Chris Ross along with his guides Chacho and Chacho's son, join Mayan children for a photograph. Ross and the guides delivered school supplies, food and a soccer ball to the school, in one of the most impoverished villages in the peninsula. Ross had never visited the village before. The children were very quiet when they received the packets, because they had never been given something like this before.
Photo Contributed by The Journal
Photo Contributed by The Journal
February 25, 2014 3:03 pm
Patti Jo Peterson: Managing Editor from The Journal
Two years ago, Chris Ross said he wasn’t going back.
After 28 years of delivering school supply packets to children in the Yucatan Peninsula, Ross promised family and friends he was done with this mission.
Memories of the children’s joy in receiving the packets – filled with a book, crayons, pencils, pad of paper, candy and a cross – were too vivid for this 58-year-old Plattsmouth man to ignore.
He headed to Yucatan Jan. 28 for a 10-day stay to deliver 425 packets, far less than before, but enough to help several of the most impoverished school districts and a few districts that aimed at adding a seventh, eighth and ninth grade to the curriculum.
“We had done over 35,000 packets when we stopped. We visited over 1,000 Mayan villages and drove over 50,000 in those 28 years,” Ross said.
So, Ross didn’t deliver any packets in 2013. “But I kept thinking about the kids “s and that kept driving me,” he said. “I really want to see a school built for them, so they can go on to sixth grade.”
For the 2014 trip, the First United Methodist Church dedicated a special offering toward buying the supplies. “Whatever I got from the offering is how many packets we’d put together.”
Ross met his old friends, Chacho and Tito, in Valladolid. “We shopped for items I didn’t take down there. The next morning the women started putting packets together. They worked all day and night. We had 425 or more packets.”
The next day, Ross and Chacho visited two of the poorest villages in the Yucatan Peninsula.
“We also took basic supplies like rice and beans, sugar, flour and coffee,” he said.
At each village, Chacho explains the packets are not distributed for any religious or political gains, an important message to give to a people who have been taken advantage of, Ross said.
After delivering to the severely impoverished villages such as Gaspar Antonio Xiu, Ross and Chacho revisited a successful school. The children were so excited to see Ross again, the swarmed him with many hugs.
“The teacher got them calmed down and put them in line. But they broke the line and mobbed me again,” he said
Then, they honored Ross with a tribute he may never forget. “The second and third graders sang ‘Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer in Mayan to me.”
After the song, Chaco asked the children if they knew who Ross was.
“Do you remember this man?” Chacho said. “What’s his name?”
“Chris Ross,” they responded pronouncing it with no accent or extra syllables. “It was perfect,” Ross said.
Ross also spied a little Mayan girl who had a tear in her eye when he left two years ago. “She was in sixth grade now. She gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever had while delivering 35,000 packets,” he said.
Of the 26 who started the school year in this village, 22 remained in school. The packets had made a difference.
“After we left the school, the head woman in the village asked us to stop for lunch in her hut,” Ross said. “Fourteen kids from school came.”
Ross brought his Boom Box out and played songs from the Texas Tornadoes, while he and the children laughed and danced.
A simple people, Ross respects the appreciation the Mayans show for even the smallest gifts.
“They are really good people,” Ross said.
While he was there, he talked to the Mexican Secretary of Education. “I told her I wanted more schools.”
“Be patient,” she said.
“I’ve learned to be patient with the process, but I’ve also learned you have to be persistent.”
For now, Ross plans to continue delivering the packets, but on a much smaller scale.
I’ve decided not to go back to delivering to 70 villages, but to keep it on a small scale with 500 packets to 10 schools. I want to make sure they get that school built. It’s like what Mother Teresa said, ‘We cannot do great things, but only small things with great love.’ We just do it from the heart.”