school supplies and clothes), posting a You Tube video supporting the cause, making goodies for the bake sale, helping me out at the bake sale, storing backpacks, school supplies and clothes, to sponsoring clothing drives, organizing the event to disburse the backpacks to those children most in need, and everywhere in between.

YOU are my inspiration and YOU have made all of this possible. It it because of your love, kindness, support and generosity that so many children in San Felipe are benefitting from what YOU are creating hundreds of miles away! I often times cannot even begin to tell you all how much I appreciate all that you do and how much all of this has changed my life. Please know that when I say “thank you”, there is so much more meaning behind those words.

Even if you are not able/interested in donating to this cause, there are so many possibilities in the world and so many people that need our help. If my story does nothing more than inspires you to do something to give back to the world, I cannot wish for anything more.

I truly believe and will ALWAYS believe the it is up to us to “be the change that we wish to see in the world”. What I want is for us “together we WILL be the change we wish to see in the world.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story and for taking the time to read it all. My message is that ANYONE/EVERYONE has the ability to make a difference in the world……. What are you going to do to make a difference?

If you would like to help Jessica help the San Felipe school children you can find her on Facebook here.