Responsibility group helps Tijuana’s needy through education

One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but for hundreds of people in Tijuana, one man’s trash is a means of survival.

An estimated 600 men and women support their families by picking through piles of trash for recyclables at the Tijuana municipal dump. They receive no salary, but can earn $100 to $200 a month selling what they find.

Although families live within walking distance in homes of cardboard and metal sheets, for many years, there was no school at the garbage dump, or at any of the other private and municipal dumps in Mexico. Then Responsibility stepped in.

Since the early 1980s, San Ysidro-based Responsibility has offered education programs for children living in and around the dumps of Tijuana, Mexico. What started as a program for the children at the Tijuana municipal garbage dump has grown to programs for more than 6,000 students in both Mexico and Nicaragua.

“We have a fabulous program and we have phenomenal teachers,” said longtime Del Mar resident Marilyn K. Simon, who serves as president of the nonprofit’s board. “The kids are enthusiastic because it means so much to them.”

Having worked in education for more than 40 years, Simon was eager to help the organization after she learned about Responsibility’s work from a former doctoral student. Before his passing in 2011, Jim Dillahunty had served on the board for 12 years and was responsible for getting Simon involved with an invitation to the organization’s annual fundraiser.

A Del Mar resident since 1976, Simon has served on the board for eight years — four years as president — and now extends an open invitation to all to join Responsibility for its annual reception Nov. 8 at UC San Diego’s Faculty Club. Funds raised during the event will support Responsibility’s programs.

“Education, Mexico, children in need — it pulled every heartstring I had,” said Simon, who also owns a home in Mexico.

Special education teacher David Lynch formed Responsibility after joining a group of volunteers to teach one month in Tijuana in the summer of 1980. In 1985, he and a group of volunteers built the first schoolhouse and medical center next to the Tijuana municipal garbage dump. Since then, the organization has helped build 45 homes. Responsibility has also constructed health care facilities, computer centers and three schools, including a school in Nicaragua, which opened in 2010.

“As an educator, I know that education is the key to advancement,” Simon said. “Education is necessary to break the cycle of poverty. Regardless of your political views about immigration, it would do such good for humanity and both sides of the border if we could educate the poorest of the poor in society.”

The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres and a no-host cocktail hour. Tickets cost $100 per person. VIP tickets cost $150.

For more about Responsibility or to register for the reception, visit responsibilityonline.org.

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