To begin I want to wish you a happy new year and a marvelous 1998 with new beginnings, more love, peace and well being for all. Let us hope that this year the differences between north and south will diminish instead of grow bigger.
I also want to thank everyone of you that have helped us during the year that passed. It was incredible to see the response and the support we received after the hurricanes Paulina and Rick. We never felt alone because we received so much help, love and last but not least, money. All of this have helped us to get up on our feet and start all over again and slowly but surely return to our normal activities.
We have now visited Benito Juarez, Tiltepec, Palma Larga, Cozoaltepec and Candelaria. The hurricanes have definitely caused the most destruction in Mazunte, San Agustinillo, Zipolite and Puerto Angel, where 85 % of the trees fell and all the trees that are left were all damaged. In the villages higher in the mountains the rivers grew tremendously and took with them trees, plantations, houses, animals and people. The families that lived near the riverbeds lost everything while other families hardly were affected. There are also big differences between the villages in how much damage were done. Half of the coffee harvest is lost, but they say that it was a very good harvest this year so it is not as bad as it sounded first. On the other hand many many villages lost the whole harvest of corn and beans, and that is very bad.
As always it is the poorest people that are the worst hit. The roads are in a terrible state and many bridges are gone, not damaged but pulled away from their place. In some places already temporary bridges have been put up and in other places you have to cross the riverbed in order to get to the other side. (This is only possible if the water level is low of course.)
Almost all the families that we work with on the coast lost their homes or their roofs. Many have received roofing material and credits (loans) from the government and are rebuilding their houses. Especially the village of Mazunte, that I visited again today, has had a remarkable recovery. There is work for everybody. The government helped the fishermen to replace their boat-motors. Ecosolar is helping the families to get loans so that they can rebuild their houses in the local style, using adobe and palm-leafs, and start to receive tourists. The restaurants on the beach are all working and many visitors came during Christmas vacation. The village is looking better every day even though there still are a lot more work and building that has to be done.
The scenery is not so optimistic in the villages off the coast, where we also have many people with disabilities that participates in our programs. In Benito Juarez some houses lost their roofs, among the families that were affected is the family of Elida. Marino, the star in our video about CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation), can no longer get from his house to the village plaza. The little path up to his house was destroyed but the house he lives in made it without problems.
We were not able to visit the villages during almost two months and we didn't have a clue of the situation of the disabled children there. Our surprise was great when we finally were able to visit them and saw that most of them were doing quite well (at least not much worse than before) and that many children even had advanced in their rehabilitation! A BIG SUCCESS FOR OUR COMMUNITY BASED REHABILITATION PROGRAM! The mothers (in most cases, sometimes the fathers our grandparents and/or siblings) had continued to work with their children and carry out their training and their exercises, even though we had not been able to visit them. One of the goals with this program is to make the families independent. It was so wonderful to see the results of our work and to see that the families carried on by their own in spite of extremely harsh conditions.
(According to the World Health Organization, 70% of all rehabilitation is possible to carry out in the home and/or in the local community. Piņa Palmera is the only rehabilitation center in the district of Pochutla which had 132.000 inhabitants in the last census of the population. Also according to WHO, and to the government of Mexico, approximately 10% of the Mexican population has a disability. That makes 13.200 people with disabilities in our district. 70 % can be rehabilitated by community based rehabilitation, which leaves 30% whom will need a rehabilitation center and/or a hospital and specialist care. According to these statistics, there are at least 4000 people whom need a rehabilitation center only in the district of Pochutla.)
Now a new year has begun and we are planning to start our normal activities again as far as it is possible. We have already begun our radio program, half an hour every Wednesday on the local radio station and we will continue with the program during 1998, as usual. Our physical therapists and speech therapist will start to receive patients that come for the first time on Saturdays again and on Wednesday mornings, Maga and Chely will restart the early stimulation program for children with disabilities under 5 years old, where 15 to 20 mothers and/or fathers participates with their children every week.
A visit is planned in February for the specialist doctors from Oaxaca that come to the Palmgrove to see patients every three months and our work with Community based Rehabilitation will start again next week. Thanks again to all of you that have helped us! Lots of love and best wishes for the new year!
Anna Johansson de Cano
"Piņa 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/