ATZIN IN TLAMACAZAPA, MEXICO
The 6,000 Nahua villagers of Tlamacazapa in Mexico earn a meager living by weaving palm baskets. Few families farm the infertile land. Most people cook over an open fire, eating twice a day. Many children are malnourished and 40% are not in school. Three quarters of adult women are illiterate. Macho male attitudes, alcoholism and domestic violence seriously affect village life. Villagers laboriously fetch water from open wells, strapped to their heads or across their shoulders. Pumped water from a spring five kilometres away provides more water for distribution but that water is now sold – the poorest families cannot buy it. Laboratory studies reveal arsenic and lead in the water and soil, both natural but harmful metals. Further studies show toxic metals in the palm dyes and in the clay cooking pots. In malnourished people, these toxins interact synergistically, producing a silent crisis of slow poisoning.
Atzin Desarrollo Comunitario is a Mexican humanitarian civil organization with sister organizations in Canada and the United States. With no religious or political affiliations, Atzin programs focus on four integrated areas: Health and Healing; Income Generation for Women; Community Education and Literacy; and Environment, Water and Sanitation. Each program is based on principles of community development, aiming to address basic needs, build technical capacities; re-build self confidence and cultural identity; and support the renewal of self sufficiency and community viability.
More than 100 children study in Tihueliske (meaning “We Can”), a program taught by 22 local young women who use a small group, active learning approach. Women from 13 to 40 years learn to sign their names, write a letter, add up numbers and know their basic rights. Health promoters provide therapy, home visits and accompaniment to special needs children and adults. Children attend the Motlan Dental Program at no cost while adults receive subsidized dental care. Trained village midwives now offer a full range of safe motherhood services. Families with an ecological wood stove conserve their health, time and surrounding forests. Families are assisted to construct household dry toilets and rainwater harvest tanks. Members of Zoyatl preserve the ancient art of palm weaving and produce high quality baskets. Other young women sew school uniforms and stunning quilts.
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