Norma Florencia Perez Vargas opens the door at 9am, and ushers in groups of chattering young children. From the dusty street, the kids come into a clean and cool welcome area and through into a grassy courtyard scattered with palm trees and surrounded by whitewashed classrooms.
This is Casa Marikuecha. Perez Vargas is the nun who runs this shelter for young children from tough backgrounds in the Mexican port city of Lázaro Cárdenas. The shelter offers its services free of charge with support from local companies including APM Terminals, which inaugurated its new port here in April.
“We have children from three years old until five or six, and we always select those who need us the most,” says Perez Vargas, who flits from classroom to dining room to meeting room, always with an easy rapport with the kids.
“We have chosen to set up here because we have experienced the city’s own crisis, of unemployment, lack of security, and many social problems here in Lázaro Cárdenas. But we want to stay here to tend to the needs of these children.”
Agents of change
Today, Lázaro Cárdenas is a city of some 180,000 people, which is gradually being transformed by the presence of, and investment from, the port. This is part of an overall investment of USD 900 million in Mexico’s growing economy – as well as other industry, including an ArcelorMittal steel plant.