Dear friends, volunteers and supporters,
We are still here! This is the first Newsletter this year so it counts as two! (There was no Newsletter sent out last year.) Almost two years have past since you last heard from us. Since then Piña Palmera has grown and developed. The children we attended ten to sixteen years ago are now young adults. Ofelia (I'm sure some of you remember the tremendous little Tomboy who, in spite of trouble walking due to Polio, climbed trees and fought with the boys) is studying in high-school and, in her spare time, helping her mother who sells vegetables in the market.
Perhaps you remember Aaron and Oscar? Aaron is married and has a little daughter. He and his family live in Huatulco where he works in a mechanic's workshop. Oscar visited us last year. He worked with a Tivoli for a couple of years but is now back in Pochutla. Serafin worked for many years with our friends Eric and Susanna in Oaxaca. He's now building his own little house in Puerto Escondido, and visits us regularly.
Cirilo (Lilo), who also lived with us for several years, is back again and working in Piña with his wife Domitila. They already have three small children; Xochitl, Daniela and Ivan.
Eight young students who grew up in Piña are now living in Oaxaca. Elida, who has Polio in both legs and who has been with us since 1990, is now 25 and will soon start her third year studying Psychology at University. 22-year old Miguel Angel, from San Mateo Piñas, has also been with us since 1992. He's now studying accountancy at Oaxaca University. Our cook, Juana, came here 15 years ago with her three sons. Victor, the eldest, now lives in Mexico City and is studying to become a physiotherapist. Luis Albert (Huicho) lives in Puerto Escondido and studies to become a cook (food and drink technician), he's in his final year. Finally, little Fidel, who is now 18, lives with the other students in Oaxaca and he'll finish high-school this year.
As you can see, many children are growing up and moving on but new children soon fill up the empty spaces. Isabel and Constantino arrived 1998 with their six children. Constantino injured his spine two years ago and needs rehabilitation. His eldest daughter, 12-year old Marina, has Downs Syndrome. The family lived just a bit too far to include them in our outreach program so we made a little temporary house and brought them to Piña. We hope that they will learn how to survive and make a living and be able to move back to a house of their own in the future. Right now, they need support and the children need food and access to schooling.
In the Eye of the Storm
"I'll sell you as much timber as you want at the price you want and you can pay me when you want," Never one to miss a bargain I was interested. But there was something wrong here. "I've had it with Oaxaca! On Thursday I'm going North to work in the vineyards, take the timber if you can' t afford to pay me now give me a cheque dated in October". Up until two years ago Guillermo had a reasonable income his 12 hectare ranch provided him with 1150 kilo of organic coffee which sold at 36,000.00 pesos (3,870.00 USD), a reasonable yearly income. Intensive non-organic coffee production in Brazil has pulled the bottom out of the Mexican market. This year (1999) the buyers rejected 80% of Guillermo's crop on quality grounds and paid him just 2,400 pesos (258 USD) for the 225 kilo they where willing to accept. This is barely enough to support him and his family of six for a month never mind a year.
Meanwhile price and demand for coffee continue to rise in the West. How can such a thing happen in the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) zone? Here the lack of regulation, and priority given to Mexican producers, should leave Mexican supply and North American demand free to converge on mutually acceptable points. A rise in demand for coffee in North America should lead to both a rise in amount supplied and a rise in price paid to Mexican producer. In contrast we see that no priority is given to Mexican producers who have been eliminated from the market by intensive non-organic production in Brazil.
But apart from cheap timber what has all this to do with the construction of Piña Palmera? In the area where Piña works, this fall in coffee price, combined with a sharp decline in tourism, represents a disaster more damaging than the devastating winds and torrential rains of hurricane Paulina. Unless someone comes up with a master plan, the local economy of Pochutla will effectively collapse. For those not as fortunate as Guillermo, who has the option of 80 pesos a day for ten hours work picking grapes, extreme poverty lies around the corner. Can you see the link? Who and what are the first victims of poverty? Children, the disabled, women, education and healthcare. So we had better get a move and build this Centre.
The construction of our medical and therapy facility (Clinic) started on the 4th of January 1999. We made rapid progress; laying the foundation and casting the 525 M2 of raised floor area before the end of April. This floor is raised to 1.5 meters above the land level in order to protect the installation from flooding. The individual units are built on this common floor thus giving the impression of a group of small local houses. With the remaining funds available we completed the walls and roofs of 6 of the 12 units. These units are: the Doctor's consulting room, Infirmary, Physio therapy consulting rooms, Occupational therapy consulting room Psychology consulting room and Speech therapy consulting room. The remaining 6 units are; a three person patient accommodation, Dentists consulting room, Kinder, WCs, gymnasium and the Water therapy tank. We managed to finish the structure of the first six units before the rains started at the end of May 1999.
I bought Guillermo's wood, it was a good deal, and we said our good-byes. He is now in Baja California, from where he hopes to send enough money to support his wife and four children who he had to leave behind in Pochutla. Many more are heading north with him, many of whom will attempt to cross "El Río Grande" in search of the American Dream. Most however will stay to ride out the eye of the storm in the land of their forefathers. With luck a new Piña Palmera will be here soon to provide a little shelter.
We would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to the following individuals and organisations who have helped so far with our reconstruction project; North American Chambers of Commerce Mexico, Scandinavian Ladies Club Mexico, DEMOS foundation, Junior League, Causa Joven, ILSE, Teleton, the Mayor of Bell Gardens, the German College Mexico, Rotary Club Tlalpan Mexico, Fundacion Argidius. SEDESOL in Oaxaca and Patrimonio de la Beneficiencia Publica Mexico.
Justin Vogler (October1999)
It is with great pleasure and pride that we can announce that new area for rehabilitation and medical services was inaugurated on April 29th this year! Justin Vogler is now back in England after having dedicated two and a half years to rebuilding Piña Palmera. We thank him with all of our hearts and we will always remember and admire him for the resilience, patience, and multiple skills that he showed during his time here. It would simply not have been possible for us to have done this without him. He has greatly contributed to our growth, and we hope he will come back again in the future!
Letter from Bill Naylor:
Driving Piña Palmera
Reflections of seven months as a Driver and volunteer with the Therapists.
As I reflect on the seven months I spent volunteering at Piña, what comes back are the faces of the many friends I met. These include especially, those with whom I worked with as well as the people we served. I could speak much of these friend-ships and that which was learned, received, and given. Other things come to mind as well such as the dedication of many to make the center function and grow. I could reflect on the programs that are being implemented and the discussions on how to improve and expand our work. All of these are important and of great interest to the reader but what I would primarily like to talk about is that which necessitates Piña Palmera for the people.
I myself grew up living in many oppressed countries where the contradictions of the present day system are everywhere in evidence. As such the reality of the situation for most people was known to me. What was unknown to me was the even more hidden reality of life for the disabled in an oppressed nation. Within a social, political, and economic system that promotes the impoverisation and immiseration the disabled are left to the side, hidden and left out of any real meaningful participation in society. In the more broadly developed societies of the "North", disabled people have much more access to full participation. This has arisen, principally, due to their own struggle for the rights of the disabled. The result, an appropriate allocation of societies resources dedicated to providing the infrastructure for the integration of the disabled throughout society has been made available. In the "South" the struggles of the disabled for their rights have arisen under a far different economic and social context. For those who live in the "South", particularly in rural areas, the allocation of resources for the disabled are limited or non-existent, and the disabled are as such isolated. The role of Piña Palmera is to actively look for these resources (in many cases the resources we look to access and develop are from within the communities themselves) and, working hand in hand with the communities, to build this infrastructure. This infrastructure we talk about is as much physical as mental. Piña Palmera itself is such a community that has fully integrated the disabled into its life.
For the disabled living in the south it is not that they don't have the motivation, that their friends and family don't care. This was shown to me, graphically, by the people in Nopala with whom Piña was in the process of developing a program of outreach to the disabled utilizing the students of the local Preparatoria (high school for college bound students). The response of these students, the disabled, and the community showed that the desire was there. What was lacking were the resources, financial as well as specific knowledge of rehabilitation. This is reflected over and over again in Candelaria, Palma Larga, and all the other communities that are in contact with Piña. It is also shown in the book by David Werner "Disabled Village Children". This book is a compilation of the collective knowledge of many communities who, facing this shortage of resources, have developed, on their own, effective rehabilitative strategies that reflect the actual conditions of poor rural societies. It is within this spirit that Piña functions.
This shows all the more importantly why a place like Piña Palmera is very much needed. It acts as a fountain of rehabilitative knowledge, in the form of the therapists, from which the surrounding communities can, under their own motivation, draw from. Its principal purpose is to be there to give advice and assistance to those disabled and their communities who struggle to stand with dignity amongst all those who make up society. Piña Palmera's secondary role facilitates the above processes through finding and apportioning scarce financial and material resources. This can take the form of providing the logistics for medical exams, corrective surgery, and other forms of medical intervention. This occurs from the local level with Dr. Balbino's clinic to the national with connections in Oaxaca and Mexico City.
In addition to this Piña is involved with the procurement of such things as wheelchairs and other rehabilitative devices that are beyond the financial reach of many clients. It's an amazing thing to see what a difference a wheelchair can make in a person's life. In the "North" we take this for granted and we don't realize that less than 1% of the estimated 20 million disabled in the developing countries have access to wheelchairs (Wheeled Mobility Center). One story I can relate is of a 10 year-old or so girl who was unable to stand or walk and basically got around by sitting on the floor. The excitement she felt was palatable as soon as she was sitting in her first wheelchair. She wasted no time, not even pausing to wait for explanations on how to maneuver it, before she was out in her yard wheeling herself around independently for the first time in her life. For a young girl just approaching adolescence this new found freedom would open up untold opportunities. The look on her face was one of pure joy.
Finally Piña plays initiating and/or supportive roles in social and educative programs with the many other government and social institutions throughout the communities it touches. A huge part of its success is through this collaborative approach. Throughout my stay there I observed members of Piña's community working with or through these various groups, whether it was schools, clinics, parent groups, or other groups such as the "Salva Vidas" (Life-Savers). All of this is done because not only is Piña a member of the community at large with the appropriate social responsibilities but principally this is done with the specific goals of the integration of the disabled within the community. In addition Piña is very concerned with the prevention of certain forms of preventable disabilities. This might take the form of the promotion of nutrition programs, early stimulation programs, and pre-natal care. These last types of programs were necesitated by the severe malnutrition we found in many communities. Through our own efforts we found up to 60- 70% of children, up to age 5, were suffering various degrees of malnourishment, with half of those seriously at risk for secondary effects.
In conclusion I would like to express my gratitude to Piña and all those involved with Piña for the opportunity to give of myself to the people of Oaxaca. In addition I would like to thank the therapists and others who put up with my many questions about the work of rehabilitation and how this is accomplished organizationally. With this knowledge gained I return to my theoretical studies with a renewed interest in the study of physical therapy with particular emphasis to applying this to the conditions under which live the vast majority of the people of our small planet.
(I am currently a student of Physical Therapy in San Francisco, California. I can be reached by e- mail at email@example.com
P.D: We would like to send a big congratulations out to Bill and his new wife Angelica. They met in Zipolite and have both served as volunteers here at Piña Palmera. Felicidades, and we hope to see you here in the future!
Living and Working with Blindness in Rural Oaxaca
The physical conditions are primitive, but the greatest challenges are cultural. The first and most difficult step is convincing parents and community of the potential value of self-sufficient, culturally integrated, working blind people. The blind have been among the most isolated of the handicapped population. Apart from a small, very well run program in Oaxaca city, there are no services or educational opportunities for most blind people in the state. There are a few extremely motivated individuals who have achieved independence by sheer force of personality in our region. They have adapted without formal training or examples. Where these people exist, they serve as excellent role models for others in similar circumstances. There is another small group who work and are somewhat socially integrated but are dependent on family and friends as guides and for assistance in many basic activities of their daily lives, functioning with little or no mobility and inadequate daily living skills. For most of the rest, home is a virtual prison, they are uneducated, unstimulated and dependent on others for things as basic as food preparation and washing. They have no source of income at all.
In some cases parents hear of the advances in education and adaptive technologies for the blind by way of mass media or word of mouth and seek help. Unfortunately, in many cases their child is no longer a child but a teenager or an adult when we see them for the first time. A ten year old who has never socially intergrated outside of the family, has not fully participated in household chores, not had his or her hands placed on a circle, butterfly or sailboat, and certainly never attended school, presents a unique challenge in stimulating and exercising a dormant mind and body. The more years that pass, the difficulty of teaching an individual to learn increases exponentially.
When we make contact with parents of very young children we provide support and guidance in choosing toys and games which teach shapes and spatial relation and how to follow instructions, good balance, etc. In many cases much remedial work in these areas is necessary. Due to our limited resources it is preferable to plant scarce seeds in the most fertile ground, the very young. When there is good family support, we also have success working with older children. In a limited number of cases it is possible to accept students on a medium-term live-in basis when long distance, isolation, or other family circumstances make it impossible to work in the home environment. Highly self-motivated teenagers and adults are also good candidates for a comprehensive rehabilitation programme.
At this time I have a client, a boy of ten years, who has learnt to read and write braille and received some instruction in mathematics, music, writing and composition and other basic subject matter in his home with the aid of a volunteer tutor. He is now integrating into a special-ed school in his community. He is a good example of the invaluable work done by volunteers. The rural nature of the region makes short term intensive work in Piña Palmera, combined with continuing family and volunteer support in the home the best approach for many. Integration into a normal school setting is always the ultimate goal.
A highly motivated young man with progressive vision loss is preparing to enter university in Oaxaca to study law. He has received some support including volunteer readers and transcription of materials into large print. He has studied braille over the last few years and is currently gaining proficiency with the Perkins brailler. Apart from being an excellent role model, he is interested in directly working with other visually impaired persons.
We assist children with medical evaluation and I some cases surgical intervention to maintain or improve existing sight. We work with some older clients in orientation and mobility and daily living skills. For many of them it is their first taste of the freedom to leave their homes unassisted and in some cases take basic employment, make purchases, visit friends, etc. Our first day-long workshop for parents, teachers, Piña staff and other interested individuals was a great success in giving participants an idea of what it is like to be blind and how to live the most normal life possible with blindness. The interest level of the participants was very high. There is much need for more of this as well as more specialised training.
Although Piña Palmera is not a job training centre per se, we focus on all areas of rehabilitation. The centre has many of the aspects of a small progressive village. This gives a client a unique opportunity to become familiar with a wide range of careers and occupations in a controlled, easy to access environment. Our wood-shop in particular gives hand-on experience in construction, toy-making and other crafts.
Teaching the sight-impaired is not part of the mandate of " special education" here, but a visually limited student may be accepted in special education if he or she suffers from a learning disability or other handicap. Working on a student-by-student and teacher-by-teacher basis we hope to channel more of the visually impaired into special education as well as regular schools. As more doors are opened and more parents and teachers become aware of the success stories, pressures should mount on governmental agencies to provide more services for the blind. More networking is required to achieve this and other goals. Due to the scattered and rural nature of the population and inadequate or costly phone service, this is not always easy. For economic and logistical reasons facilities and resources are centralised. Apart from resources and materials available in Piña Palmera, we have access to books and a talking computer with scanner, and other educational opportunities in Oaxaca city. All but the most preliminary optimological diagnosis and treatment are commonly handled in Mexico City. These conditions require much time and patience on the part of families as well as teaching and rehabilitation professionals.
Based on my personal, having worked and lived in this region for the last five years, I feel that a moderately funded programme such as I am proposing can achieve a substantial level of growth in two to three years.
In five or six years, I hope to see enough blind people studying and working in the region to achieve critical mass and a real change in thinking in communities. Long-standing cultural attitudes and prejudices will not change overnight, but in a few years, a few well-nourished seeds should begin to bear fruit. With a little money, good publicity and volunteer support we can begin to give individuals the tools they need to change their lives, and hence the big picture for the blind in Oaxaca.
Cultural differences and exchange,
16 years of experience living in Mexico
by Anna Johansson Sixteen years ago, when I first came to Piña Palmera, I witnessed a woman cure her son from "Susto" (shock). She held the boy upside down by his feet and dipped him several times in a tub filled with water and flowers. The boy screamed. This procedure seemed cruel and completely useless to me. Many other things I saw I didn't take seriously or thought they had no meaning. Some things made me outright angry. For example when women would refuse to look me in the eye or talk to me directly. (They would send their children over as messengers.) Now, years later, I can see how patient the people here have been with me and how many times I have acted foolishly, not respecting or understanding their reality and way of living.
I came to Piña Palmera because I care for other people and I love the culture and the climate in Mexico. I am very happy here and have learned and received much more than I have taught and given. Piña Palmera is a place where there is a constant ongoing exchange between northern and southern cultures and ways of perceiving life. This makes Piña an exciting and stimulating place, but also a very challenging one where you live and observe culture confrontations all the time.
An example would be when I set apart a room for Ulrika. Ulrika noticed right away that she was the only person in the whole place who had her own room. She started to feel guilty about this and when some of the women approached her and said they were upset, she thought she understood why they were angry.
They told her:
- We are very angry that Anna has given you a room for yourself. How can she do this? You must be terribly lonely and afraid. We think you should come and sleep in our room together with us.
Nobody sleeps alone here, especially not young women. The rooms are shared with siblings; other family-members or friends and most houses in the area consist of one room, a porch and a kitchen outside. The other women thought it would be very traumatic for Ulrika to be all by herself because they themselves have never slept alone in their whole lives.
Another example is when I took a single mother with a disabled child for a medical evaluation in Oaxaca. The doctor told us that a surgery would be necessary and would be really helpful for the child. He also told us that one of his scheduled surgeries had been cancelled and he could operate on the child the very next day. I was very pleased. This meant that we would save another long (and expensive) trip to Oaxaca. How convenient! However the mother then refused, which totally puzzled me. I knew she was interested in the surgery and her child's improvement. If we had gone all the way to Oaxaca for a medical evaluation, why wouldn't she go through with the surgery? I was very cross, and had to tell the doctor, thank you very much, but no. It wasn't until years later that I finally understood what she at the time could not explain to me because it was so obvious for her; she could not take this decision by herself. She had to go back home and ask the child's grandmother first. It is the grandmother who has the last say. In many cases, especially with single mothers, it is also the grandmother who brings up the child and is often referred to as mother or "second mother".
One of the most obvious cultural differences, especially if you come from Sweden as I do, is the conception of time and efficiency. Once a concerned physical therapist from Sweden came to me and asked my advice. He gave the patients scheduled appointments and, invariably, they came late if they even showed up at all. He asked me if he could tell the patients that they lost their appointment and give them another appointment the following week? Most of our patients travel for hours in order to come to Piña. There are no bus-schedules in this country and sometimes they have to wait for long times before they are able to catch a bus or a taxi. Most importantly, they value time differently. People here seem to be flexible and fluid and better prepared for the unexpected. They leave their houses when they are ready and arrive when they arrive, that is all there is to it. On the other hand, people don't mind waiting. If you tell them nicely that you are busy and ask them to wait until you have time to attend to them they readily accept. However if you tell them that they lost their appointment and to please come back next week, they wouldn't understand at all. This is simply not done here, and if we did that they would probably never come back, because they would think that we didn't want to attend to them for some other (personal) reason.
Everywhere in Mexico if you arrive five minutes late, it is considered to be "on time". In most places it is accepted to be 15 minutes to 20 minutes late. If you are invited to a dinner or a party it is almost rude to show up in time; the host/hostess might not yet be ready. And remember; if you receive an invitation, never say no, even if you know you are not able to attend. It is less rude to not show up than to not accept an invitation. Relationships and human contact is prioritized over efficiency. Volunteers in Piña Palmera who spend time trying to get close to people and talk to everybody are more appreciated than efficient volunteers who don't relate to the Mexican staff. Whoever you meet, it is important to dedicate time to small talk to get closer to each other. If you try to make small talk to someone you haven't seen before in Sweden, he/she will think that you are nuts and probably get suspicious. If you do it in Mexico you win a friend. In a way this whole country is built upon relationships. It is essential whom you know and have good contacts with. People in authority are very helpful if they like you but if you question their authority or behave aggressively they close their doors.
In the villages people go out of their way in order to avoid conflicts. It is believed that if somebody holds something against you, his/hers thoughts and anger can hurt you or make you sick. It can also destroy your harvest. For many indigenous people to look someone in the eye is considered aggressive. They avoid eye contact, especially if they don't know you, in order to show submission and not to directly confront you. 500 years of oppression has left its marks and as a blond and blue-eyed person it is important to always keep in mind that a lot of damage has been done here by blond people. Mexicans are suspicious of strangers and many times with reason. Unfortunately racism is a big issue here, as in many other places. The people in power are frequently fair skinned Spanish descendants. The people with the least power and influence are the indigenous people, who are looked upon as funny and childlike by the ones in power. Dark skin is considered by many to be ugly and you even find that, within families, the child with the darkest skin is discriminated against. This causes a lot of pain and most Mexicans with dark skin suffer from low self-esteem and resent lighter skinned people.
Another way to avoid conflict and aggressive behavior is by talking softly. You can do almost anything to a Mexican, lie to him/her, cheat him/her, make fun of him/her, but don't you dare to raise your voice! That is a major offence. Foreigners, especially Americans and Europeans, are often considered to be difficult to deal with because they are loud, overly direct and too confrontational. (We are also considered to be somewhat stupid, too.)
People here expect you to learn from them by watching how they do something and then do the same. They are not used to have to instruct somebody verbally. This is very frustrating for many of our volunteers who are used to verbal instructions and many times even would like to receive written instructions. Most adults here have no or very little formal schooling. In many cases, if they know how to read, they have very little practice in doing so. The lack of schooling does not necessarily make ignorant people. It is just that their knowledge is different from ours. They might not know where to find Kuwait on a map or tell you that Dengue is caused by a virus, but they can often tell you if it is going to rain or not by smelling the air and observing the sky and the moon. And if you want to know how to calm a screaming baby, how to prepare the corn in order to make tortillas or how to make sure a dead persons spirit goes to heaven instead of roaming about without peace, ask the people here. Unfortunately their knowledge, that used to be essential for maintaining peace and health in their communities, is very fast being set aside by our occidental culture and way of thinking. This new way of thinking is being introduced principally by the Mexican school system and the television, and closely followed by the commerce, but that is a whole other story...
As I see it, we create our own reality according to our beliefs and expectations. There might be as many realities as there are people on this earth but people within the same culture have specific agreements (things that are taken for granted) within the culture and that is part of what makes it a "culture", together with their history and traditions. The interesting thing is that within this culture these agreements or beliefs are thought upon as "truth". Things we take for granted and assume as being the "truth" in our own country, may not always function, or even exist, in other cultures, different from our own. To live and work in a foreign culture is challenging and interesting and a unique opportunity to learn about yourself, your beliefs, and how you create your reality.
P.D. These days I cure my own children from susto too.
Our efforts towards a sustainable development
On the next page is our economical report for 1998 and 1999. You will find that, although we received lot of extra donations for the damages caused by hurricanes, our incomes sharply declined in the middle of 1998. We are constantly looking for ways to save and earn money and to use the money we receive more efficiently. Since the beginning we have dreamed of cultivating our own food. Unfortunately, not many vegetables thrive here because of the heat and the salty breeze from the Ocean nearby. Last year, however, we planted more Nopal cactus and Chaya plants. Both are edible, delicious and nutritious, and they add to our Lemons, Tamarind fruits and Coconuts that we already have.
Our accountant, Felipe Villanueva, suggested that we start to grow Papaya for an added income. He put us in contact with Mr. Alejandro Tenorio who had grown Papaya with great success for eight years. With his expertise help and a grant from SEDESOL (Secretaria de Desarrollo Social in Mexico) we rented 5 hectares of land a year ago and planted 10,000 Papaya plants that we grew from seedlings.
Everyone helped out, and it was a very exciting time for us. At first things went very well, but unfortunately all Papaya plantations on the coast of Oaxaca, including ours, were wiped out during the heavy rains in October 1999. Big disappointment. If this project had succeeded, it would have brought in an extra 60.000 dollars over the period of two years. We learned a lot and although our Papaya dreams did not come through we have been able to use the land for growing peanuts and corn.
How to make Recycled paper
(Excerpts from the diary of Marisa, Friday the 21st of April)
I never realized how easy it is to make paper. Adalberto taught me in less than twenty minutes. He came to the carpentry this morning where I was talking to Chico about designing a wooden butterfly, and asked Chico if he could borrow me for the day to help make recycled paper. Laughing, Chico said that it would be good for me to learn how, and that he would just be doing the same assembling of toys as yesterday.
"Papel Reciclado" if fun, and easy. I look forward to showing my sisters and cousins how to make paper when I get home. First we tore up pieces of office paper and put them in water to soak. We picked enough red, orange and purple Bougainvillea to fill a small basket, and took out the little flowers from the center of each leaving only the petals. We put the petals in a huge blender that we borrowed from Tia Juanita in the kitchen and added a little water before turning on the switch. We saved the blended flowers in a plastic bowl and set them to the side while Adalberto prepared to blend the paper. While he did that, I cleaned of the metal sheets that he had put on the table. Without measuring he added water to a huge blue plastic bin. He handed me a small pot of water in which, again without measuring, he added something that looked like sugar. He asked me to go to the kitchen to boil the grenadine. I wanted to know where he bought it, and how much was needed for a bin of water. He just said, "puedes comprar grenatina en el Super, y nomas necesitas poquito." He explains that grenadine is what the use to make Jell-O, but it has no color.
By the time I return from the kitchen all the paper that had been soaking was blended. He had drained all of the water from it, leaving a bucket of mush that looked like oatmeal. To the bin of water he added the boiled grenadine, a fistful of the flowers, and three of the paper. He moved around the water with both hands, and then used one of the rectangular strainers to test its thickness. There was so much water in the bin that I thought for sure nothing would come up, but when he pulled the tablet up towards him, the water fell through leaving a perfect sheet of beautifully decorated soggy paper. With a sponge he took out as much water as he could from underneath the screen, used a wooden stick to bring in all four sides. He explained to me that bringing the edges in helps prevent the paper from tearing when you pull it off the metal sheets. He turned the tablet over onto the metal sheet, and before pulling it up, presses the sponge on the back to take out the last bit of water.
There were kids running around everywhere. One of them in particular caught my attention because he was climbing a tree. I swear I have never seen a kid climb a tree so fast. When I say climb, I don't mean from branch to branch. We're talking palm tree. No branches to hang on to, just hugging the tree with your arms and legs, and pulling and pushing your way up. I asked what his name was, and Gabriel tells me it's Luis.
We filled up four sheets of paper, front and back, before the bell rang for lunch. At lunch I sat with Chico, a volunteer from Germany named Sonja, and the rest of the guys from the carpentry. Lunch was fun. The topic of conversation was last years spring camp. Everyone was reminiscing about the rally day, and they kept referring to the mud fight. Camp begins on Monday, and everyone agreed that there was a lot of work to be done. I asked if Anna had returned yet from Guatemala. Constantino, a man in a wheelchair tells me tomorrow, Adalberto tells me Sunday, and Chico says he doesn't know but maybe today.
After lunch I take my dishes to the wash area. It's a concrete structure with two sides. A wide side for wheel chairs and a more narrow one for walking through. The system for washing dishes goes a little something like this: There are four tubs of water lined up on each side. The first "stop" is a bucket near the floor where you empty all of the left over food on your plate that you didn't eat. Then you dunk your dishes in the first tub to rinse. The second tub is full of soapy water and has scrubs floating around. After you scrub your dishes, you dunk them in the tub of just water to rinse, and then you leave them bobbing around in the last tub of water that has disinfectant in it until the next meal. I'm sure the concrete structure was a heaven sent to the women in the kitchen who before probably had a pile of dirty dishes to wash after every meal.
Marisa Aurora Quiroz,
a volunter from Santa Barbara, U.S.A.
Donations (not packages) can be sent to
Post Office Box 44246
Washington D.C. 20026
(Please write the check out to Sladechild Foundation but add that it is for
Piña Palmera and they will send the whole amount to us.)
Tel: (202) 508 38 60 or (301)464 64 73
Our bank account in Mexico is: INVERLAT, Pochutla, Oaxaca, # 50258-8. Our special account for the construction is # 51138-2, also in the name of C.A.I. "Piña Palmera" A.C. (The SWIFT code is MBCOMXMM). Please notify us if you make a de-posit so that we can acknowledge it with a receipt. Checks can also be mailed in registered mail. Make them out to: C.A.I. "Piña Palmera" A.C.
It has been a long time since you have heard from us. Even so friends and supporters have not forgotten about us completely. We would like to especially mention; Richard Berry, Reginald A. Fessenden Fund, Albina Koziol, Susan and Jim Gill,, Kay L. Hageman, Mr. Tomas Muzakis, Dan Smith and Direct Relief International, Penny Leatzow, Craig Payne, Jaques Parentani and "Les Amis de la Palmeraie, Camilla Bozek, Raine Bedsole, Carl & Colleen Rasaka, Mr. And Mrs Robert Demarest, Martin L. Myman, Frances Betteridge, Brien & Eileen Bigelow, Constance Cloyd, George Johnson, David Spitzer, Warren and Carol Staudt, Jean Koulack-Young, David Slade and the Sladechild Foundation, Adriana Huyer, Beverly & Nathan Prevost, Susan Rainsley, Mr. Jack Opgenorth, Ray Siderius and Oregon School of Massage, Sandra L. Staudt-Killea, Joan Martorano, Dawn & Manuel Becerra, Katheyn Miller, Eleanor & Durrell Vincent, Ms. Linda Arthur, The Dorothy Morten Trust, Evelyn Grace and from the City of Bell Gardens; Lic. Arnoldo Beltran, Mr. David Torres, Mr.Armando Guerra
Thank you for the much needed, and very appreciated help and support that always comes as lovely surprises. Many times we don't know from day to day how we are going to make ends meet, eventually it comes together and children can go to Mexico City for medical treatments, gasoline can be paid for so that the rehab team can go to a village, salaries can be paid and Piña Palmera can continue to exist.
Anna Johansson de Cano
"Piña Palmera" A.C.,
Apartado Postal 109,
c.p. 70900, Pochutla,
telephone and fax: +52.958.40342
Webpages: http//palmera.webway.se and http://www.laneta.apc.org/pina/