Category Archives: Emergency assistance

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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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.