By Doreen Woelfel
For those of us who live here year around, we will fill you in on the “rainy” season we had this year, but needless to say, both coasts took major hits at the same time, and for the communities surrounding the coasts, it was devastating. We saw over 25 inches fall within two weeks in Huatulco, leaving rivers flooding and mud sliding. Lives and towns were lost; homes and schools washed away, and these people were cut off as well, as roads became non-existent. Huatulco responded immediately to the most urgent, critical areas, as quickly as possible, making sure that needs were met for those cut off from any kind of communication. Which leads me to two organizations that provided much needed support to local rural communities, stepped up during the storms, and continue year round to bring help to these isolated, rural communities. Britt-Marie Jarnyrd of the Bacaanda Foundation, featured in previous stories in The Eye, and Randy Clearwater with Wilfredo Justiniano and the Community Food Bank, have both made significant impacts in making life a little bit better in these rural communities.
The Bacaanda Foundation, led fiercely by Britt-Marie Jarnryd and her husband, Raymundo, have provided continued support for a dental outreach program, where these rural communities are visited by a dentist once a month. But what has become very close to Britt’s heart is the schools of these communities. Schools, often housed in “buildings” made out of twigs, with dirt floors, no desks or tables, and maybe 12 eager children of various ages, who are valiantly being taught by 18-20 year olds (no, they were not on strike the last 2 months), who upon teaching a couple of years in a rural community, where by the way there is no electricity, running water, privacy; they sleep at the schools, make 1,800 pesos a month (about $160/month) and get passed around to families for meals. In our area, there are approximately 120 teachers serving rural communities. For this two year service, you get your university expenses paid for at the end; this is a huge draw for those who made it through high school and want to go to college, but can’t afford to go. I’ve met some very passionate young people involved in this program.
Britt is directing her attention these days to “Adopt a School/Teacher”. She would love if every person who read this would just go visit one of those rural schools (and the students would feel so honored someone came that far just to visit them)…look at what they need (realistically), and help them out. Considering I was in the classroom for over twenty years, with all the books, paper, pens, computers one could dream of, it ‘s hard to be objective about what is needed here. They all need everything. Apparently rural schools are not funded by any government agency, but their curriculum (workbooks for each subject) is provided by the state. A desk would be nice, though, with paper and pencils… maybe a book to read, for fun. All the schools need play equipment. School is the center of life in these communities; it’s where kids get to play a sport like soccer or basketball together (many students live miles from the school and walk in and out up to four hours, they don’t get to “play” a “team” sport except at school). Needless to say, they are very under-funded. These are very poor people, living in the mountains, often small coffee growers, but most definitely subsistence farmers. They send their children to school when they can. They know the importance of at least some education.
What I find amazing is that some of those kids do get to university. The Bacaanda Foundation has begun a dialogue with local and national rural school organizations, with community leaders included, searching for ways to improve, and serve rural schools and their students. Students are being put together with available resources, from a myriad of agencies, to get them out of communities and be successful in universities. I have met several students who have come through these rural schools, ambitious to improve lives for themselves and their families. But this is much more than “it takes a village” to raise a child, these villages need support
Britt and Ray invite everyone to stop by the Bacaanda Foundation in Tangolunda. Cruise the workshop, check out the amazing Noah’s Ark; their artists are continually adding new pieces to the collection of unique, handmade gourd animals. And also check out the masks, and many other things, made from local, natural materials, sold to help support the Bacaanda Foundation. The foundation has been generously supported by a few local businesses, including Celeste Resort and Spa, but Britt would be even happier to connect you or your organization, with one of 25+ schools that need help. She would very much like to take you up to one of the schools to have a look, maybe teach a phrase in English, and see if you can make a difference in a child’s life. Right now there are four schools that need immediate attention, and one school (Santiago Xanica’s) needs to be rebuilt, being lost in the storm. If you can help, please contact Larry Woelfel, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Two more people I would like to mention are Wilfredo Justiniano and Randy Clearwater, who have a community food bank that serves community members, here in the outlying mountain communities surrounding Huatulco, find themselves in need of food. The Food Bank immediately went into action after tropical storm Manuel, collecting and delivering food to communities into which they had to walk as the roads were washed away. “ Bring the donkey” was heard aplenty when food and supplies were brought up to the communities, and Randy has good stories about driving up there and waiting for the water to go down so they could deliver food. The Community Food Bank does collect food, primarily, which includes: rice, sugar, corn oil, sardines in tomato sauce, canned jalapeño peppers, pasta for soup, powdered milk and black beans, but will certainly accept donations. They can feed a family for less than $15 dollars a week. Donations can be dropped off at Ocean Park, across from the park in Santa Cruz, or the Remax Office in Chahue. You can contact Randy at email@example.com or cell # 958-585-6669 and check with him on their most important needs at the moment.
There are many other community members and visitors that contribute hugely to the well being of Huatulco and its surrounding area. Visitors and locals alike, are amazing in their support of the various organizations and people who make a difference. When events like tropical storm Manuel occur, we turn to them to insure that others are helped as soon as possible. Britt, Ray, Randy, and Justiniano are just a small part of a number of people and organizations that contribute to the well being of our community. We need to be reminded that they need our support to continue their work.