The easiest way (among many) to catch the vision of NOE is to visit our centers in Morelia and León.
Visitors come to serve at the NOE Centers by teaching English, leading basketball clinics, encouraging students, building and renovating buildings, or sharing a message with our youth group. But more important that any of these things: people come to serve NOE by building relationships.
NOE International is a bit unique because of our grassroots culture and accessibility. We want you to come visit and we’ll help you with the travel logistics and lodging details. It’s typically more affordable to visit here that to visit other organizations’ locations, and we’ll have you spend significant time with our students, especially your sponsored student if you’re an Angel.
Our staff is very experienced and committed to assisting visitors and groups. Please feel free to contact us and we will help work through any and all of the details to provide a warm and friendly welcome.
Our goal is that you would have a rich and fulfilling experience while in Morelia and León, so we've assembled a few FAQ's that might be helpful:
NOE student Conchita welcomes visitors Mike and Lael from Oregon
Peter works to help build NOE Loma Libre on a father-son work trip
We ask that all groups and visitors who are interested in visiting NOE fill out a brief trip application by clicking below or requesting a copy by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get in touch with you right away to find dates that work!
Why NOE International?
The NOE Centers offer a unique ministry focused on youth and education. It's a fun place to be with lots going on. Many of the staff and students speak English, so a high level of Spanish is not required to be able to connect with people. We are in the heart of Mexico which is different than being in a border town. The people are friendlier (we think!). Even the landscape is different. There's not much desert here at 6600 feet above sea level.
Is it safe?
The short answer is, “Yes, it’s safe.” There are areas of our state of Michoacán that are not safe. We won’t be taking you there! Instead, you will spend most of your time in a city of 1.2 million with some expert tour guides - us! If for any reason the situation in our city would become unsafe, we would let you know immediately.
When is the best time to come?
The NOE Centers are in full swing from mid-September to the end of June. We also have a summer program during July. The advantage of visiting during the regular school year is that there are more activities and ways for us to plug you into our programs.
How will I get there?
The most comfortable option is to fly directly to Morelia (MLM). Major carriers such as United and American Airlines fly directly into Morelia. For cost savings, you can check Guadalajara (GDL) or Mexico City (MEX), which are four hours away driving. One of our staff will be in contact with you to arrange ground transportation and help with all of your logistics concerns.
What documents do I need?
All you need is a current US or Canadian passport to get into Mexico.
Can I get my Mexico visa before coming?
No. You'll fill out paperwork for your visa on the plane, and it will be approved in the airport once you've arrived in Mexico, where you will be given a 180-day tourist visa. You will need to surrender the copy of the tourist visa when you leave Mexico, so don't lose it. (They’ll let you go back home, but you’ll have to deal with a hassle and then pay a fine.)
Money, money, money…
You do not need to exchange money before arriving to Mexico. And we do not recommend traveler’s checks, they are a hassle. Our recommendation is to bring a small amount of cash and get the rest out of an ATM. Please check with your bank first to let them know that you will be in Mexico and find out what your daily withdrawal limit would be. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels, many restaurants and stores like . . . Walmart (thought you could get away from that, didn't you?).
Where will I stay?
There are several options which vary by group type.
Hotel: The advantage of staying in a hotel is it gives you more independence, you can go discover on your own, and they make your bed every day. Morelia has a wide variety of hotels. We will help you find one that is on our side of town and within your price range. A word of warning for couples: Morelia is a very romantic city - we even have a street named “Callejón del Romance” (the Little Romance Street).
Rent an Apartment: This option has all the advantages of a hotel but is cheaper and, since it has a kitchenette, provides the group an opportunity to save on food! There is an English school in town that rents apartments for less than $300/week. The NOE staff will inform you regarding this option.
NOE Loma Libre: For large groups, especially youth groups, the Loma Libre NOE Center may be an option. Our Phase II building has a large kitchen, bathrooms with showers, and various rooms for sleeping.
What will I eat?
Just because you stay in a hotel doesn't mean you will need to eat all your meals in restaurants, although the Mexican food here is outstanding! The NOE staff will help you plan meals according to your budget (and appetite). When you feel ready for some REAL Mexican tacos, we know where to take you!
What will I drink?
Not the tap water, obviously! Guess what? No one drinks tap water here. Because of that, there is an abundance of bottled water in little neighborhood stores and also in large containers at NOE or in homes.
How can I avert travel sickness?
The short answer: start chewing two Pepto Bismol tablets with every meal two days before you arrive and at every meal while you are here. Some of you, like Namaan of the Old Testament, will think this solution too easy. Down here in central Mexico we are very open to natural remedies of all sorts. But folks, this pink stuff is hard to beat. NOE staff can also help you prepare for dietary concerns as you get closer to your trip.
What will my schedule be?
Ah, North Americans, always wanting a schedule! NOE staff will coordinate your schedule according to your group’s mission objective. We will provide translators, many of whom will be current students in the NOE English program. Mornings will be spent orienting you to the NOE program as well as participating in work projects. The center is primarily an after-school program, so most of your interaction with the students will be in the afternoons for September-June visits. We will get you involved in our English program, our Explorers Bible club, and the Friday night youth group. There may be a basketball game to go cheer at. Those of you with Spanish fluency could help in Homework Help or art classes.
Some time may also be spent touring Morelia or León and making a trip to one of the surrounding villages like Patzcuaro. We have found that foreigners who spend time at NOE, get to know some of the students and teachers, and then do some sightseeing develop an appreciation for Mexico and a heart for Mexicans.
Will we go to church there?
Yes, if you'd like to. NOE staff belong to several different churches. You are free to choose which one you would like to attend. There is a large, evangelical church here where many NOE students attend that we generally take visitors to.
How much will it cost?
We ask that all groups plan to make their visit "revenue neutral" by paying for your project or reimbursing NOE International for any expenses incurred. There are five factors which will determine the cost of your trip:
1. Airfare. Transportation to and from Morelia and the Mexican airport you fly into. Morelia (MLM) and Leon (BJX) have direct flights from Houston and Dallas. Guadalajara (GDL), 3.5 hours west, is the closest major airport to Morelia.
2. Lodging. Apartments are available in downtown Morelia for $260-300/week. We will help you with reservations and once here, with transportation to and from NOE.
3. Food. We will work with your group to determine your meal schedule. Some meals may be prepared at NOE, some will be eaten where you stay, and sometimes you´ll eat out. Approximate cost for food is $20 a day.
4. Work project. We may plan a work project together with you. We ask that each group cover the expenses of their particular project as their gift to NOE.
5. Miscellaneous expenses. These include local transportation (although your group will be able to use the NOE van to help out with this), purchases (this part of Mexico has some great shopping!), drinking water, souvenirs, etc.
What's the weather like?
Morelia has a temperate climate most of the year and two seasons, wet and dry. The rainy season starts around May or June and lasts until September. That keeps our summers cool. The rain we get isn’t like the drizzle of the Portland area. We get thunderstorms! From October to May the climate is boring yet dry, ranging from sunny and 70 to sunny and 85! The warmest months are April and May, highs in the 90’s.
If you come in December or January you will experience the unique phenomenon of having to put your coat on when you go indoors (these brick homes with no heat get cold!) and taking it off when you step outside into the warm sun. So, from November to February it is wise to bring a jacket or sweatshirt.
How do I stay in touch with people back home?
The NOE Centers have internet and wifi. Several areas of the city also have wifi in restaurants and coffee shops. If needed, long distance telephone calls can be made from NOE.
What cultural differences will I experience?
The most helpful single piece of advice is to expect cultural differences, enjoy them (or at least, respect them), and don't judge. We will instruct you regarding basic cultural guidelines when you arrive, and we can send materials for you to prepare ahead of time as well. Those who stay in a home will receive an extra class of instruction as that is where the most differences arise.
What would I need to bring?
Here is a list of some things you might not normally think of bringing:
- Medicines, vitamins, and supplements in original bottles or with prescriptions
- Battery chargers for electronic devices
- Strong, comfortable running or walking shoes
- Jacket (lightweight) or windbreaker
- Shorts (usually just for the beach and sports)
- Swimsuit (if trip includes a water day)
- Day pack, small and lightweight
- Munchies, tea bags, or special condiments you can’t live without
- Sun protection – hat, sunglasses, and sunblock
- Hidden pocket or money belt
- Pictures of your home, family, or countryside on postcards or in picture books to overcome language barriers while sharing with students
- Small gifts for host family or students (toys, tools, pens and pencils, picture postcards, candy)
Remember: The more you pack, the less you’ll be able to take back!
Will my phone work in Mexico?
We would like to give you a clear answer, but this differs so much between carriers that we cannot. International plans lasting a limited time may be available for purchase from your carrier. However, turning off the cellular portion of your phone and using only wifi is feasible given that you can find wifi zones here in Morelia and León, (including at the NOE Centers). You may consider downloading an app like Skype, Google Hangouts, or WhatsApp to facilitate communication back home since all of these apps work over wifi.
In your quest for a good time in Mexico, your eating and drinking habits are often radically different than what you’re used to back home. In addition, climate and altitude changes can throw your system off. To ensure you enjoy your visit to its fullest, consider the following:
- Be sure to drink lots of fluids; especially the day before arriving.
- Try not to go overboard your first 24 hours in country. Give your body a chance to acclimate. Always drink only bottled water.
- When buying fresh fruits and vegetables, be sure to wash them with an iodine vegetable wash like Microdyne (Readily available at most stores); peel them if possible.
The People’s Guide to Mexico by Carl Franz. A guide book with no restaurant or hotel listings, just valuable information humorously related about anything you might encounter in Mexico.
Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier. A small yet very insightful book about general differences between warm and cold climate cultures.
Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikert. This book can help train and debrief team members, preparing them to do short-term missions as effectively as possible.
On Mission by Patric Knaak. We use this devotional to prepare and debrief teams visiting the NOE Centers.