The Tierra Blanca Project

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By Michael Richards

Michael (Spike) Richards and Joy Lancaster Warden from Calgary,supporters of live music, and lovers of our local paradise, have started The Tierra Blanca Project. The long term goal of the project is to fund, build and equip a remote school for eighty elementary students, a clinic, a community kitchen, sanitary facilities, and residence for the teachers. In the fall of 2013, construction of the new school will be underway. It will have geographic challenges, and logistical hurdles as transportation of building materials is difficult in this remote area.

Joy, an experienced and passionate early childhood education specialist and Michael, who has been involved in design and implementation of both residential and commercial projects are looking forward to making Oaxaca their home in the next few years. They strongly believe that, given the opportunity, the children of the surrounding areas of our region can one day be contributing members of the growing tourism and business community. They are presently fundraising to build an elementary school, in the tiny mountain village of Tierra Blanca (Coruzel), up, up, up and west of the town of Candelaria Loxicha, Oaxaca.

“We have visited the Huatulco area a few times now, and we have met some wonderful local people, such as Ramiro Sanchez. He and his brother’s company, Diseño Y Construcciones Yomajosa S.A de C.V., are involved with the roads being built, safely connecting the various villages to the school centre. He introduced us to the elected mayor of the Candelaria Loxicha, Jose Juan Mendoza Cortez, and the four of us went for a road trip to a recently cleared and levelled area big enough for the project’s goals. There, we met some children eager to learn, and some teachers passionate to teach. But they had no tools to teach, no structure to safely learn.” says Michael.

So far a grassroots level fundraising campaign this spring allowed Michael and Joy to get some student supplies and teaching aids to the school. Shipping from Calgary is an issue, so they sent money down, and purchased most things in the region; whiteboards, easels, notebooks, pencils, basic student items. A temporary brick and tin structure was created on the project’s site.

“We want to ensure that the recent storm damage to the temporary school structure is dealt with, and that this year’s students have the tools necessary to focus on learning, and to make it a productive year” explains Joy.

With help from friends and friendly organizations, we are building a school and a clinic, not a church. Our “Mission” is “To create an enriching environment in which to learn and grow.” Michael and Joy are very much looking forward to returning to the region in February 2013.

A new website is being built, but they have posted numerous photos and updates to a Facebook page. And, no, you do not need to be a Facebook member to view the page or the photos, just go to The Tierra Blanca Project has a three year budget of $120,000 CDN and they are currently creating a proper foundation, which will be able to offer our donors a tax receipt as a registered charity.

Please contact us at We would love to hear from you! This year, the two of us have met the most wonderful group of caring people and organizations who are committed to help. -Michael & Joy

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