Jordan Saturen
Jordan Saturen, a certified language teacher, is teaching English after school in the pavilion. (Charles Soberman)

Charles and Linda Soberman have launched a “virtual fundraiser” for a school outside of San Miguel de Allende.

Charles “Carlos” Soberman and his wife, Linda, of West Bloomfield, head south of the border to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a 16th-century city with cobblestone streets nestled in the mountains. The Sobermans purchased a home there in 2005 and have been busy building Jewish community there ever since.

Since they began, the Sobermans have launched a group incorporated as CHESMA, which stands for Comunidad Hebrea En San Miguel de Allende, an interdenominational Jewish community of about 120 members, a quarter of whom are Mexican natives and the rest expats from the U.S. and Canada, and bought a building is called the JC3 (Jewish Cultural and Community Center) where they hold Conservative, Reform and meditative services and  Torah discussion groups in English and Spanish. Unfortunately, the building has been closed because of the pandemic.

Soberman also became involved with Feed the Hungry, delivering food once a week to a rural community called San Francisco. He also volunteers for an organization called Computadoras Pro Jovenes (CPJ), which works to put donated computers into rural schools, including at the Rancho San Francisco school outside of San Miguel.

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Charles Soberman

“Until recently, things had been going very well for the small rural village and its school. The computing center is open 6 days a week, 12 months a year,” Soberman said.

A young woman named Rosy is paid the equivalent of $25 a week to supervise the center, which has given almost everyone in the village the opportunity to learn to use computers. The building recently painted has been kept neat and clean. “Rosy provides simple school supplies – not available locally – to the schoolchildren,” Soberman said. “Things like notebooks, pencils, pens, pencil sharpeners, crayons, etc. It’s hard for us to imagine the lack of such supplies at a public school.”

An outdoor pavilion, completed two years ago with help from donors, has also been well maintained and is heavily used by the school and the community for classes, lunches, play and meetings.

The new school entrance.
The new school entrance. Charles Soberman

When the Sobermans returned to San Miguel last winter, they learned that a new school entrance had been built and paid for by the federal government. “But as often happens in Mexico, the job was not finished, and no gate, door or window were provided. No funds were provided by the government for completion of the work,” Soberman said.

“We were fortunate to find a nearby blacksmith to build the gate, window and door. As has been our practice, we split the cost of the construction with the villagers,” he added.

Then coronavirus hit. As in the U.S., the school closed in March due to the pandemic, and the students were left without classes as well as their free lunch – usually the only nutritious meal of the day – provided by Feed the Hungry.

“Some village residents have lost their jobs in the nearby auto parts factories,” Soberman said. “Feed the Hungry is now delivering food to the village every two weeks, but we decided it would be a good time to waive the modest user charges at the computing center so that children and adults would have free use of the computers.”

In the past, the user charges paid Rosy’s modest salary of $500 pesos ($25 US/week) and subsidized improvements to the school (such as the outdoor pavilion, play equipment, repairs, etc.).

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Charles Soberman

This fall, the schools in Mexico did not reopen. Classes are being given via television – a one way medium. “One of the few televisions in the village is one that we installed in the computing center,” Charles said.

To date, Covid has not struck anyone in the small village. However, people have lost their jobs, their livelihood, their hope for a better future. “We can help in a small, yet meaningful way,” said Charles, who has launched a “virtual fundraiser” for the school.

A donation of $25 would pay Rosy’s salary for a week; $30 pays for internet access for a month. $20 pays for supplies — paper and ink for the printers, etc.

With the proceeds of the fundraiser, Charlies expects to purchase a large TV for the children to virtually “attend” classes, as well as several new computers.

“Every little bit helps,” said Charles, who plans to return to San Miguel Dec. 2.

Those interested in donating can email Charles at csoberman@gmail.com.

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