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Piña Palmera Newsletter #39 Fall-Winter 1998

Centro de Atencion Infantil

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Dear friends, volunteers and supporters,

We are coming to the end of a rainy season that has been nothing but positive both for us and our local flora. The corn stands high and green and promises a good harvest. Not so in Chiapas and Central America where the rains have caused a disaster even greater than the one caused by hurricane Pauline. We feel great sympathy for our brothers and sisters in the south, having lived through a natural disaster ourselves.
It has been over a year since hurricane Pauline hit Zipolite and the coastline between Huatulco and Acapulco. Today there are still many signs of the damage that was caused, but nature heals fast; broken trees have new branches and bushes are shooting up everywhere. Only a few mud stains here and there reveal the depth of the water. Thanks to governmental and private catastrophe aid, most people have been able to rebuild their houses. Some roads are still in very bad shape, and of course there are still some families without homes but, by and large, the recovery has been remarkable.
Since the hurricanes we have found an alarming increase of malnutrition in children. To address this problem we have started an emergency nutritional program. We have received a little financial help from Friends of Mexico in Canada towards this cause and the Mexican National Nutrition Institute is donating a nutritious cereal made from Amaranth seeds, that we give out to children under five years old who have not reached their ideal weight. (2 scales and weight charts have also been made available to us from Dr. Avila at the Nutrition Institute).
Thanks to Jana Stuart from Nevada City we have received a large donation of seeds. This has enabled us to distribute seeds to other local organizations, which run similar programs, to small rural clinics in the villages where we work, and to families in Zipolite, Mazunte, Benito Juarez and Tomatal. Adalberto, our gardener and permaculturist, is working with a group of women in Palma Larga, where there are now several communal vegetable gardens. He has also helped people in Benito Juarez and Tiltepec to start vegetable gardens. We have received several helpful books about tropical gardening from Alternative Technology in England thanks to Evelyn Grace and Jean Sinclair. To teach women to grow vegetables more efficiently in small local gardens, using and making organic compost close to their homes, is part of our program to prevent malnutrition and disabilities. We also promote the cultivation of local plants and vegetables such as Amaranth, Chepil, Nopal, Papaya, Hierba Mora and Chaya. These plants all grow well here and contain high levels of vitamins and minerals. Surprisingly, few people use them or are aware of their nutritional value.
As we told in the last Newsletter, we are planning a complete rebuilding project. Our dream is not only to create a more efficient rehabilitation center, but also to construct an environmentally friendly installation that can serve as an example for future constructions in the area. The buildings will be built above the level of inundation in order to provide better and safer houses for us in the future. Running concurrently with the construction work is an educational program. The aim being to give local youths, male and female, disabled and able-bodied, trade apprenticeships in the following areas: general building, carpentry and cabinet making, electrical work and plumbing. Justin Vogler has written a report about the construction that can be found in this Newsletter.

Progress and results of our work with Community Based Rehabilitation

In 1994 we began a pilot project to introduce Community Based Rehabilitation (C.B.R.) in three villages. C.B.R was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1984 to make rehabilitation accessible for more disabled people. The basic idea of C.B.R. consists of forming a local committee responsible for the integration and training of disabled people within their villages. The committees also recruit volunteers to help in the rehabilitation program. The volunteers locate disabled people in their communities. Using the C.B.R. manual they teach people how to train disabled family members.
The rehab team in Piña Palmera spent a lot of time adapting the C.B.R. manual (published in English by the WHO, we have access to an informal Spanish translation from Nicaragua) to the language and conditions in this region. We ended up only using certain parts of the CBR manual because it is expensive to copy and we have access to other materials such as the book "Disabled Village Children" by David Werner.
We have encouraged people to form local committees and recruit volunteers from the villages. However, not one of the committees turned out as it was described in the C.B.R. manual. Local authorities often give low priority to, and lack knowledge about, rehabilitation. However, in many places parents involved in the project have organized fundraising and hold regular meetings.
We have had big problems keeping the volunteers that we have trained. With the present economical situation in Mexico few people are able to work without receiving a salary. One exception is a group of women from Huatulco. They are well educated with stable incomes and have the time and energy to dedicate themselves to CBR work. We have managed to find volunteers amongst students who are involved in Mexico's social service program. The problem is that the students usually only stay one year before leaving to continue their studies.
In many villages the financial situation is devastating and the problems are life threatening, especially after the damage caused by hurricanes Pauline and Rick. Therefore, disabled rehabilitation has had to wait. It is one thing to work directly with people and their families, to inspire, and involve whole villages in rehabilitation, is more difficult. We are currently trying to unite villages, working with them to address urgent problems like hygiene and nutrition.
In the state of Oaxaca it is estimated that about 75% of all diseases affecting minors are due to malnutrition. We have found that 70% of the children in the villages where we work are underweight and 35% are severely malnourished. We have not found any statistics showing the relationship between malnutrition and disability. We do know however, that complications in pregnancy are often linked to inadequate nutrition. Furthermore, children born underweight, are more susceptible to infections. For babies, fever may cause brain damage and three days of diarrhea may cost them their lives. Our methods of teaching about nutrition and hygiene deal primarily with prevention of disease and disability.
The difficulties we have had with the C.B.R. program has forced us to find other strategies and solutions. Over time we have moved further and further away from the doctrines of the WHO. We are now at the point where we are discussing whether or not we will continue work in the villages under the name of CBR. Our other choice is ARIC (Atención, Rehabilitación e Integración en la Comunidad). We feel that a new name would allow us more freedom to develop the program according to the needs and the conditions of the various communities we serve.

The situation and future plans in the villages where we work:

POCHUTLA: We have four students working in Pochutla. Each student has a patient whom they visit and work with. The students return to Piña Palmera on a regular basis for guidance. One of the plans for the future is a disability awareness workshop for the doctors and nurses at the local hospital. The aims are to increase awareness about rehabilitation and to inform people about Piña Palmera's work. We hope that doctors to a higher extent will refer people in need to Piña Palmera instead of sending them home without any kind of further help.

HUATULCO: In 1995 three women from Huatulco started to work in the surrounding villages. The organization they formed takes care of, and rehabilitates, needy people in the surrounding area. They work in conjunction with Piña Palmera and refer patients to hospitals in Oaxaca and Mexico City. They are also concerned with the integration of disabled people into schools and work places. Recently they organized a two-day early stimulation workshop. They invited the staff of Piña Palmera to participate.

BENITO JUAREZ: In Benito Juarez there are four student volunteers. Some disabled children are already integrated into the schools where Piña Palmera has helped the teachers to work with disabled children.

TILTEPEC: As in many surrounding villages poverty and malnutrition are commonplace in Tiltepec. Hygiene is poor and few people have access to adequate sanitation. There is a lack of knowledge concerning the risks of toxic fertilizers and pesticides. They are often kept in the home adjacent to sleeping and eating quarters.
We have recently lost our three local volunteers and have as yet been unable to recruit new ones. We are presently trying to recruit students from the nearby high school in Nopala.
We are working in the communal kitchen with local women promoting nutrition and hygiene.
Adalberto, our gardener, who is responsible for environmental education, is working on a vegetable garden project. He plans to teach the proper use of, or alternatives to, pesticides.

PALMA LARGA: Palma Larga is another village with serious problems of malnutrition. There is a nurse and ten volunteers who inform people about health matters. They are also interested in receiving training in order to work with rehabilitation. We plan to hold a workshop to teach people to detect malnutrition and to give information about local health services.

CANDELARIA: In Candelaria we are teaching early stimulation and giving support to children with learning disabilities and speech impediments. Twenty-nine children and their mothers have formed a group to take part in these activities. The mothers have raised funds for the project. We hope this group will become independent and will meet regularly without involvement from Piña Palmera.

The Rehab. Team through
Helena Eidlitz
Occupational Therapist

Making toys!

The Toy-making project began in 1992 in the isolated mountain community of San Mateo Piñas, Oaxaca. Mexico, as part of our Community Based Rehabilitation program which, simply stated, teaches families how to take care of their disabled members and to convince communities as a whole to help in this process. The Goals of this project were:

  1. Take a group of disabled adults and teach them to do quality work.
  2. Assist them in starting a business and put them in charge of teaching other people. (It was a win-win situation; disabled people see other disabled persons doing something positives are motivated. When people without disabilities see disabled people doing something positive they admire them.)
  3. Show the communities, that given equal opportunity, many disabled persons can be productive members of their communities.
  4. Provide an environment where disabled and able children could perform the same tasks and take the same risks to attain the same goals, thus promoting respect, self-esteem and integration.
During the past 6 years we have attained those goals and are ready to move on to bigger dreams, those being:

  1. Expand our workforce so we can employ more physically and socially disabled persons.
  2. Expand our sales network to sell the increased production.
  3. Develop the concept of packaging toy-making programs, which will be marketed to school districts, to use in their Arts programs.
We have Grand plans, not only developing toy making, but all kinds of Arts projects. In the next few years Piña is going to grow, we will have The Piña Store which will not only sell our toys but other products made by us and the villages involved with Community Based Rehabilitation, to the ever growing tourist trade here along the coast of Oaxaca. The profits from this business will go where they are needed most, to the workers and communities. Also the dream of e-mail and the Internet to do a mail order business is about to be realized. So the future looks bright. My personal goal is to help this process along.

We would like to thank everyone who has aided us over the years to attain our goals so THANK YOU. Also special thanks to Tina and our children, David Werner, Hanni Sager, Elisabeth Ludvigsson, Cinnabar, Lexington Scenery, Rotary of Jackson Hole, Jan y Fran Munroe, Rotary of Sweden, Canadian Embassy, Lic. Maria Teresa Fernandez, Erick y Susan Trilling, Ivo Flatz, Richard C. Munroe Foundation, Maira y Guido Lesser, Lic Jose Antonio Elo, El Museo de Papalote and Kennett Westmacott.

Jim Clouse

Progress report of the new construction

The preliminary drawings and proposals submitted by Architect Ràul Fernandez Cristlieb presented us with various problems. The designs didn't allow for the needs of a disabled person, the proposal to raise the level of the whole area was expensive and unrealistic, if the centre was to continue functioning during the construction process and the distribution of space and allocation of areas didn't correspond with the anticipated and current needs of Piña Palmera.
After much deliberation the decision was made to re-negotiate our contractual position with Ràul. We were regrettably, unable to reach a satisfactory agreement and after consulting our legal adviser, all professional dealings have been ended.
We compiled all the information that we have about the project including; square metres of areas, furniture requirements, diagrams of relationships between areas, architectural and construction schedules and general aims and objectives of the project into an architectural criteria and put the project out to tender. Five companies presented quotes and after a thorough analysis of each proposal the contract was awarded to Huatulco based Engineer Bernado Sada and his partner Architect Juan Carlos Campillo. The reasons for the selection were; their high standard of presentation, their thorough understanding of the needs of disabled people, their very attractive price and their friendly disposition to work and collaborate with Piña Palmera.
The preliminary drawings are finished. Juan Carlos, with incredible artistic skill, has drawn three dimensional colour presentations of each area and of the centre as a whole. The construction schedule has been divided into stages. This is necessary in order to ensure that the minimum disruption is caused to the running of the centre during the building work and that building work can continue according to the finances available.
The full renovation and structural re-enforcement of the existing disabled residence is the first of the eight stages. By the time you read this we will have finished, disabled residents will once again be living there and we will have started to build "the clinic"; the second, largest and without doubt the most important stage of the project. This impressive pace has been made possible by a highly skilled, hardworking and well co-ordinated team of builders under the dynamic management of foreman Jorge Diaz Vargas. Watching these men hard at work under the blistering Oaxacan sun dispels any doubts that the cartoon image of the sleeping lethargic Mexican is nothing but racist nonsense.
We also want to thank the American Chamber of Comerce in Mexico City, BANAMEX, Caritas from Germany, ILCE (Instituto Latinoamericano de Comunicacion Educativa), the people from Bell Gardens L.A., the children at Colegio Aleman in Estado de Mexico, the Scandinavian ladies Club, the Embassy of Norway in Mexico, Fundación DEMOS, Junior League in Mexico City, Causa Joven and Patrimonio de la Beneficiencia Publica, who all are helping us to make our dreams reality!

Justin Vogler

We cry all the time...

Lately there has been a lot of crying here. Fortunately it is mostly tears caused by overwhelming emotions, love, joy and happiness. We all got teary eyed when Jaime told us about his three rescues in the ocean. Not one, but three times has Jaime saved somebody's life out in the ocean. He has probably not saved more because Jaime is studying his second year in high school and doesn't spend a whole lot of time at the beach. Jaime is one of our junior lifeguards who have been trained by Joaquin Venado, but what is so impressive is that Jaime is one of the children from Zipolite who inspired Frank Douglas to found Piña Palmera. Jaime contracted Polio at the age of two and has been unable to walk without the help of his orthopaedic braces and crutches since. But he loves the ocean and he knows how to take a victim out of a dangerous current! He is definitely our hero.
We also cried floods of tears when Hernan Cortes, 8 yrs old, came back from Mexico City with his father. Hernan is from Tiltepec, one of the villages we work with. In April the whole family came from Tiltepec to Pina Palmera to look for help. Hernan had diarrhea and was throwing up, in addition his face, arms and legs were swollen. Obviously he was very malnourished and needed protein, but he couldn't digest hardly anything. First we took him first to the hospital in Pochutla and there they just told us that he was very ill and that he had to go to Oaxaca in order to get a correct diagnosis. We took him to the governmental hospital in Oaxaca where he was diagnosed with Leukaemia and the doctors told us that he could not be saved. He was too malnourished and the cancer was to advanced in order to be cured. We then decided, together with the family, to take him back to his village. The family did not want him to die in a hospital so far away from his home so we helped them to go back and supplied the family with badly needed food. To our surprise, once back in his village, Hernan recuperated and started to feel and look better. Our hopes returned and after consulting with the family, we contacted another hospital in Mexico City. They did not give us much hope but started his treatment. Today Hernan still goes to Mexico City for regular treatments. He is responding very well to the medications, has gained weight and looks great and we all cry of happiness when we see him.
Love is stronger than fear!

Welcome as a volunteer!

Since our beginnings Piña Palmera has received volunteers from all over the world. Much of our porgress has been made possible thanks to their enthusiastic and devoted work.
We accept volunteers who speak Spanish and who can comit to stay six months or more. A wide variety of opportunities exist for motivated people interested in being a part of this dynamic process. Applicants must be self-motivated, creative, and willing to work within a group structure. The ability to train and facilitate others is of prime importance.


HEALTH CARE: Nurses, Doctors, Dentists, Therapists (Occupational, Physical, and Speech), Disability Care Workers (Orthopedagogy), Community Based Social Workers.

EDUCATION: Special ed. teachers, Educational psychologists, English teachers etc.

CONSTRUCTION AND GARDENING: Civil Engineers, Carpenters, Cabinetmakers, Plumbers, Electricians, Water Resource Managers, Permaculturists and Landscapers.

Opportunities always exist, as well, for those without special skills who speak Spanish and have an interest in this type of work. If you want to join us as a volunteer, please contact us by fax, a letter or e-mail well ahead of time.

We need your help!

After the hurricanes we received a lot of generous donations. Through Sladechild Foundation alone we received from our friends, and friends of friends, over $40,000 USD. Thanks to all of you we were able to repair and start reconstruction of our center. But since then donations have dwindled and are now down to a record low. We have had to borrow money for the last two months in order to meet our daily expenses. We have no idea of what we will do in December.
We need you help, without your loving, generous and constant support we will not be able to continue to offer rehabilitation to the children and adolescents on the coast of Oaxaca. Thanks to you we now have close to 300 clients who are in the process of rehabilitation and on their way to integration in their communities. The average cost per client runs close to $960 USD a year.
Make a monthly commitment of $10 to $50 dollars a month! A constant monthly contribution will make us able to keep on promoting health, integration, well-being and love throughout the year in Zipolite and surrounding communities!
Life is hard in this area normally, even without hurricanes. Christmas is getting closer, please keep us in mind!

Wish list:

Our bank account in Mexico is:
INVERLAT, Pochutla, Oaxaca, # 50258-8
(The SWIFT code is MBCOMXMM).

Our special account for the construction is:
# 51138-2, also in the name of C.A.I. "Piña Palmera" A.C.

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.

Donations (not packages) can be sent to:
Sladechild Foundation
L'Enfant Plaza
Post Office Box 44246
Washington D.C. 20026, USA

Tel: (202) 508 38 60 or (301)464 64 73

(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.)

And finally, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year and thanks to all of you who have helped us during this year, especially Emma Gonzales from Fundación VAMOS, the ARBONNE company, Alicia Molina from the magazine ARARU, Enrique Gonzales Torres, director of the Iberoamericana University in Mexico City, Mathyas and Christian Lopez Rivedetski from Colegio Aleman, David Slade and Sladechild foundation, Mina Dias de Rivera, Rob Webb, Bob Burnside and Joaquin Venado from the USLA lifesaving association and everybody else who generously thought of us and helped us out with money, gifts or work!

Lots of love and light to all of you, from everybody at Piña Palmera


Anna Johansson de Cano
"Piña Palmera" A.C.,
Apartado Postal 109,
c.p. 70900, Pochutla,
Oaxaca, Mexico
telephone and fax: +52.958.40342
E-mail: pinapalmera@laneta.apc.org
Webpages: http//palmera.webway.se and http://www.laneta.apc.org/pina/

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