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Piña Palmera Newsletter # 34 Summer 1996

Centro de Atencion Infantil

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Dear friends and supporters!

We hope all of you are doing fine and are enjoying life. This is a much happier newsletter than our last one. Edel, the young man that got shot and whom I mentioned in our last newsletter, is recovering more every day; he now walks without a cane and is able to express almost anything that he wants. A lot of his vocabulary has returned. His right hand can slowly do all the normal movements.
I am writing this at the end of July and we have had heavy rains for almost three months. Actually it has rained so much that Palmgrove is not only fresh and green but also full of mud. The ocean is wild and dark and it is a relief to know there are lifeguards at the beach. They always keep a special eye on us when we take the children for an afternoon swim.
As usual for this time of the year we have received students from the Iberoamericana University to do their social service. This year there were 25 of them. Mostly psychology students but there were also two future architects, two engineering students, five students of industrial design, one nutritionist, one food technician, two biomedical engineers and one who is studying communication. They are all working with great enthusiasm. The architects are drawing up plans for two more composting bathrooms. One will have a ramp and will be accessible to wheelchairs. Last week Valerie Nadeau and Shawn Spitzer visited us and instructed us on how to improve the outhouse we have and what to think about when we make the new ones. Their advice was very helpful. Once we have the plans made up and the cost calculated we will start to look for funds in order to start building our new dry toilets.
In the kitchen, Jorge, studying nutrition and Luis-Carlos, studying food-techniques, are finding out ways to improve the food and the hygiene. They also found that almost all the equipment is old and used and needs to be replaced. starting with a new refrigerator and a stove. We also need to make some structural changes in order to serve the food outside the kitchen instead of inside, the way we do it now.
The Biomedical Engineering students have repaired half a dozen machines in the carpentry workshop, and together with the design students, they have repaired 30 plastic chairs that were donated to us from Hotel Royal Maeva in Huatulco. They are also making handicap aids like standing-frames and special seats for wheelchairs.
This is the fourth year we have received students from the Iberoamericana University and we hope that this collaboration will continue in the future.

When do we count them as grown-ups?

Every now and then in meetings at the Palmgrove we discuss whether or not we should attend to adults. It is not an easy question. The Palmgrove was built for the children and our name "Centro de Atención Infantil" means "Child Care Center". Nowadays 75% of our patients are children, i.e. under 18 years old, but one fourth of the people we serve are adults. How come?
Well , one reason is that many of our "children" have grown up during the years. Victor, Juana's son, is 20 years old and will soon go to Mexico City to study physical therapy. His younger brother Luis Alberto is 18 years old and works in the maintenance area of Piña. Elida is 19 yrs old and studies in high school in Tonameca. She has polio and has been living at the Palmgrove for the last five years for rehabilitation and studies. Miguel Angel from San Mateo Piñas is 18 yrs old. He has been here since he was twelve because of an ear infection that he has had since he was eight months old. Two years ago he was operated on at the hospital in Oaxaca and he probably has to have more surgery next year.
Another reason is that Piña Palmera is the only rehabilitation center in this area. If we don't receive someone, that person has to travel all the way to Salina Cruz, four hours away, or to Oaxaca, seven hours away. Most of our clients cannot afford to go that far.
After all, disability is something that happens to the family. Many of the adults we see are parents. If they become rehabilitated and recover their ability to work, the whole family has a better chance of survival. Still others are adults but have developed mental disabilities due to an accident or have never emotionally or intellectually matured due to developmental disabilities.
And we are all God's children, aren't we?.

Physical Therapists.

Being the only rehabilitation center in this area means that our physical therapists are the only ones available to serve a population of 200,000 inhabitants. And lately Ulrika has been our only P.T., although she has had good help from Araceli, Maga, Octavio and Marcelino, all trained by her and other physical and occupational therapists that have worked here as volunteers.
In August we look forward to receive Marlene, another Swedish physical therapist that will stay here for two years. The Swedish friends of the Palmgrove have also managed to get an extension for Ulrika that will last another six months. In addition we are waiting for Helena Eidlitz, an occupational therapist, to return to the Palmgrove in October and Emily Fryklund a Swedish physical therapist that will come and work with us for a year. Professional help like this will really help us to continue training our own staff and provide a better service.

Lifeguards on the beach.

One year ago a Swedish volunteer from Piña Palmera, Ingetora Nyström, helped organize a group of lifeguards on Zipolite beach. It is with pride and joy (and relief) that we can tell you that the group still exists. It is made up of young men from Zipolite, trained by us in Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (C.P.R.) and by a professional lifesaver from USA.; Joaquin Venado, who taught them how to swim out and rescue people from the ocean.
Thanks to the lifeguards there have been less drowning accidents at the beach. During this past year the rescue-team from Piña Palmera only had to run to the beach ten times and half of the times the lifeguards managed to bring the person out of the water alive and we didn't have to apply C.P.R. (Five people did drown) Usually the worst time is during Easter-week. Some years over six people have drowned, just during that week. This year was the second year in a row with lifeguards patrolling on the beach, helped by staff from the Palmgrove and marine soldiers (that have taken the CPR-course here at Piña Palmera). It was also the second Easter-week in a row without drowning accidents.
During this past year we have instructed 45 people in Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation; many took the course for the second or third time. The lifeguards have obtained small radios in order to communicate with each other and with us. (The beach is over a mile long). Now we are only lacking a defibrillator for a more efficient rescue.

Octavio Jimenez (instructor in C.P.R.)

Education of Deaf Children.

This year the goal for their education was for the children to learn basic reading and writing skills. This will facilitate their communication with hearing people. We started the education of deaf children five years ago, teaching them the Mexican sign language. This has made it possible for them to communicate with each other and to have richer and more detailed communication within the family. (We taught them sign-language in their homes and always in the presence of at least one other family member.)
When starting to teach them to read I avoided using all the different verb forms. Instead we start using only the infinitive form, in the same way that they are used in sign language. Time tenses are indicated with special signs that indicate future or past time. Thanks to this system the work with the children has advanced because they only have to learn one word for each verb instead of many different words. Little by little when we catch their interest and when they learn more we will start to introduce different verb forms.
Half of the group (5 children) has already learned the basics and they are now able to write a description of a drawing or a photo of a person involved in an activity. The other half of the group is making slower progress. Some of the children have learning difficulties and/or didn't receive enough stimulation when they were younger. If the parents do not support them it makes it more difficult for the children to learn. (Many of the parents cannot read or write themselves and it is hard for them to motivate their children.)
Another thing that has helped us to reach our goal is that we have related the teachings to the daily life of the children. In that way we have been able to maintain their interest because they relate what they learn to their own daily experience and they themselves notice the use of reading and writing.
The education of deaf children and teenagers is similar to any education. It is of course adapted to their strengths and based on sight, memory, feeling and body language. It just takes a little bit more time when you teach deaf children.

Moises Zuñiga, social worker and responsible for the education of deaf children.

As spring is a time of flowers...
Light Notes II

As spring is a time of flowers and a warm breeze in many parts, here it is also a time of change. Most notably for me it is mango season. It is also a time of stifling humid heat when most tourists leave, and we wait for the rains to come.
But this year, for my wife and I, there was the once in a lifetime joy; the birth of our first child. Her name is Jazmin, like Jasmine our little flower. She has grown and developed so much in the last three months, and since her birth here at the Palmgrove, it has been wonderful to share these experiences with all of our friends and co-workers.
Although the center of my universe, my daughter, is not the only thing growing this season. Forget the plants, bugs and the incredible frog population that has come with the early heavy rains we are having this year and lets talk about Piña Palmera for a minute.
I mentioned Tom Brew in the last issue, a mobility teacher from the states working with us for a few months. He has assisted with evaluation and training of students in several communities, as well as within Piña Palmera. Visiting professionals often enhance our existing programs, and give us fresh points of view.
Tom was also a big help in the planning and execution of an Understanding Blindness Workshop that we gave here in April. The day-long session opened with a one-hour exercise involving walking blindfolded through a model town we created. The participants were handling money, paying bills and finding, buying, and of course consuming food and drink. These real world situations gave them the chance to experience the frustrations, embarrassments, and also the humour that is part of daily life for a blind person. Amidst asking for directions, being short-changed, and odd collisions, there were many great moments, but what touched me most was when a blindfolded grandmother asked her visually impaired grandson to guide her through the garden. The attendees then had a chance to share their feelings and new understanding in several animated discussions, intermixed with classes led by teachers, psychologists and visually limited students. Besides basic mobility techniques, self esteem, personal security and motivation were important themes.

Burt Henry, volunteer (and blind himself.)

The library in the Palmgrove.
Our library keeps on growing and as the books are pouring in our work is also increasing. During this past year we have classified close to 2000 books. Good enough for a small beginners library. Now we will concentrate our efforts on training and motivating everybody at the Palmgrove. These courses are very important since the library will be of no use if nobody cares for it.
The most frequent visitors so far have been the children. Kids that like to look at story books or find animal pictures in the encyclopedias. It would make us very happy to see the adults and teenagers visit here more often. Our dream is to see them discover new worlds, new lives and to marvel over all the wonderful experiences you get from reading, when new horizons open and minds expand.
The first course is planned for this fall and everybody that lives and works at the Palmgrove is invited. We will explain how the library works and what you can find here. We will also try to arrange different activities in order to make people more interested and to make the library a place where they will enjoy spending time. A place that corresponds to their needs and that can contribute to their development.
For the library to survive, a volunteer that can help take care of it is needed. There have been some problems already. Some of the shelves and books have for example been eaten up by termites and many books have disappeared because nobody knew who borrowed them. We are looking forward to receiving an interested volunteer that can dedicate time to the library and continue our work.

Raissa Somorostro, founder of the library.

Volunteer Report from Rex:

Piñas Summer Course has just ended and I have finished my first month here as a volunteer. It has been a fun learning and sometimes frustrating experience. Originally I came here to volunteer just for the summer course but now I will stay two more months.
I learned about Piña completely by accident. While traveling on an extended trip through Mexico, I met a man living in Chiapas who had wanted to volunteer here but couldn't, so instead he convinced me to go.
I had no idea what I would do here, but did have experience working with the disabled community in the United States so I thought I'd give it a try. Unfortunately, to say my Spanish is bad is almost a complement, so my first days at Piña were quite interesting. I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out when on my first day actually working I became very sick with "turista," or in this case "volunteerista", and wasn't sure where the bathroom was. (I found it very quickly.)
My next few days weren't much better as I sat with everyone while directions for the activities were given, and then everyone all disappeared in different directions, seemingly with something in mind. And I stood where we had all been moments before not quite sure who to follow. Fortunately someone would usually grab me and point a direction. (Thank you!)
During "carpinteria" I would work with one of the kids, who on our first day together noticed I wasn't doing anything. So he put a wooden wheel in one of my hands and sandpaper in the other, and explained to me the meaning of the Spanish word for "sand this"! "OK, I can follow directions. Who is the camp counselor here?"
Well, I knew I needed to find my niche here, and it wasn't going to be communication, so I soon discovered I could make games in the carpentry and the kids were soon busy helping me to cut out pieces and draw boards, etc... And with my broken (very broken) Spanish and really bright kids, they soon mastered all the games I could bring out.
As frustrating as this was at first, there was never a shortage of people here to urge me on, both kids and adults, and the sense of community here is tremendous. Community is something I have seen lacking of, or non-existent, in so many of the places I have been or lived. It's really refreshing to be a part of it here at Piña, and to see the integration and interaction with the "disabled" and "non-disabled" kids during this summer course. Thank you Piña!

Rex Shangraw, volunteer

Wish List

Find Piña Palmera on the Internet!

We have our own homepage at: http://www.laneta.apc.org./pina/
Our Newsletters can also be found at: Our Newsletters can also be found at: http://www.eden.com/~tomzap/pina.html (You're there now), and you can write to us at: pinapalmera@laneta.apc.org

Donations (not packages) can be sent to
Slade Child Foundation
L'Enfant Plaza
Post Office Box 44246
Washington D.C. 20026-4246
(Please put :"to Piña Palmera" on the check.)

Tel: (202) 508 38 60
Fax: (202) 508 3843

Note: Donations can no longer be sent to Esther Goldman at Gentle Brothers and Sisters.

Our address is:
C.A.I. "Piña Palmera" A.C.
Apartado Postal 109
c.p. 70900 Pochutla, Oaxaca, MEXICO

Tel and fax: 52-958-40342 (to fax is almost impossible please call to make sure we have received it because many times we only get the first two lines.)

Our bank account in México is: INVERLAT, Pochutla, Oaxaca, # 50258-8. Please notify us if you make a deposit 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.

And to end this Newsletter I want to thank everyone that has shared their time or resources in order that disabled children, or sometimes adults, will have a possibility to live a better and more dignified life. Sometimes people look at me with big eyes and say: You have really made a sacrifice! For me this is a totally foreign way to think. Instead I feel that I have been very very fortunate to come to Piña Palmera. It is a small magical place on earth. Come and see for yourselves!

Lots of Love from
Anna Johansson de Cano (Director)

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