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Piña Palmera Newsletter # 36 May 1997

Centro de Atencion Infantil

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Dear friends and supporters of Piña Palmera,

Our spring Newsletter is here! It is a little bit late because I have had some time off after my baby was born. Most of this Newsletter is written by the Swedish volunteers here at Piña Palmera. Stina, my mother, writes about her impressions on the next page. We also hear from two veterans; Ulla and Karl Aron, Näslund. This is the fourth time they have worked here as volunteers. We get a glimpse of their work on this page and page 3. Emily Fryklund tells us about her time here as a volunteer on page 2 and 3, and Marlene Kaas, a Swedish physiotherapist, tells us about her experience with two young boys on page 3 and 4
Our work in the villages continues. Klara Stintzing, an obstetric nurse from Sweden, will help us to develop a program for prevention of disabilities in the communities. Moises Zuñiga has started to train rehabilitation workers in the community of Tiltepec, where we have encountered many deaf children. Natividad, a deaf young woman that have been participating in our sign language program for six years as a student, will be working together with him. We have also done disability awareness workshops with teachers at a school for technical/professional education in Huatulco. The goal is to start integrating people with disabilities into these schools.

Anna Johansson de Cano

From the bed to the horseback

The first time I met Laurencio and his family was in January 1996. Laurencio is a 28 year old policeman who is married and has a little child. A year ago, after a serious car-accident, he could only move his right arm and hand. On the other side of his body he had only limited movement. His left knee was impossible to extend and his right leg was at least 5 cm shorter due to a fracture of his tibia, which had not healed as it should. At home he could only lie in bed and needed lots of help with everything like changing his clothes etc. He couldn't even sit up without support. His wife was taking complete care of him.
On his first visit here, it took 3 people to carry him to the examination table. (How his wife, tiny as a teenager, could have moved him at home, we have no idea.) After that visit he came back a week later for a more intensive treatment.
During 2 months here at Piña he improved his movements while working with the rehabilitation team. His left knee, which was bent, was plastered and straightened out bit by bit. After his time here he could move on his own with a walking aid. Now he can manage his personal hygiene on his own, and other such things without a problem. This must have been an incredible relief to his family!
When I came back to Piña Palmera this January I visited him at his home, which was a two hour trip on very bad roads. Laurencio now walks almost without problems, and can move about both indoors and outdoors. Outside his house he has made his own gym with a walking bar, a home made training bike and dumbbells. It was Piña Palmeras home made gym that inspired him. The walking bar is there now as a reminder of how hard it was for him to walk six months ago. He told us that he can ride his horse again, even though he still has a difficult time with the movements of his left hand and walks with a slight limp. His left eyelid hangs down in front of his eye so he can only see with one eye. We decided that he should return to Piña Palmera for a two week training period.
As I write this he and his family are here. He works hard every day to achieve his goals. During his time here we will take him to an oftamologist that will examine his eye. The rehabilitation of Laurencio is a brilliant example of what can be done with limited resources. His own and his family's situation has radically improved.

Ulla Näslund, Physiotherapist

Back in the Palmgrove

Now we are here again. It has been four years since the last time and ten years since the first time. Much has changed and developed in these years. Anna, Balbino and their kids have moved inside the Palmgrove to a beautiful oasis with a big round house made of adobe and a little round kitchen built in a traditional country style. Outside the house is a little garden. Here a lot of different people come to see Anna. We constantly meet new people, everything from yoga teachers to American computer doctors, who clean up the old Macintosh in the office when it has been overworked. Now I sit in Anna's little cottage, writing on her old computer. What a culture clash!!
The Palmgrove is just as beautiful as usual. Under high Palmtrees and beautiful greenery the Palmgrove hides great and small dramas. Love and care flows towards everybody that enter through the new beautiful irongate. Yesterday a mother and father came with their six children, of whom five were disabled. The first thing Anna thought of was how to make sure that the girl without disability receives the attention she needs.
The Palmgrove now seems even more organized and well made for helping children (and some times adults) to a more decent life in spite of disabilities. There are close to 300 active patients that receive treatments and check ups.
Meanwhile a breeze comes from the ocean, where huge waves crash against the beach. A sound you hear all the time here in the Palmgrove. The wind loosens the ripe coconuts from the trees and makes them fall loudly to the ground. One day I sat down on Anna's porch to eat a yogurt. When I noticed that I took the wrong yogurt from the kitchen I rose up to go and change it. I barely got up from the chair when I heard a noise behind me as two big coconuts crashed down and struck the chair to the ground....
The ocean is warm and the days are still not too hot. It is about 34º Celsius in the shadow during the day and 30º at night. The people here think it is cold and sleep with blankets when we can hardly stand to use a sheet.
Zipolite, the fishing village next to Piña Palmera has really changed. Four years ago the road ended there with bus connections to Puerto Angel and Pochutla. Now the road goes past the Palmgrove and all the way to Mazunte. And Piña Palmera even has it's own bus stop!

Stina Johansson, Grandmother again

Klara Manuela is Born!!!

As a midwife and a new volunteer here at Piña Palmera, it was a great experience to be able to participate when Anna and Balbino's little daughter, Klara Manuela, was born. She entered the world in peace and tranquillity at home on the third of February 1997 at 06:57. Robin and Darrah woke up just in time to see their little sister being born, and Robin cut the umbilical cord.
I have seen thousands of children being born at Swedish hospitals, and to me this was a different and incredibly beautiful experience. The delivery was perfectly normal, and Klara Manuela weighed 4500 gram.
I wish that each and every child could be born this way, safe and secure, and be met by so much love and happiness. I feel most grateful to Anna and Balbino, who had complete confidence in me. They let me share this very special event with them and I will always remember it with great joy.

Klara Stintzing, midwife and volunteer

Memories and meetings

Emily Fryklund has spent 6 months volunteering at Piña Palmera. Now when her volunteer time has come to an end, she tells us about her experiences here at Piña:

Life consists of meetings, and meetings make up my strongest experiences here at Piña, a little world in a big one. The meetings I have had with the people here; Mexican workers , children and volunteers, I will carry with me always. I've been sick at times during my stay here; dengue fever twice, trouble with amoebas and ordinary cold and cough. All this made me feel a little stressed and I thought that I wouldn't be able to do anything meaningful here, but now, almost at the end of my six months, I know that a great deal has been done.
I've helped and encouraged staff in the "special education" area with training, prophylactic contraction as well as educating them in sitting and lifting techniques. Together with Ewan, an Australian occupational therapist, we improved Alfredo and Paco's wheelchairs. I have also worked with patients that come to stay at the Palmgrove for intensive physical therapy. With great joy I participated in hydrotherapy every Saturday. From there I have my fondest memories.
It was during hydrotherapy I got Elias to stop grabbing on to the adults in the water, and instead encouraged him to try to swim on his own with a rubber ring. Elias has muscular dystrophy and can't walk. When he discovered he could move by himself he shone like the sun, sang, and never wanted to get out of the water. To me this is exactly what physiotherapy is about; to create self confidence, responsibility and control over your own body.
Last November I was with Noe in Mexico City. He had got a bone stretching instrument in an operation. During 2 1/2 weeks I helped him with his dressings and physiotherapy training. The contact with the doctors and physiotherapists in the hospital was exciting and they were very encouraging and open.
The last weeks before Anna's little Manuela was born, I learned how to handle the e-mail at Piña Palmera. I went in Anna's car to Puerto Angel and through Flavia's telephone I made contact with the outside world, a fun and different experience.
I have realized that 6 months is too short of a time to get immersed and be involved in long term projects, but I still know that my stay here planted a seed that can keep on growing. I am so happy that I have been able to be here. Never will I forget the warmth that exists between the people here at Piña Palmera. Finally I want to wish good luck to the people that are responsible for continuing the CBR project (Community Based Rehabilitation), maybe the most important project in Piña today.

Emily Fryklund, Volunteering Physiotherapist

A philosophical observation

More than four hundred years ago, there was a philosophical author named Cervantes, who lived in Spain. One day he was discussing the problems of life with his grandmother and she told him: "there are only two kinds of people in this world, those who have and those who don't have." So it was in the past, and so it is in the present, but worse! We are reminded of those who don't have their needs met every day here in southern of Mexico. Without doubt, the women and the small children are the most vulnerable, as in any third world country. I also have the opportunity to work with these issues at home in Sweden, but in a greater perspective ( United Nations-Food and Agricultural Organization).
The four winters that I have been working here at Piña Palmera have been a very good experience. I have learned a lot about how people here think, what they believe and how they look at the world.
To me one thing is becoming more and more obvious; if our children and grandchildren are going to have the advantage of living in a world of justice and human dignity, powerful actions are needed from all international organizations and governments .It is no longer sufficient to increase international aid, economical growth, and family-planning. The necessary resources already exist! What needs to develop is a political will to allocate these resources as fair as possible, far away from violence, corruption and racism. As it is now, the distance between rich and poor increases every day!
In light of this, Piña Palmera, and similar projects are incredibly important as constant reminders of what can be done to change the injustice in the world in which we live. They prove that if there is good will and commitment the solutions can be found.

Karl-Aron Näslund

Two boys from Candelaria

One of the villages Piña Palmera works with is the little village Candelaria in the mountains just north of Pochutla. Maga and Marlene visit this community every two weeks. Here Marlene writes about a resent episode:

After looking for a long time we finally found the house where the two boys live, they were not home. Although the grandmother did not speak Spanish, only Zapotec, we still managed to understand that the boys soon would come home from school. Meanwhile we waited in the garden. From the house, a simple cottage of wood, we could hear the old woman yelling at somebody inside, a man who obviously was very drunk. Even though we did not understand the words, the message was clear.
After twenty minutes one of the boys, the youngest one, came walking on the rough path. It was not hard to see that the boy had Duchenne, a kind of muscular dystrophy. The same genetic condition as Tino and Elias at Piña Palmera have. When he saw us he smiled with one of the loveliest smiles I've seen. Behind him came his brother walking with great difficulty. His face mirrored his pain and struggle. He also has muscular dystrophy.
The drunk man is the children's uncle. Their father had left the family when the boys where very young. The mother now lives with a new man in another village.
We put a mat, woven of palmleaves, on the ground and on it we showed the boys and the drunk uncle a few exercises they could do at home to keep the joints flexible. We also told them that a specialist doctor would visit Piña Palmera the following month and that it would be good for the boys and their uncle to see him.
On the way back to Piña Palmera my head was full of worrying thoughts. We know that this kind of muscular dystrophy is incurable and that it leads to death. These two boys are also almost orphans. What can be done to make the rest of their life as good as possible?
After a few weeks the doctor arrived at Piña Palmera and the uncle came with his nephews to see him. It was a strong experience for me to be present when the doctor lovingly and carefully examined them. Then I took them, one in each hand, and lead them out of the room. The younger boy still had his lovely smile and the older one his surly expression.
The uncle stayed with the doctor and as I was playing with the children I knew that the doctor was explaining the future development of his nephews' condition. When the uncle later came out to us I could see tears in his eyes. He thanked me nicely and then he carefully took the boys by the hand and went towards the gate. For a long time I just stood there, watching them leave.

Marlene Kaas, volunteer and physical therapist

What Piña Palmera can do is contribute to a more decent life for the boys. Stretching exercises to loosen the muscles and orthopedic braces, might prolong the time until they need wheelchairs, (which wouldn't work very well on the stony ground anyway.) When Marlene visited the boys the other day for the third time, they both smiled at her, even the older one. From the doctor they got painkillers which helped to ease their constant pains. They have been making soap bubbles with a straw (an exercise to build up air capacity in the lungs.) In addition they have also promised to teach Marlene some Zapotec during the exercising time to help her communicate with their grandmother.

Volunteering at Piña Palmera

We accept volunteers from all over the world. To be able to come and work as a volunteer it is important to speak good enough Spanish that you can participate in conversations, understand what is said and be sure that other people understand you. Our staff does not speak English and their work becomes more difficult if the volunteers do not speak their language. We also prefer that volunteers stay a minimum of six months.
It is not permitted to work as a volunteer in Mexico if you are here on a tourist visa. We can help arrange a temporary work permit (FM3- a visitor's visa) but only if you bring following papers:
1) Certificate that shows your profession, education or previous work experience. It needs to be related to the work you are going to do at Piña Palmera. This paper needs to be translated and certified by the Mexican consulate closest to you.
2) You also need to be able to show that you have access to 1000 USD for each month of your stay. If you are going to stay for six months you need to able to show immigration that you have 6000 dollars in cash, on the bank or in credit.
And remember to write us ahead of time so that we can plan for your arrival! ¡Bienvenidos!

Alejandra, volunteer coordinator

Incomes and expenses of the Palmgrove during 1996

The Palmgrove spends about 200 thousand dollars a year. Close to half goes to pay the salaries of the staff. Food and transportation are the other big expenses. The travel costs includes the expenditures we have when we take children and their families to the Shriner Hospital in Mexico City and to other clinics and hospitals in the capital or in Oaxaca. It also includes gasoline and maintenance of our three cars. The peso has fluctuated some during the past year. Here we have used the exchange rate of 7.50 pesos for one dollar. At the moment we are also working hard to increase the amount of Mexican donors to expand the present budget.

Expenses 1996USD 
Salaries incl. Social Sec. & taxes95,979
Food & drinking water32,005
Travel & transportation; bus tickets, gasoline14,638
Rehabilitation; med, ortopedic aids, consulting, etc.8,825
Wood & tools for the carpentry8,806
Office; telephone, fax, copies, photos, mail8,508
Staff education6,171
Construction, maintenance & garden6,388
Hygiene articles;. diapers, soap etc.3,545
Electricity & cooking gas3,136
School material & support to students2,884
Car insurance2,082
Equipment & things for the kitchen2,063
Arquitect's and auditor's fees1,003
Shoes & clothes653
Contribution to poor and sick people403
Money in the bank 31st of Dec. 199629,218

Income 1996USD 
Friends of the Palmgrove (Sweden)55,437
Patrim. de la Beneficiencia Publ. (Mexico)43,723
Inheritance from private donor (USA)30,000
The Scandinavian Ladies Club (Mexico)23,333
Private donors (USA, Great Britain, Mex.)17,740
Anonymous donor (Mexico)7,261
Liliane Fonds (The Netherlands)7,032
Slade Child Foundation (USA)4,800
Les Amis de la Palmeraie (Belgium)4,244
Permobil (The Netherlands)3,050
Las Damas Diplomaticas (Mexico)2,667
Ericsson S.A. de C.V. (Mexico1,333
Ortoprocess (Mexico)1,163
Money in the bank 1st of Jan. 199624,887

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

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: http://www.eden.com/~tomzap/pina.html (that's here)
and you can email us at: pinapalmera@laneta.apc.org

Our server is in Mexico City so we have to pay for a long distance phone call. Please, do not send photographs or unimportant documents.

Wish list:

* Malena is going to be fifteen years old The first of July. As is tradition here she wants a big party. Everybody at the Palmgrove is cooperating towards the party but we still need money to pay for the food and the band. And of course, you are all welcome to celebrate Malena's birthday with us Saturday the 28th of June!
* Specially made Wheelchairs for children with Cerebral Palsy, wheelchairs to play Basketball in and wheelchairs that you can remove the sides on.
* We need a printer to an IBM computer that we received from Ericsson. A lot of nice people have offered us printers; one was too old and others didn't use the same electrical system. Here we use 110 V. In order to adapt it to people with disabilities we also need a mouse and/or a track-ball.
* The rehab. group needs hearing-aids, Canadian crutches in children sizes, special cushions for wheelchairs, beltbuckles and Velcro ribbons, toys that makes sounds, Bobath-balls, kay-walkers (also in children sizes), material to write Braille with, and riding helmets. (Edel has bought a horse he will lend us for equine therapy!)
* And as always we welcome kitchen ware; tennis and soccer shoes; school material; typewriters; tools for the garden and for the cars; triple antibiotic cream; catheters (Foley # 16 or #18); drainage bags for urine; medicine for epilepsy and parasites; etc...

Our bank account in Mexico is:

INVERLAT, Pochutla, Oaxaca, # 50258-8.

Please notify us if you make a deposit so that we can acknowledge it with a receipt. Cheques can also be mailed in registered mail. Make them out to :

C.A.I. "Piña Palmera" A.C.

Donations (not packages) can be sent to

Slade Child Foundation
L'Enfant Plaza
Post Office Box 44246
Washington D.C. 20026-4246
Tel: (202) 508-3860

(Please write the cheque out to Slade Child Foundation but add that it is for Piña Palmera and they will send the whole amount to us.)

Thank You all who believe in our work and who participate with us to give children with and without disabilities more possibilities in their lives! Special thanks to David Slade and the people at Slade Child Foundation, Flavia Robinson and Daniele Agostino Foundation, The Oregon School of Massage, Kevin Dilley, Richard Berry, Gary and Anne Hare at Hope for Children, Lic.Clara Sherer and DIF, Oaxaca, Permobil, Pulki Tapani, The Shriners Hospital in Mexico City, PEER S.A de C.V., Ericsson S.A. de C.V., Raine Bedsole, Mr. & Mrs James Rosenwald, Roland Shanklin, Sarah Hufbauer, Jack Opgenorth, Warren W. Koenig, Hellen K. Selle, Eleanor Vincent, David Newton, William & Genevieve Southgate, Kathy MacDonald, Ms Camilla Bozek, Martin Myman, Jeremy & Marcia Pollack, Beverly & Nathan Prevost, Dorothy Morten Trust, Grace Marie Worley, Mr & Mrs Robert Demarest, Carl &Colleen Rasaka, Kerrry Smith for the money he sent in memory of his mother Dorothy Cline, and finally for the donations that Karen Berggren collected before she passed away and for the donations that her family and friends sent us in her memory. THANK YOU!

Anna Johansson de Cano, Director

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