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Teens help fill needs of poverty-stricken kids near Puerto Vallarta

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Devon Liscum (second from left) and brother Jeremy (left) pose at a school in Mexico while helping out in the School of Champions program.

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Devon Liscum (second from left) and brother Jeremy (left) pose at a school in Mexico while helping out in the School of Champions program.

One Winnipeg family is heading to Mexico over the holidays, but this isn’t a typical winter getaway.

The Liscums will travel to the Puerto Vallarta area to help out people much less fortunate.

Just five minutes away from the beautiful beaches of the Mexican resort area, there used to be a large garbage dump. Devon Liscum visited the dump with his family in 2008, and what he saw there changed his life.

"It was mind blowing," Liscum said. "There were tons of people collecting garbage to sell and even eat."

The community of El Magisterio, just outside the bustling resort city of Puerto Vallarta, is adjacent to the landfill. At the time, many children in El Magisterio didn’t attend school. Instead their days were spent scrounging through the trash to find recyclables and building supplies to exchange for food.

Liscum and his family were touched by what they witnessed in Mexico and began looking for ways to help. They contacted a non-profit organization called Children of the Dump and their philanthropic flights to Mexico began.

Although the landfill has closed since the Liscums visited it in 2008, the poverty and need in the surrounding community still exists.

Liscum, a senior at Westwood Collegiate, and his brother Jeremy have been addressing those needs by fundraising for Children of the Dump. Over the past six years Liscum has raised about $5,000 selling licorice, wristbands, popcorn and freezies with help from his peers and teachers.

The Liscums go to El Magisterio every January to help Children of the Dump’s "School of Champions": a program that supplements Mexico’s public school system with English, math and computer literacy skills — topics their mom, Jennifer Lawson, said the kids wouldn’t learn otherwise.

"Living in a tourist city the kids need English to be successful," Lawson, a St. James-Assiniboia school trustee.

The Liscums are now raising money to fill an empty school library with books. The stories, written in Spanish and English, are meant to complement the children’s English instruction.

On Saturday from 8 to 10 a.m. the Liscums will host a pancake breakfast at Applebee’s Restaurant on Grant Avenue. The breakfast is $10, and $7 from each ticket will purchase books and school supplies for the School of Champions.

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