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March 11, 2004 - "Little Mother of Mexico" by Ellie Braun-Haley



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I will let Ellie introduce her own story today, as her words really went to my heart.

Only now am I able to even think about it and still my spirit aches for the little children and all that they suffer. I was able to write this story about some of the things they have overcome and how Jodie came (by GOD's hand) to be in Mexico.

by Ellie Braun-Haley

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. She 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 firsthand 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. 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.

When those few men who did come to Oaxaca, could not find work, they continued traveling, looking for a way to help their family.

One lady I spoke with has not seen or heard from her husband for almost three years. Another woman heard her husband was killed but she heard the news long after the act, too late to attend to his body. She had four mouths to feed and selling her weaving was her only means of support. Survival and a meal-to-meal existence was primary. Mourning for the father of her children was secondary.

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. God responded, "I did send someone, I sent you"

They were able to quickly sell their hom, their belongings followed suit. Everything they needed to sell, was sold in record time. Jodie knew God really wanted them in Oaxaca.

For ten years the Baumans have 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" At one point, even suspecting that a young boy was armed, Jodi approached him because others said, "he is looking for you," and she thought he may need help. He was indeed looking for her. He told of a ghastly tale of a mob of men murdering his father, when the father refused to give more extortion money to a group who posed as saviors, but took the money of the people and gave nothing in return, except promises. This incident took place back in the San Juan Copala region.

In 1996 friends of the Bauman's, Dr. Freeman and his wife Patsy, 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 Freeman 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.

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." In a huge number of homes there is no sewer and no running water. Finally, in the center this young lad has his dream. 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.Her love for the children is apparent. "If you see the children, you can't help loving them and holding them."

Part way through our day, Jodi introduced me to one of her success stories, a young man she helped as a child. Venancio was an orphan. Today he smiles and chats with Jodi, partly in his language, partly in hers. He has returned to the center to help others. Jodi speaks an odd language part Spanish, part English and part Nahuatl, the language of the Triquis. "I had to learn their language in order to help them, "she explains.

"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.

Ellie Braun-Haley copyright 2004

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 and e-mail is In the city of Oaxaca they are known as Centro de Esperanza Infantil A.C and they are located at #308 Crespo

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.


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The Letter Box:

Dear Karen, Your story made me smile and brought many of my own childhood memories - thank you! Geena

Dear 2theheart, Karen's story evoked memories of wash hanging on the line, the sound of my mother singing and of a happy childhood. Thank you, my dear, for a lovely story. James S, London

Dear Karen,
What a delightful story! I could totally relate and even though I am 42 years old, the smell of bread baking still brings my mind back home. Thank you!!!!!! Sue

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