We have BIG news.
We have a brand new Casa Hope Kitchen!
From the beginning, our kitchen has been full of joy — constant singing and laughter — even when it looked more like a closet than a cooking space. It delivered incredible meals, even when our team was cooking from hot plates under the stairs.
And every morning, as the team called out, “Chicos, vamos a comer!” (students, let’s eat!) the kitchen became our gathering place. Like in many crowded, bustling homes, the kitchen has always been the heart — providing nourishment, community, and a touchstone three times a day.
When we started renovating Casa Hope, we already knew just how much the kitchen mattered.
But then our dreams started to grow. In addition to a clean, functional, joy-filled cooking space, what if the kitchen could also be a place of possibility, education, and development for our students?
We had a vision of a professional culinary institute and hospitality program that would equip students with the hands-on skills they needed to pursue their dream careers.
And then we got to work to make it happen.
The incredible design team at RDstudio, Inc. and a team of restaurant experts graciously donated their expertise to the project, drawing up plans for a professional-grade kitchen and leading us through the construction and design process.
We tore down walls, created more space, painted, and tiled.
We ordered best-in-class appliances, surfaces, and sinks.
We focused on commercial-level health and safety so the space can be used to serve the whole community — and be a jumping-off point for future professional endeavors.
And now it’s here. Ready to be filled with food and learning and incredible young people.
We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed to this project and made this vision a reality. This kitchen represents so much opportunity for our students, and in so many ways, it is still our beating heart.
In a few short weeks, members of our kitchen team will be in here singing, cooking for this year’s Fellows, and going through a pilot version of the culinary program set to officially launch in early 2021. This is only the beginning – and we cannot wait for all that comes next.
The Institute begins in just a few short weeks — and as we speak, our team in Mexico is hard at work getting everything ready!
While we initially planned for a fully remote summer, current health guidelines in Mexico will allow our 14 Michael Lotito Fellows to live at Casa Hope this summer and participate in person!
And to make this great news even more incredible, an amazing friend has funded the Fellows’ on-campus expenses in full. We are overwhelmed with the generosity of this community and so grateful for the ways that each of you continue to support students in Mexico.
First-year students will participate in the program from each of their own communities, led by teams of Institute graduates. With virtual courses supplied by our network of experts around the world and in-person mentoring relationships with young leaders who have already gone through the program, this year’s Institute is going to be something extremely special.
We can’t wait to welcome 25 incredible young leaders into the program this summer — and we want you to meet them!
Meet some more of these amazing students:
Make sure you are following along on Facebook and Instagram over the next few weeks to meet all of our students!
Institute 2020 begins on July 27 — and we’re counting down to a big, bold summer.
We are so excited to begin our countdown to Institute 2020!
On July 27, we will kick off the summer program with 25 first-year students from Chiquila, San Angel, Solferino, and Kantunilkin and 14 Michael Lotito Fellows! And while things certainly look different this year due to the pandemic, we are so excited for the opportunities that have emerged.
- Since our global team of staff and volunteers are unable to travel to Mexico this summer, 30 instructors from around the world have spent the last few months recording 135 video lessons covering all of our Institute topics. We have virtual sessions on everything from health and wellness to self discovery to art to communication to entrepreneurship. And of course, we have a full lineup of English classes, too!
- Our first-year students will each receive a tablet loaded with these videos and a comprehensive daily schedule for how to move through the coursework.
- In each of the communities we serve, Institute graduates will serve as leaders, mentoring first-year students as they participate this summer.
- In Chiquila, we have 60 elementary school children registered for Institute Junior. They will receive special activity packs and tons of ideas for fun ways to play, learn, and create this summer.
Michael Lotito Fellows
- Our Michael Lotito Fellows have the opportunity to live on-campus at the newly completed Casa Hope. Our team in Mexico has been working tirelessly to get this space ready to welcome them in a few short weeks (including a <brand new, professional-grade kitchen!>).
- In addition to video lessons, students will also learn from former Fellows who are now part of the Hands Offering Hope Mexico staff. This has always been the dream — and it is so exciting to watch it unfold!
Meet the training team! As we prepare to welcome students to the Institute this summer (both virtually and in small groups), this group is thinking carefully about how to keep everyone safe and engaged in our community. They are awesome and we are so grateful for them!
For five years, we have been equipping students to live boldly and with purpose — creating opportunities for them to step into positions of leadership in both the organization and their communities. We never could have expected a pandemic, but we have been preparing for Institute graduates to be at the helm since the beginning.
Now, this summer, 80% of our Institute graduates are involved in our summer programs as leaders or volunteers.
Because of your support of past years of the Institute, this summer is being led by remarkable young people. You invested in them, and now they are investing in their peers and neighbors. Thank you for being a part of our story.
On Thursday, we hosted our June Community Call with our U.S. leadership team, our Mexico leadership team, and so many of you.
If you missed the conversation, here are a few highlights:
- Iran, our Emergency Response Coordinator, shared that the team has already distributed more than 500 emergency supply packs — and they have restocked their inventory to pack an additional 500 in the coming weeks.
- Sabryna, our Mexico National Coordinator, told us that the team is preparing to welcome 25 first-year students, 14 Michael Lotito Fellows, and 60 Institute Junior students this summer — with both virtual classes and small-group gatherings.
- Gener, our Logistics Manager, shared that the bedrooms at Casa Hope are almost ready — and that the brand new professional-grade kitchen is almost done, too!
- Alejandro, the leader of our economic development program, updated us on the initiatives he is leading to connect local farmers and small businesses to markets so that they can sustain their incomes.
We also had the opportunity to hear from Karmina, the new Director of Hands Offering Hope Mexico, as well as our leadership team in the United States. We shared several big announcements, including the news that current health guidelines in Mexico will allow our Michael Lotito Fellows to live at Casa Hope this summer and participate in the program iin person — and that a generous donor has funded the Fellows’ on-campus expenses in full.
This is just one example of the incredible support we have seen for these students — and we are so grateful to each of you for being a part of this community.
I encourage you to watch the recording of the call in full. It is inspiring to hear what your support is making possible — and we cannot wait for what is ahead.
We can’t wait to count down to the Institute — and watch students and alums lead with boldness, creativity, and strength.
As the pandemic and its economic impact ravaged the communities we serve, Institute graduates stepped up to lead a comprehensive 4-part emergency response plan. Their communities were no longer receiving shipments and deliveries, and consequently, their neighbors were facing severe food shortages.
Young leaders responded with urgency, intentionality, and excellence. In addition to longer term projects like a community garden, mentorship programs, and educational resources, the team developed and implemented the delivery of supply packs to the most vulnerable families in the four communities we serve.
Iran, our Emergency Response Coordinator, and Gema, the leader of the supply pack initiative, worked together to map the neighborhoods, identify families in severe need (noted by the markers on the maps), and deliver food and supplies directly to their doors.
Earlier this year, as our team in Mexico was growing and we established a more permanent presence with Casa Hope, we made the decision to hire the Director for Hands Offering Hope Mexico, Karmina Vargaslugo. And as Karmina stepped into her role in late February, the world turned upside down.
With the pandemic and its associated economic impact ravaging the communities we serve, Karmina hit the ground running — working with our Institute graduates as they created, planned, and began to implement our four-part emergency response initiative that you have helped make possible. Because of our incredible team, we have accomplished so much together (check out this video for an update!).
Karmina handles all of the financial and organizational administration of Hands Offering Hope Mexico and is overjoyed to be able to help and empower young people.
“I was born with a dream to help others and to give love to those who need it most. Now, I feel so happy to make that dream a reality – it has been my greatest joy.”
Please join us in welcoming Karmina to the team — and expressing our gratitude for her leadership and encouragement in this unexpected and important season.