Here 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.
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.
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.”
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, including 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.
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. An 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.”
It 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 emergency 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 and 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 $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.