Project Mexico is a charity program of Orthodox Christians that that strives to improve the lives of struggling families through building permanent homes in Tijuana, Mexico by volunteer Orthodox young people. The Project also includes the St. Innocent Orthodox Orphanage in Tijuana.
Project Mexico was established in 1988 through the efforts of Gregory Yova who recognized the need to provide young people in North America with an opportunity to look beyond themselves and reach out to those in need. In Mexico, a Third World country that was geographically close, he felt that involvement of young people in relieving the great need for basic human services would provide great opportunities for young people to do works of mercy in a needy world.
Beginning small, the project aimed at helping struggling families make a better life for themselves by providing them with secure, safe, permanent homes. In the beginning volunteer groups from Southern California spent three weekends a month in Mexico building homes on land provided through the Mexican government. Over the next four years, the volunteer work gained such enthusiasm that Mr. Yova found that the project was a full time effort. Quitting his job, he formalized the organization with bylaws, incorporation as a charity, and setting up an office.
By 1990, Project Mexico began working with a Mexican organization to establish an orphanage for homeless teenage boys in Tijuana. By 1996, the Project finally obtained approval for the orphanage from the Mexican government. St. Innocent Orphanage opened its doors in September 1996. Besides providing a home for many homeless boys, the orphanage also became the base for Project Mexico volunteer groups, groups that also became part of the boys' lives as well providing the volunteers a place for eating, sleeping, and praying.
The Project Mexico outreach is unique in that the volunteers themselves do the work of building the homes for families. By their efforts, the young volunteers find a change in their lives and, in the process, grow in Christ. The program of volunteers has grown greatly. Over 6,900 volunteers from 43 states in the United States and from eleven foreign countries have participated in the Project. When the facilities of the orphanage became available in 1993, the Project was able to start an internship program whereby young people could extend their services for periods of many months, up to a year.
Being present for longer periods enables the interns to help longer with projects of home building and helping in the orphanage, as well as performing administrative tasks. The Project has built over one hundred homes, and the orphanage continues as a haven for abandoned teenage boys.
Project Mexico and St. Innocent Orphanage also strive to reduce the number of boys on the streets of Tijuana and San Diego through a program of developing living skills for older boys who complete high school. This is done through a process of securing scholarships for boys to attend college or vocational schools.
Project Mexico operates under two Boards of Directors, one in the United States and the other in Mexico. The Project holds nonprofit status in both the United States and Mexico. Obtaining a non-profit status in Mexico is a difficult process. Project Mexico is one of only four agencies in Tijuana that holds this status.