An Upward Trajectory
Al Atfal Shriners Celebrates One-Year Anniversary
Their name means “The Children,” and for the members of Al Atfal, it’s more than a name. It’s a reason for being.
“Within Al Atfal Shriners, our commitment is for our children,” said Recorder Dr. Javier López, a Mason since 1981 and Shriner since 1992. His own most memorable experience as a Shriner illustrates the joy that nobles experience knowing they are helping children.
“A 6-year-old boy from Guatemala visited one of our screening clinics in Tijuana,” Dr. López recalled. “He asked me to promise him that I could help him walk because he had never walked before. Being young and naive I said yes. But, I thought maybe I had promised something I couldn’t deliver.
“Three or four years later at another of our clinics, I felt someone hug me from the back. When I turned around, I saw a child. I did not remember who this was until he said ‘Thank you for making me walk. I can now play soccer with my friends,’ ” said a surprised Dr. López. “I couldn’t believe that this was the little boy I promised would walk!”
Commitment to Kids
Originally under the jurisdiction of Anezeh Shriners, the Northern Mexico area went under joint jurisdiction with San Diego’s Al Bahr Shriners in 1985. In 2008, Al Bahr was given sole jurisdiction. Since the beginning, though, Al Bahr Shriners were ready to support a new temple in Northwestern Mexico as soon as Imperial requirements were met.
That dream moment came last year, as Shriners from across Mexico had reason to celebrate at the 2022 Imperial Session – Al Atfal received its Charter and became the 200th Shriners temple. The new temple serves nobles and communities in four Northwestern Mexico states: Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora and Sinaloa
Al Atfal Shriners has several clubs up and running, too:
5 – Baja California
2 – Baja California Sur
1 – Sonora
6 – Sinaloa
1 – Specialty Club
There has been substantial growth in the number of Shriners in the region. The promise of brotherhood and the temple’s tremendous impact on local children and their communities help to drive interest in fraternity membership in Northwestern Mexico.
The nobles of Northern Mexico have been working to help children at least since 1964.
“During the past 59 years, many thousands of children have benefited from the hard work of nobles of our region,” said Dr. López. “Outreach clinics, social services encounters, school visits, as well as many programs with the federal, state and local authorities have made this possible.”
Al Atfal nobles have established a network of clubs that are trained in how to make sure that children in Northern Mexico are able to access necessary care that Shriners Children’s provides.
“We sponsor Casa Al Atfal, a residence that takes in patients and families while they are being treated or diagnosed at the Shriners Children’s Tijuana Ambulatory Clinic. We also provide meals and transportation,” said Dr. Lopez.
The Al Atfal clubs in 14 major cities have hospital liaison committees, and with training from the Central Patient Services team based at Shriners International Headquarters, members are able to help input potential patient information into the system.
“Once patients are accepted, we provide assistance with transportation to and from Shriners Children’s locations,” said Dr. López.
Al Atfal Shriners say they still have a lot to accomplish. They are looking forward to coordinating more domestic and international patient transfers, organizing fun activities and events that raise awareness and funds, and supporting club officers in order to reach their goals. They also hope to partner more closely with federal, state, and local health and education authorities.
“With a membership of over 350 nobles, Al Atfal Shriners will always be grateful for the support of Anezeh, Al Bahr, El Zaribah and Sabbar Shriners, and many other temples and nobles throughout this fraternity,” said Dr. López.
Journey to Dispensation
In order to get their dispensation (authorization to form), a group of nobles who are already members of a temple – usually in a geographic Shrine Club – submit a petition to Shriners International through the International Development Committee. The petition must be signed by a minimum of 150 current nobles or Master Masons (prospective nobles), and be submitted with a specific fee.
After the dispensation is approved by the International Development Committee, the Dispensations and Charters Committee and the Jurisdictional Lines Committee, it’s presented to the voting Representatives at Imperial Session and voted upon. If approved, the dispensation is granted.
The temple has a list of several operational benchmarks, which include training in WebFez and the membership programs, setting a budget and stating their provisional Divan officers. As each of these benchmarks is met, they still need to be operating as a temple, and recruiting new Shriners.
What’s Next for Al Atfal
Al Atfal Shriners is waiting for the approval during Imperial Session 2023 for membership in WSA (Western Shrine Association) and LASA (Latin America Shrine Association).
“We’re committed to continue working and learning with one sole purpose, the well-being of our children," said Dr. López. For Dr. López, it’s personal: “At 66 years of age, this is my life – family, Shrine kids and ranch life.”
Stay in Touch
Join our mailing list to keep up-to-date on all that's happening at Shriners International.