Oaxaca, Mexico is a state in southern Mexico that is culturally rich but has significant pockets of abject poverty. When you see beautiful embroidery from “Mexico” there is a good possibility that it was made in Oaxaca. However, in Oaxaca, there are also many different “indigenous” tribes of people who do not speak Spanish, and do not think of themselves as Mexican, but rather identify with their tribe.
In September 2017, a large earthquake hit the coast of Oaxaca, with Juchitan as the epicenter, creating piles of rubble that are still in the process of being taken away and structures rebuilt. In the small town of San Mateo del Mar, most of the inhabitants are Juave, speak Juave, and struggle to maintain their identity while recognizing that they have significant problems. When the earthquake hit, those houses and buildings that had septic systems, ruptured, putting sewage waste into the groundwater. In San Mateo del Mar, they get their water from a well that you dip a bucket into, and pull it up. The water is contaminated.
The local church, where services are in Juave, and which provides a critical community center for those who are Juave, had significant damage. The floor collapsed around the center pole, sinking about 15 inches down. The platform cracked, enough that you can stick your foot under it. The walls have cracks big enough to stick your hand through up to your palm. The ceiling is cracked. Last year, through Adventures in Life Ministry and Cedar Mill Christ United Methodist Church, we took a group of 12 people down. We paid for materials to make concrete, and the locals made 2500 bricks using 4 molds. We worked on digging holes to put the pillers in to support new walls for a new church, and worked on building the walls. We also scraped out used paint buckets to attach water filters to, so that the local schools and people would be able to have clean water.
This year, we continued on with the building. The 2019 team worked with local welders to assemble trusses and rafters to start a roof. We didn’t have enough money to pay to put roofing material on the roof so that people could start using the new building, but we did have enough money and volunteer labor to make concrete by hand, and carrying it by wheelbarrows to make most of a new floor.
My husband and I also went to Texas in May for a 2-day class to teach us how to give eye exams, and how to make prescription glasses. Adventures in Life is able to buy frames that are all identical, and then buy a variety of lens that fit into those frames, so that for about $7, we can give people prescription glasses which are made specifically for each eye. In addition, Adventures in Life has an inventory of reading glasses, ranging from +0.25 to +6.00, that we can give to people, based on their eye exams. We did 31 eye exams, with two people speaking English (the pastor of a nearby church and a staff member), 4 exams with people who spoke Spanish, so we required only one translator, and the rest of the exams were done in Juve, where we needed to have two translators.
My favorite story is there is a young girl, age 6. She is just learning to read. She loved seeing me because she quickly learned I had video games on my phone and iPad that she could play (no translation needed there!). My husband gave her some paper and a pen to draw with, and I noticed that she was drawing with her face closer to the paper than I thought was “normal.” I gave her an eye exam, and sure enough, she needed a prescription set of glasses to help her see especially when the light was not adequate. In an area where girls may go to school through 4th grade, and boys may go to school through 6th grade, this young girl has a better chance of succeeding and staying in school, maybe, just maybe getting enough education to be able to break out of the cycle of poverty.
We are not going to stop there, however. We have to raise $2,500 in order to raise the roof before September 1 when the winds startup and the roof cannot be put on! I think it's possible.