The Forgotten School of Los Ayala

School 9 ayala

Have you ever had a vision? An idea? The feeling deep down in your soul the universe has sent you a message? Canadian actor/artist Gail Simpson describes what happened to her as a “God download.” As she steered her car down the Vancouver freeway one fall day in 2021, the vision came to her. A vision to help the children.

Situated in the little village of Los Ayala, Mexico, where Gail is a property owner with her partner, Patrick, the primary school for the children of Los Ayala sits on a side street. As Gail drove down the road in Vancouver that day, the vision became stronger, telling her to use her abilities to help the children. Artwork, painting, something the children didn’t get to do. Through her artistic talent, she could help the children of Los Ayala. Little did she know that day what was to transpire.

Over the next few weeks, Gail began to formulate a way for her vision to become a reality. Paint classes for the students, culminating in an art show and sale to raise money for school supplies. From her home in White Rock, Gail contacted Christina from the Angel Network to ask about connections in the Los Ayala community. During her trip to Mexico in November, Christina met with Cynthia and Arturo Miner who head the El Voluntariado and Cultural Volunteering committee in Los Ayala. A Zoom meeting was arranged for Gail to meet Cynthia and Arturo and talk about her vision. From there, Gail was directed to contact Harriet Tanaka, who has been a driving force to better the Los Ayala community. Out of the kindness of her heart, Harriet donated $500 to provide painting supplies for the students’ art classes. The first donation. When Gail arrived in Los Ayala in December, she met Cynthia and Arturo in person. Touring the school for the first time, Gail experienced a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. The school was in complete disrepair. Forgotten.

The paint supplies were ordered, and after a few setbacks and time spent waiting for supplies, the classes were set to be held at the school February 22nd and 23rd, with the art show to be held in the town square February 24th. From there, the “school disrepair project” began to take on a life of its own. Renowned Artist Luis Bauti, a friend of Arturo’s, volunteered to paint murals on the school walls, but the walls needed to be repaired and painted before that could happen, and they had to be repaired quickly. Bauti would organize muralists if paints would be supplied and the school could be ready. Walls scraped, prepped, and painted. A huge undertaking. Beyond the walls of the school needing major repairs, the children needed new desks, the bathrooms the children were using were in unbelievable shape, with new bathrooms built, but not working. The teacher’s apartment, a filthy mess. Forgotten.

Gail immediately reached out to friends and colleagues. As an actor and artist with connections to a large group of people who care, Gail began receiving donations. And as the donations came in, a small group of people began to work on the school walls. At the start, the core group of volunteers consisted of six people, growing to a core group of twelve, with Patrick, taking on the role as project manager. Mike, the construction expert. Val there to volunteer every morning without fail. Arturo and Cynthia, the Mexican lifeblood putting in exhausting hours on end. Gail continually posting on Facebook, “We need your help.” And as time went on, 50 or more people came to help. Some for an hour, some longer. People sharing the vision working side by side. Canadians volunteering during the hot daylight hours. The  Mexican community working when they could, mostly volunteering in the cooler hours of the evening, many after working all day long. Parents of the students. Teachers. Students. From young people to grandparents. People working together, realizing language doesn’t matter when a project comes from the heart. Scraping and painting for hours on end. Camaraderie between volunteers, between countries.

Nineteen days of hard work. Nineteen days of people working until they were exhausted. But from the hard work, the walls became ready for the artists. New desks were donated for the students. Paint classes for 120 excited students were successfully held, the art show and sale raising money to help with the project, a huge success. The teacher’s apartment was refurbished. A project that seemed impossible was made possible through the vision of an artist and people who care.

Twelve muralists worked their magic on the walls prepared by the volunteers, the walls of the school interior. Under the instruction of Luis Bauti, muralists Tania Jimenez, Aldo Saucedo, Javier A. Ordonez, Hermes Garcia,  Jose Magana, Oscar Omar, Esmeralda Garcia, Nancy Flores, Floriberto Jimenez, Michelle Ortega, and Rogelio Hernandez Zamorano painted their hearts and souls onto the walls of the school of colors.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held March 12, 2022. During her speech that day Gail said, “If everybody in the world followed through on a vision, a God download, could you imagine what would be possible in this world?” The El Voluntariado Community and Cultural Volunteering committee held a celebration festival in the evening for all the volunteers and people of the town. It was a wonderful evening of dances and fireworks to introduce the Escuela De Colores, the School of Colors Creative Environments 2022. And the words of Arturo Miner “Two countries, one heart” speaks volumes. People involved in this project will never forget the work, the emotions, the friendships that evolved from a vision, to a project greater than anyone could have imagined.

Los ayala School 2

April 2022 Issue

El Ojo del Lago – Home Page

For more information about Lake Chapala visit:

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Sue Vangeel
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