Disaster victims are rebuilding their lives thanks to your help

Some of you may remember that in mid-October San José Las Palmas, one of the communities where we work, was hit with an uncharacteristically heavy hailstorm and torrential rains. In this impoverished community homes are commonly roofed with corrugated tarpaper, which unfortunately is not made to withstand severe weather. In all, 65 of these fragile structures suffered varying degrees of damage, and 12 families lost everything they owned when their roofs collapsed and their homes were completely destroyed.

In keeping with our philosophy of offering a “hand up” instead of a “handout,” ConeXión Mosaico created an emergency relief fund to provide no-interest, construction microloans so those families hardest hit by the disaster might rebuild their homes. Thanks to the generous gifts provided by you, our donors, we were able to raise enough money to provide disaster relief loans to 16 families. This assistance made it possible for the families to purchase corrugated tin panels instead of having to buy tarpaper again. At this time all 16 families have finished rebuilding their homes, which will now also be better able to withstand inclement weather in the future.

Aside from our emergency relief project, this type of microloan assistance is completely unheard of in San José Palmas. After the disaster, some of the community “strongmen” offered to assist the affected families by giving them a certain number of “free” tarpaper panels per household. In most cases, it amounted to less than half of what the family needed to make the necessary repairs. However, families could only receive this assistance in exchange for giving those local “bosses” a copy of their voter registration card. These corrupt leaders then use those copies to gain personal advantage and manipulate the political process during elections.

laminasAt ConeXión Mosaico, we are committed to helping slum dwellers live with dignity. This includes providing an alternative to the exploitation and injustice the poor commonly suffer at the hands of those who would take advantage of their dire circumstances. To that end, funds raised during our disaster relief effort will continue to assist other slum families during future emergencies. Each family was asked to commit to repaying 70% of the funds provided to them and allowed to set the amount they could afford to repay in weekly installments, To date, the majority of families have been faithful in making their scheduled payments. Those payments are being set aside in a relief fund which will be available in the future to assist other slum disaster victims.

At this time we would like to extend a sincere “thank you” to all of those who contributed to the establishment of the new emergency relief fund. Your generosity has truly made such a critical difference in the lives of these 16 families… and for many more still to come.

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Participating in a medical campaign helps this woman build her self-esteem

In November, the ProSalud project organized a 2-day medical campaign in San Sebastián area of Los Reyes, in collaboration with some local public health workers, a group of doctors from Puebla and a team of doctors and a pharmacist from the Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville. In two days, these dedicated professionals carried out 239 medical exams, 61 dental exams, 15 optometry exams, treated 520 people for parasites and provided vaccinations and dispensed prescriptions free of charge.

campana medica- San Sebas 11-2014- 2However, medical campaigns do more than just provide low-cost, accessible health services to the slum communities where we work. They also provide a vehicle for the community to come together and organize on its own behalf. Carrying out this campaign would not have been possible without the participation of a team of community volunteers, who set up and tore down the site, volunteered space in their homes for exam rooms, signed in and prepped patients, kept records and brought food they had prepared for the visiting doctors. This gave these neighbors a chance to actively contribute to the betterment of their own community as well as develop their own servant leadership qualities.

“Josefina,” who lives in San Sebastián, struggles with self-esteem issues due to her lack of formal education. Because she cannot read or write well, she tends to feels inferior to people who have had more schooling. However she has been participating in the local Family Club and, during the campaign, staff observed that she was actively participating all day: taking vital signs, handing out patient numbers and helping to clean up afterwards. Several days later, “Josefina” commented to ProSalud staff that participating in the campaign had made her feel useful, despite the fear she has of not doing things well. She said, “I am going to keep on attending the [Family Club] workshops, so that this fear goes away.”

A medical referral leads to a dramatic life change for this woman

Blanca and her family learned about ConeXión Mosaico when we began working in her neighborhood, the “el Potrero” community of San Sebastián. Blanca has had a degenerative eye condition her entire life. Her vision started going bad in elementary school and has gotten progressively worse over time. As a child her mother took her to a number of hospitals, but at that time there was no treatment except for a cornea transplant. However, after moving to “el Potrero” a year and a half ago, her vision suddenly became much worse. Since they didn’t have electricity in the house Blanca had to strain her eyes much more to do her normal tasks, which accelerated the degeneration. At this point, she has less than 20% vision in the right eye and 30% in the left.

“Living without my vision, I always felt unsure and unsafe, all the time,” Blanca says. Her son would have to go with her to work, so he could tell her which bus to get on. When walking in the street, since she couldn’t see what was in front of her, she would often trip, step into puddles or even fall down. She remembers that going to her children’s school for a meeting with the teacher was particularly humiliating. She often couldn’t find the classroom and, although she would ask for directions, people would point to signs that she couldn’t see.

Her lack of vision also severely impacted her social relationships. When talking to people, Blanca couldn’t look them in the eye, or even see their faces. When people would walk by on the street and wave she couldn’t see them, even if they were very close. This caused many of her neighbors to accuse her of being unsociable and selfish, saying that she only talked to them when she wanted something from them.

As bad as things were, Blanca was not able seek treatment on her own due to lack of resources. When her vision got so much worse, she desperately wanted to see what could be done to help her, but living in “el Potrero” there was barely enough to put food on the table each month. She told herself that once they had finished paying off their plot of land, in 3 or 4 years, she would try to save up enough to go to the doctor. In the meantime, she could see no other alternative except to resign herself to her fate.

vistaFortunately, Blanca became involved with the ProSalud project. Upon finding out about Blanca’s condition, ProSalud was able to obtain a voucher for her to have a free exam with a specialist. The doctor made her some contact lenses, charging her only for the material used to make them. Because hers is a delicate case, she is receiving ongoing follow-up with the specialist, who has agreed to keep treating her free of charge.

With her new lenses, Blanca’s vision is now about 70%. The impact on her daily life has been nothing less than miraculous. She is now able to get around on her own, without depending on her children to help her. She feels more confident and sure of herself and no longer stumbles or falls when she walks. Now she can look people in the eyes when she talks to them and return their greetings as they walk by. Blanca reports that this has had a tremendous impact on her relationships with her neighbors, and she is now starting to develop some new friendships.

Without ProSalud’s help in obtaining the voucher, Blanca says that she still would still be waiting at least another 4 years to get treatment. At the rate her vision was worsening, she feels like she might have lost her eyesight entirely by that time. Now, although they have not been able to cure her condition, she says the doctor is hopeful that using her lenses will significantly slow the degeneration.

Although there are public medical resources for low-income people in Mexico, many slum residents are unaware that they exist or how to access them. Therefore many poor people with special needs or health conditions, unable to afford private care, often simply forego treatment. That is why educating people about existing resources and connecting them to the appropriate providers is such an important part of Prosalud’s work. Time after time we have seen a simple referral lead to a dramatic transformation in the life of a slum dweller with special medical needs, like Blanca. “There have been so many changes to my daily life,” Blanca says. “It’s so beautiful to be able to look people in the eye when I talk to them!”

ACJU launches new faith community for youth

Exciting things were happening in the ACJU Deportivo project last month! The project has impacted these youth to such a degree that several responded to an invitation to create their own small faith community in collaboration with the Comunidad Mosaico project. Staff expected to launch the group with 5 to 6 key youth leaders, but 11 ACJU participants showed up to the first meeting. In addition to creating a space where youth can re-think and rebuild their relationship with the Lord, ACJU staff will also use this time to work on developing them as leaders who will have a positive impact on other youth, their families, and the community at large.

This fledgling faith community met for the first time on October 25, and will continue to meet every other Saturday for the time being. The 11 youth who attended all committed to continue their attendance, and the idea is that over time more ACJU Deportivo participants will join in.

One of the primary topics of discussion was the importance of youth leadership. The youth talked about how important it is to change your way of thinking and not give in to peer pressure. They also discussed how important it is to follow your dreams, even if people put you down or criticize you, so that you can have a fuller, more dignified life. Some of the youth shared their dreams, along with some of the obstacles they are facing.

bible study 2One gratifying moment occurred when some of the youth expressed their desire to reproduce some of what ACJU Deportivo is doing with the project, working with youth and forming soccer schools, so that other youth from slum communities don’t fall into using drugs, alcohol and violence and are motivated to continue their education. One young man of 18 said, “I dream about being a professional soccer player. However, if that doesn’t happen for one reason or another, my other dream is to work with youth and create a soccer school like what you are doing. I want to help so that less youth get caught up in drugs.”

Another youth, 20 years old, said “I really like soccer, and I don’t know because of my age if I could think about playing professionally, but I know I want to coach youth, help them and create a project like the one you are doing here.”

At ConeXión Mosaico, we look at the lives of our participants from a holistic perspective. We do not just seek to share the Good News of spiritual liberation, while neglecting the very real issues impacting urban slum dweller’s lives. By creating youth leaders who are motivated to serve others and make positive changes in their community, we believe that people can live more dignified, abundant lives on earth here and now.

“Come and See” vision weekend coming up soon!

ConeXión Mosáico invites you to be a part of our upcoming “Come and See” vision weekend, November 21st through 23rd! This  encounter weekend will give you an opportunity to deepen your understanding of our work among the urban poor, as well as the situation of urban slum dwellers in general.

The trip will allow you to put faces on poverty statistics, as you personally meet with local leaders and get to know people who are fighting to bring about change. What’s more  we pray that, as you get to see our work up close for yourself, you become inspired that not all is hopeless and that real change is possible.

What can you expect from your visit?

  • IMG_3433Learn–  You will have the opportunity to learn about our unique methodology that focuses on empowerment and local leadership development.
  • See– You will have the opportunity to walk the streets in the community, seeing the reality of urban slums firsthand and meeting community members.
  • Reflect–  You will learn how Conexión Mosaico seeks to  address the challenge of poverty and urban slums from a biblical perspective.
  • Plan–  You will be able to brainstorm with our ministry team some exciting ways that you and/ or your church could potentially partner with us.

Your trip will have you arriving on Friday, Nov. 21, before 4:00pm, and departing on Sunday, Nov. 23, after 1:00pm.  To find out more information, including trip pricing and lodging details, you can contact us at info@conexionmosaico.net.

We are excited to meet you and look forward to seeing you here!

Emergency help needed for slum families who have lost everything

IMG_20141012_110518477Here at ConeXión Mosaico we employ a multi-faceted strategy to deal with the challenge of urban poverty, with our primary focus being the development of local leaders whom we coach to come up with solutions their own problems. Very seldom do we get involved in disaster relief efforts. However, dozens of families we work with are currently in a state of emergency and ConeXión Mosaico is stepping up to provide emergency aid.

Last Friday night the slum community of San José Palmas in the Los Reyes La Paz municipality, where several of our projects currently operate, was hit with severe rains and a heavy hailstorm.

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San José Palmas is an extremely impoverished community, where many cinderblock homes have dirt floors and roofs made of corrugated tarpaper. The weight of the hail, which in some areas piled up as high as deep as 6 to 8 inches – which is unheard of in this part of Mexico City – coupled with the torrential rains, caused varying degrees of damage to 65 of these insubstantial structures.

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Unfortunately, the following story told to our staff is not an isolated incident:

“My name is Guadalupe. My husband, myself and our 5 children live in a 10’ x 13’ one-room home in San José Palmas. Last Friday night during the rains our roof and one of the walls of our little hut, which is made of corrugated tarpaper, caved in. The only thing I could do was to huddle in a corner with my children and try and keep the water off of them as best I could. We still got soaking wet and our two mattresses, our furniture, all of our clothing and everything we own was ruined, and now we have nowhere to live.”

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Through our contacts in the municipal public assistance program, we were able to distribute 200 donated blankets and twenty food baskets on Saturday to the families hardest hit by the disaster. Many of the 65 affected families lost a large part of their material possessions, IMG_20141011_195413880including mattresses, bedding, clothing and furniture. Tragically, in many cases, those losses included the inventory for the small businesses that were the source of the families’ livelihood.

So far, we have mobilized approximately $2,200 USD worth of in-kind donations for the affected families. We were also able to provide information to the community about how to take precautions to avoid the spread of diseases. The citizen committees we developed over the course of the last year organized work parties to help with the clean-up of the most severely damaged homes, and those families whose homes became completely uninhabitable are being temporarily housed by those neighbors who were not as badly affected.

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We are still hoping to mobilize existing relief resources to provide further support, and our goal is to obtain 200 donated sleeping mats. However, 12 families are currently homeless and 25 more would likely lose their homes as well if there were to be another heavy rain. IMG-20141012-00389An additional 28 lost a lot of their belongings. It is imperative that these families begin rebuilding and repairing their homes as quickly as possible, and ConeXión Mosaico has already started to help the families most affected. However, in keeping with our organizational philosophy, our plan is to assist the community in such a way that we provide them with a “hand up,” rather than a “hand out.”

IMG_20141012_175718668It is our intention to provide emergency construction loans to those families who need to repair or rebuild their homes immediately. Those families who receive assistance will be asked to repay approximately 70% of the amount they receive in very small payments over time. As those payments are received, they will go back into an emergency assistance fund which will be available to provide the same kind of help to other disaster victims in the future.

How precisely are we helping?
On Sunday, our staff conducted a thorough census of all the affected households. The affected families were then divided into three categories and we instigated a three-stage intervention plan:

Phase 1: Staff identified 12 households who lost their entire roofs, parts of their walls and, in the majority of cases, all of their worldly possessions. ConeXión Mosaico began the process of IMG-20141012-00375emergency reconstruction on those homes on Sunday. We purchased corrugated tin panels, cinderblocks, cement, wooden beams, etc., and the community has pitched in to help with the labor. A civil engineer is also helping teach the families how to rebuild with more structural integrity. Several homes have been repaired so far, and we are hoping to finish this phase by the end of this week.

Phase 2: There are another 25 families who lost a part of their roof, and/or there is a very high risk that another rain would cause severe damage to the home if nothing is done. We hope to begin repairing WP_20141012_015and fortifying this group of homes this weekend.

Phase 3: Lastly, there are another 28 families who lost their mattresses and other belongings because their roofs leaked so badly that the homes were flooded with up to 10 inches of water. With this group, we are planning to provide technical assistance in how to make improvements to their homes that will mitigate the risk of flooding in the future. We hope to be able to begin this process by early next week.

According to our calculations, it will take approximately WP_20141012_016$5,000 in order to fully implement this emergency assistance plan. However, these funds are not part of our yearly budget, so we are asking for help at this time. We will need to raise these additional funds in order to make this intervention a reality. Your generous support will not only help the San José Palmas families rebuild their homes, but will provide the foundation for an emergency assistance fund which will be available to other slum disaster victims in the future, since 70% of the funds will be repaid.

Please consider joining us in this effort.

Click here to go the “donate” page of ConeXión Mosaico’s website and make your online donation. In the “comments” section, you can note that your gift should be applied towards the emergency assistance fund. Any contribution, large or small, is sincerely appreciated.

Working Together for a Miracle

At ConeXión Mosaico, we seek to develop leaders within urban slums who will become agents of change within their own neighborhoods and communities. One of the key ways we do this is through the development and implementation of community improvement projects. These community projects function as hands-on “leadership development schools” for participants, while also positively impacting the lives other community members in a very practical way.

Just recently nine citizen committees in San José Palmas, working together, carried out a community impact project to realize a seemingly impossible dream: to bring public water service to their squatter community. Now, thanks to their efforts, the municipal water company has committed to building a water tower by next summer which, when complete, will provide water to approximately 1,000 families in the area.

To find out more about how the citizen committees were able to accomplish what has amounted to nothing short of a miracle, go to a photostory about this exciting project by clicking here…

Working Together For a Miracle