The Solmar Foundation

 fundacion solmar image Fund Solmar Logo(1) 

 This is the third post in “The Other Side of the Peso’s” Cabo Series.

Dinorah de Haro

Dinorah De Haro

“Don Luis Bulnes Molleda was a big believer in giving back to the community,” Dinorah de Haro says as our van rolls along Marina Boulevard at the start of the Helping Hands tour. This is my second morning in Cabo San Lucas, and I’m getting familiar with the reputation of “Don Luís”, founder of the Solmar Hotels and Resorts. (See the January 13 post.) In my interview at Solmar’s HR department the previous day, Daniel Tijerina emphasized that, unlike some other large resorts in Cabo, Solmar is 100% locally owned, and the organization is proud of its community roots and involvement.  

It’s nine a.m. and stores are beginning to open for the smattering of early-bird tourists. De Haro, Director of the non-profit Solmar Foundation, is wide awake and full of energy. In fact, you get the impression that she’s probably a petite ball of energy, enthusiasm and charm at all hours. She is clearly committed to the Foundation and its slogan, “Empowering the Lives of Many People.” A native of Nayarit, she honed her very fluent English living in Oklahoma.

As our driver heads north, De Haro echoes Tijerina’s words. She explains that after Don Luis died in 2010, his son and current Solmar CEO, Don Francisco Bulnes, created the Foundation to honor his father and continue his charitable work. Solmar guests are encouraged to make a ten-dollar donation at check out which helps fund the Foundation’s works. 

San Juan Diego Shelter

San Juan Diego Shelter

Before long, we’re into the colonias populares, or humble neighborhoods. We turn off the highway into the unpaved parking area of Casa San Juan Diego. Homeless shelters aren’t nearly as common in Mexico as in the U.S. At San Juan Diego, individuals are permitted a one-time stay of up to seven days. When we pour out of the van, children run to greet us, supervised by a cluster of women and elderly. The lack of younger men suggests they are out looking for work and long-term housing. The kitchen and living quarters at San Juan Diego are on the Spartan side, but quite clean. Several girls and a couple of roosters run around a dusty playground. We walk past a large cage of rabbits toward the workshop where an older man is building a bed. “Many of the people come here straight from the countryside,” De Haro says. “The animals make them feel more at home.”   

Los Niños del Capitán

Los Niños del Capitán

Our next stop is Los Niños del Capitán, on a rutted dirt street in another colonia popular. The center provides free daycare for 150 pre-schoolers. The waiting list has over a thousand names. The idea started in 1999 with a local woman who went to work soliciting donors. Captain Alberto Vargas Aguiñaga was so impressed that he donated a 5,000 square meter piece of land, over 1.2 acres, where the center was built. In the bright and cheery classrooms, each child wears a checkered pinafore.

Los Cabos Humane Society

Los Cabos Humane Society

Next on the tour is Los Cabos Humane Society. Once more, we park in a dirt lot, a reminder that sixty years ago there were no paved streets in the town. For the good-hearted individuals who keep this animal shelter running, other, almost limitless, needs take priority over asphalt. (Next week’s post will feature an interview with shelter president Aida Trujillo.)      

Our final stop is the Club de Abuelos San Miguel, a senior day center where just about every spot is taken on the shaded patios and inside the building. The seniors interrupt their conversations, knitting, bingo and card games to greet us with smiles and rounds of applause.

Club de los Abuelos San Miguel

Club de los Abuelos San Miguel

The following afternoon, I meet with De Haro one-on-one in the Solmar Foundation’s office and pepper her with questions. She cites 2013 statistics, saying the Foundation fed 10,000 meals to poor children and equipped 100 low-income children with school supplies. Of the regular hotel guests, about 60% donate to the Foundation at the end of their stay. Of time share guests, some 90% donate. And 100% of the donations are parceled out to thirty local charities. All overhead expenses of the Foundation are covered by Solmar. In 2013, the Foundation collected $150,000 U.S. dollars.

When Solmar replaces hotel furniture and other items, the old pieces are either given to the charities they support or sold off to employees with the profits going to the Foundation. “An employee can buy a sofa in very good condition for as little as ten dollars,” De Haro says. Employees sort the trash collected at the resorts and the profits from recycling go into the Foundation’s coffers.

Hotel guests are welcomed to bring clothing, school supplies, sports equipment to leave at the resorts. Above all, De Haro emphasizes, the Foundation puts all contributions to very worthwhile uses. “Without donations, our work would be very limited,” De Haro concludes with a smile that would have the Grinch pulling out his wallet.

Click here to contribute to the Solmar Foundation. Donations are tax deductible both in Mexico and in the U.S.  Additional photos inside and outside Los Niños del Capitán:

Los Niños del Capitán Los Niños del Capitán Los Niños del Capitán

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