After a long absence, I was finally able to return to visit the elderly of Tonala. Not much (if anything) has changed here, if you remember our last visit.
No governmental assistance, no improvement in the medical or financial situations of the members of our group. The only palpable change is in the men and women receiving the help – -they are less worried about survival (thanks to the monthly food package) and a bit more interested in the brighter sides of life.
Most are participating regularly in the activities organized for them by the NijaNu association (see previous blog entries) and they say it is what keeps them looking forward to the passing weeks and days, what makes them want to move and get out of their house. Our friend Karen Rasmussen, the dynamo behind organizing it all, has set up a weekly rotation of activities involving literacy, manual skills and exercise. Small scale, simple design and yet very powerful. This time I was able to bring some simple reading glasses that were welcomed with enthusiasm. So many have very poor vision, partly due to untreated cataracts but also partly due to lack of eye check-ups and adequate lens prescription, not to mention lack of money for all of the above.
This year, the Kitchener Conestoga College, donated some kits for sensory retraining and fine motor skills. These kits have made their way to Mexico in my luggage and are helping those who could barely use their fingers, to regain abilities long forgotten. They turn a simple game into a small rehabilitative exercise and make a significant change over time.
One advantage of having a place to gather the elderly is the opportunity to educate them about simple things like walking with a walker or standing up from a low chair. However, for those who cannot attend the meetings at the house, the home visits remain a necessity. I was surprised to hear that most remembered details about my last visits and had actually followed my suggestions about various ailments. After long chats about what happened to all of us since the last time we had met, we parted again, not without me leaving a few tubes of anti-inflammatory ointments behind – something too expensive and difficult to find for any of the aging in this community
I was sad to leave – too little time, too few hugs…but hopefully a shorter absence this time as some interesting possibilities for development are shaping up. Karen has found several people willing and able to help and we are now planning how to make the lives of these people better. Stay tuned!