In March, a group of 28 people from the Portsmouth Sister Cities Committee traveled to Orizaba, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz.
Orizaba became a sister city in 1964, the oldest sister city to Portsmouth.
“We know a lot of the people there, and we've known them for a long time,” said Dr. Gene Beckett, a professor at Shawnee State University.
Many students from Portsmouth have lived and studied in Orizaba - and students from Orizaba come to Portsmouth to study as well.
“As a matter of fact, the young man who helped organize our trip on that end, Edgar Morales, stayed with Bob and Jan Morton all through his high school years,” Beckett said.
Morales graduated from Shawnee State University with a degree in engineering and now has a successful business in Mexico City, Beckett said.
It had been several years since a contingency from Portsmouth had been to Orizaba.
The committee had an open invitation to visit, so last fall, Beckett gave a slide presentation to develop interest in the trip. The response was overwhelming, he said.
“The last time I was there was when Jackie Maillet and I drove an ambulance down there from Portsmouth,” he said. “It was a donation from the city and from Portsmouth Ambulance.”
The ambulance was loaded with medical supplies from the American Red Cross and many items for an orphanage there.
“Jackie and I went to the orphanage and saw all these kids there and just fell in love with them,” Beckett said. “The highlight of the trip this time was when we went out to the orphanage.”
They took a $1,000 gift this time from beer sales at River Days. A few years ago, they decided to set aside a percentage of the sales for the orphanage.
“We thought when we were there that it wasn't enough,” Beckett said. “We plan to give more.”
The committee decided to invite a couple of the girls from the orphanage to come to Portsmouth to study at the committee's expense for a year. It made the proposal to Mother Superior of the orphanage, who will be contacting the committee.
“This is the dream of one of the founders of the sister city, Paul Flohr,” Beckett said.
The group went to the city of Taxco, Mexico, and Jeff Augustin was sitting in the Plaza when a little girl approached him.
“There were young children begging,” he said. “Of course, every time you would give one money, more would come. ‘Please, Se