Category Archives: San José Palmas

First new community where we expanded in October 2012

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.

Advertisements

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.

IMG_20141010_170254390

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.

WP_20141012_003

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.”

WP_20141012_004

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.

IMG_20141011_170646653 (2)

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

Mosaic Pieces Fitting Together

It’s July and that means one thing at ConeXión Mosaico: youth and children’s summer camps! As always, we count on volunteer teams from our U.S. partner churches to make these programs happen. These energetic teams come down to spend a week or two with us, learning about the challenges of urban poverty firsthand as they spend time with the people from the communities where we work.

This year we have the largest number of U.S. volunteers we have ever had, with 51 total visitors scheduled to stay with us during the month of July. This unprecedented number of helping hands will allow us to work with multiple age groups in four different communities during the three weeks of programmed activities.

DSC00886 editGroups from Brooklyn, NY, and Lafayette, CO, will join with ConeXión Mosaico staff in working with children from 5 to 12 years old in San José Palmas and two different San Sebastián neighborhoods. Meanwhile, additional project staff will host activities for youth and women in Chimalhuacán. The U.S. teams will also help out doing construction and landscaping work on the site of our future Las Palmas community center.

While all this is going on, a team from Cambridge, MA, will be working with our Executive Director, Jean-Luc Krieg, to create a video of what is happening at ConeXión Mosaico. Lastly, a group of local ‘lucha libre’ wrestlers have agreed to donate their time and talents to stage an exhibition match on the final day of activities, an unaccustomed treat for the children and youth from these communities.

Stay tuned next month to hear about all of our exciting summer activities!

New ACJU participants show dramatic growth in teamwork and problem-solving skills

In San José Palmas ACJU continues to work with all 60 students at the distance-learning middle school. Where the final year students are primarily concerned about preparing for their upcoming high school admission exams, the project has been able to focus on life skills, values and servant leadership with the first and second year classes. The fruits of this work have been most evident in the first year class. This group was very problematic in the beginning, being primarily characterized by rivalries, conflicts and aggressive personalities. At first, almost every attempt at trying to get them to work together ended in yelling, confrontations and fistfights.

However, after only 6 months, there has been a drastic change in the first year group dynamic. They are now able to work together without fighting and have even learned to listen to each other and resolve their disagreements among themselves. Thanks to this new spirit of cooperation, the first year students have now become engaged and active participants of ACJU’s leadership development process.

Group of ProSalud participant women form their own microbusiness

In the last 2 months, some of the ProSalud participant women in San José Palmas have organized on their own initiative to start their own microbusiness. Five of ProSalud’s most active participants in this severely impoverished neighborhood have formed a small group that makes bracelets and necklaces to sell in order to augment their income. When they first came up with the idea, the women started off being paid piecework to assemble the jewelry for someone else. However, they soon organized and pooled their money together to buy their own supplies. Now they are no longer working for someone else, but instead have created their own micro enterprise where they make and sell the products themselves.

IMG_3850In just their first two months, the women have recovered their initial investment and made a 50% profit from their sales to date, with quite a bit of material still left over. The women credit their participation in ProSalud as their inspiration for starting their own business. Among other things ProSalud emphasizes mutual support and teamwork, as well as being proactive in solving problems and looking for solutions. These values, combined with the friendships that formed as a result of their participation, led to the women’s decision to work together and launch their new enterprise.

Citizen committees work together to bring running water to their neighborhood

The exciting work taking place in San José Palmas during the last few months has to do with water access. Since last year, several citizen groups in this neighborhood have been working together to try and bring running water to their community. Although the municipal water company has agreed to build the water tower and a donor has been secured to pay for the materials, the delay at this point has been securing a plot of land to build the tower on. The citizen committees figured out that the community itself could purchase the land if 300 families would pitch in about $75 U.S. each. They held a series of community meetings, where at first more than enough families were on board. However, opportunistic local area “strongmen” who sought to personally profit from bringing water into the neighborhood attempted to obstruct the process more than once.

Undaunted, the committees continued to talk with their neighbors. They opened a community bank account and developed accountability procedures to keep the process transparent. At this point, in spite of intense opposition from one local “boss” who has severely divided the community, the committees have raised almost half the funds needed to purchase the land. Although they have not yet reached their goal, spirits are high and there is a feeling of gathering momentum as the committees continue to work towards a collaborative solution.