Posted by Editor: FDBobko
May 28, 2022 - 
Padre Simon Mahish 
Fundacion Kairos 
Article by Steve Wilson and Stacy Trevenon      
Photos by EJ Dieterle
Our guest speaker was an old friend of our club, Padre Simon Mahish, a Catholic priest whom some of us met on our Ecuador Water Project trip in 2008.  He gave a brief PowerPoint presentation followed by a Q and A. Father Simon, a priest of the Somascan order (which mainly cares for orphans around the world) is a native of India, and as a young lad was educated in a school run by his order.  His early training was as an advocate in India (legal training) and he then went to Italy for priesthood studies and ordination. We were originally introduced to Father Simon by a Rotary Club in Guayaquil.  Members of our trip were taken to meet him and see his school, which at the time served 800 kids from the worst barrio in Guayaquil.  At that time, he was also sheltering a small number of children assigned to him by government social services on account of abandonment or neglect.  Father Simon has kept in touch over the years through Steve and Stacy, who have been his correspondents.  Recently, he has been on hiatus in India with his family due to the lingering illness and then death of his mother, and sadly the loss of other family members due to Covid-19, which has fortunately spared him. He is now headed back to his work in Guayaquil.
When ordained, Father Simon asked to be sent to the "worst place” to serve, so was sent to Guayaquil with a blessing and instructions to start a school, but with no money because his order had none to spare. The start of his work was the fact that 20 years ago he took in an abandoned baby with HIV who was expected to die within six months. When she did not die he enrolled her in school. However, in response to objections from other parents worried about their childrens’ exposure to someone with HIV, he was forced to remove his "daughter" from the school and therefore teach her himself. He then started a school for other children, serving the impacted barrio area of Guayaquil.  His original child is now an adult and is doing well. Since our original exposure to his work, his network of schools, including vocational training for older kids, has grown to 11 schools and almost 5,000 children.  The schools are owned and run by Fundacion Kairos, a fully qualified Ecuadorean charity nonprofit that is controlled by a community board of directors independent of the government and the Catholic church.  On account of its track record, Fundacion Kairos has the unique status in Ecuador of avoiding control by these institutions.  However, its operations and finances are well understood and transparent.  Fundacion Kairos enjoys the privilege of being a fully licensed social service agency with the authority to, for instance, qualify families for fostering agreements and place children for this purpose. 
Father Simon possesses an extraordinary ability to network at a high level and to present his message of education, faith and healthy life values for these children in a way that marshals and focuses support.  The school system, including three care homes for abused and abandoned children in his custody, is fully supported by donations, including food and supplies. His childrens’ parents are either “dead, in jail, or on drugs.”  He has a permanent staff in excess of 120 "group mothers", teachers, social service professionals, child psychologists and the like.  His "auxiliary" volunteer support group in Ecuador numbers over 1,000.   It is routine for politicians and other public figures to visit his schools and encourage support.  Father Simon has received many accolades including an honorary Ph.D., a U.N. ambassadorship, among others, and is a regular guest on TV. (Father Simon shared a video of a newscast featuring his work during the meeting) and online media.
The future vision of Fundacion Kairos includes the establishment of a technical college (currently awaiting government approval) and a permanent "city of children" on land already donated by the local university.  This would be a combination residential facility and continuum of schools, with limited and controlled public access, medical facilities and supporting social services. This will be a true "big lift" and a model for other countries when operational.  It will require substantial support from outside Ecuador, hopefully U.S. foundations which are active internationally, an approach which is under study at this moment. 
The central daily struggle of Fundacion Kairos is this:  it somehow needs to remain on-mission, undistracted by the high incidence of frequent murder, other violence, drug use and general social and familial collapse all around his schools. “I don’t have energy to fight evil … I have energy to do good.” The circumstances of Guayaquil have gotten much worse in the years since our first visit.  Father Simon survives by elevating his work and the schools above the daily mayhem.  His message is:  "Do what you will with your life.  Carry on.  I won't interfere with you or involve the authorities, but give me your children.  They deserve a chance.”  Most parents want hope in the lives of their children, understand that a healthy environment and education are key, and are willing to send their children to the daily care of Fundacion Kairos or if circumstances dictate, into its permanent residential custody. While reliable tracking statistics are evasive, Fundacion Kairos (and the community) believe that its redemptive work has permanently changed the lives of a high percentage of children in its care. And for those who unfortunately follow their parents' path, at least the seed that lives can be different has been planted if they choose to do so. Father Simon said, “They (the parents) don’t do bad things because they are evil, they lack opportunity.”
It should be understood that the continued deterioration of Guayaquil which is by no means unique for disadvantaged neighborhoods in South America, is due in major part to the infusion of "new" cheap street drugs like amalgams of methamphetamine and fentanyl with byproducts of refining other drugs.  These are both deadly and wickedly addictive.  Additionally, there is evidence that the Mexican cartels are infiltrating Ecuadorean markets.  The outlook isn't good.  Much of the continuing effectiveness of Fundacion Kairos is tied to its ability to stay above the social morass, Mother Teresa-like.
Fundacion Kairos has a supporting U.S. sister organization named Kairos Kids, fully qualified under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Its three directors are Father Simon, Steve and Stacy.  Fully tax-deductible contributions can be made through either Steve or Stacy.  The accounts of Kairos Kids are kept here locally at Wells Fargo Bank. During his trip here, Father Simon made a number of good contacts through Knights of Columbus as well as the Rotary Club of Lakeport, where Steve has contacts.  It is hoped that a schedule of distinct, bite-sized programs can be designed that would be appropriate for U.S. sponsoring organizations to undertake, i.e. individual Rotary Clubs signing on to provide furniture, fixtures and equipment for residences and classrooms.  Suggestions here are most welcome. 
President Joe announced that 15 children had been inoculated against polio in Father Simon’s name, which pleased him very much.
Club Meeting - April 28, 2022
Pledge of Allegiance -
Inspirational Thought - 
President Joe started the meeting with the flag salute followed by the Seven Rules of Life.  Those are: 1. SMILE – it always works out in the end for him since he did not speak Spanish at that time; 2. BE KIND You have the power to make people feel good! 3. DON’T GIVE UP If it doesn’t work the first time, find another way! 4. DON’T COMPARE Everyone’s on a different journey; 5. AVOID NEGATIVITY Avoid negative thoughts, situations & people; 6. MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR PAST Focus on being present and creating a better future! 7.TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY & MIND One struggles to survive without the other! 
An important announcement was added: Next week, in observance of Cinco de Mayo, Joe is providing the club with a catered lunch next Thursday, May 5, so come hungry.
Eric De Bode of Abundant Grace Coastside Worker
Past President Liz Schuck inducted new member Barbara “Barb” Nielsen of Montara, a retired pediatric nurse who has volunteered for RotaCare, and presented her with her new member packet including a tee shirt.
Another meeting guest today was Linda Craven, retired deputy assistant attorney for the state of Michigan, who was filling out her membership application. 
 Happy/Crappy News yescrying
Pres. Joe's Weekly 'States of the Union Quiz - ​​​​​​​HAWAII
Joe made a very fun state visit to Hawaii, without a quiz, and invited others to share their stories about their own visits to this colorful state.
Marble Draw coolsadwink