Peter is the one traveling this year (sigh!) so this story is about Pina Palmera and his latest adventures:
Zipolite at this time of the year is hot and dry. My usual routine was to enjoy the cool morning by getting up between 4 am and 5am to do some writing such as this report, have breakfast and then go for a walk on the beach before going to Piña Palmera. Others have the same idea and one sees an eclectic mix of the young and the old, clothed and unclothed, a few fishermen and a few swimming. There is a dangerous undertow most of the time and most that go in to the sea do not venture out of their depth. Because this is my last official visit to México and to PIÑA PALMERA it seems appropriate to provide a brief summary of how ABRAZOS CANADA and PIÑA PALMERA became connected.
The story begins in February 2009 when Mona and I first visited México. We went to Coyotitlán, a small village in the state of Sinaloa in north western México. We went there to spend sometime with an organization known as PROJIMO and founded by David Werner, a U.S. citizen whom we met and with whom we became friends. During our stay we started to learn Spanish and at the same time worked with the organization, Mona applying her skills as a physiotherapist and myself as a helper. It was an interesting introduction to México and to the world of volunteering and it also indicated to us that our aims, still vague and ill-defined, would be better served if we were to start our own organization. After we returned to Canada we looked for organizations that provided support for the disabled and disadvantaged, in particular children. PIÑA PALMERA located in the state of Oaxaca seemed like an organization with whom we could work. Later in 2009 I went back to México, and travelled to Zipolite, a small village on the Pacific Coast of the state of Oaxaca where PIÑA has its base. My visit of a month or so gave me an opportunity to get to know the organization and its people, including Sofia Wolfbrandt a physiotherapist from Sweden who took me under her wing, making sure that I understood what was going on and who was who in the organization. Later, Mona met Sofia and the two became soul mates. Since the first visit, one or both of us has visited PIÑA PALMERA annually and ABRAZOS CANADA has established a partnership with the organization that is providing financial support for regular visits to the communities of two teams: One lead by Sofia that provides health care for disabled children, and the other lead by two deaf teachers that provides support for deaf children and their families.
PIÑA PALMERA welcomes many volunteers from around the World. Some come as volunteers while others in the health field come to receive a formal introduction to Community Based Rehabilitation, a program of integrated self support for communities that has largely been developed by the organization and for which it is now recognized world wide. ABRAZOS has been instrumental in connecting the University of Ottawa with PIÑA and this connection has enabled Canadian students to come to México for a part of their practical training.
Malena’s wheel chair. Malena is a woman in her late thirties, severely disabled, who came to PIÑA PALMERA as a child after her mother died. This has been her home, where she is well cared for and where her infectious laughter brightens the day. Last year ABRAZOS CANADA received a request from Sofia for funds for a new wheel chair for Malena. It did not take us long to comply with the request and it does illustrate one of the strengths of our organization, namely the ability to respond quickly and efficiently to valid requests.
Because this is the holiday season, with many of the volunteers away, and with no community visits scheduled I was wondering if this visit for me would be somewhat one of sitting and looking at the ocean. Nothing was further from the truth as within a day or so of my arrival I became the organization’s carpenter with the first job to make a table for the new chair. Malenna was very particular as to how it should be and I could tease her by pretending to be exasperated at all the changes needed.
Small requests were dealt with, a chopping block for Danielle the potter, and palas, wooden shovels for the Pizzaria.
Sofia then approached me and asked if it would be possible to make a set of steps that could be used in her therapy sessions to enable children and adults to gain experience and confidence in dealing with obstacles.
It was a fun project, helped at times by Lisa, 8 years old, Sofia and Al’s oldest daughter. The final week was spent in making two small push carts for Sofia to use in her therapy sessions. Working in the carpenter’s shop has been a great way to spend the time of my final visit.