High above Chapala Lake sits pueblo San Pedro Itzican, past Mezcala in Poncitlan. It has approximately 6,000 inhabitants, about 12 % of whom are illiterate. Homes range from modest to hovels with varying degrees of amenities. There is no clinic, no doctor, but it is seemingly full of happy people whose lot in life is enough for them. The view is spectacular. The sun drives most of the people and the dogs into the shade of the lazy afternoons. Still, one senses a restlessness there of the young who are dying prematurely from kidney disease. San Pedro is hard to get to. The road from Mezcala is so bad, there are no buses past Mezcala. There is no reason for local government to fix the roads as there are only people there. . . .
As the population grows and the amenities do not, the problems grow. And out of the problems emerge young leaders, aching for change. They know there are other things out there that can make life easier for people. They have tolerated lack of services for generations because that was the way, but not now. The young people have passion and idealism, and are angry over the lack of help from their elders and local government. Brigada Estatal de Proteccion Civil Bomberos J. Trinidad Lopez Rivas. A.C. created a volunteer Brigada several years ago but the youth under the direction of Anita Torres Guerrero took over. She could leave this village behind and become anything she wants to be. Because of her passion to help her whole community, she chooses to stay.
The Brigada has been together for about 8 years. The Tepehua Community Center has taken this group of young people under their wing, and with the help of the private sector will assist them to bring about change. Courting the local government of Poncitlan, they are working to get a building donated to create a Community Center, so the people can take charge of themselves, a place in which those who want change can meet and talk to the people, to have a clinic and to provide counseling. To deal with the ever-growing mortality rate of young people succumbing to kidney disease, Tepehua has donated a kidney urinalyses machine to try and catch problems early.
Some of the “Brigadas” are studying for nursing and paramedic careers. They are all learning to be ‘First Responders’, but they need donations for this and will put in any work to earn money to pay for their education. Should you need help at any function, they are available. Car park attendants or car washers, they can help in many ways. They are distinguishable by their red shirts and beige pants. The money you pay them will be put into their education.
When villages rise up and take on community development, each village’s needs are different. What works in Tepehua may not work in San Pedro, but after listening to the people they will know exactly what to do and they will find the right volunteers to do it. If they are fighting for what THEY want, it will work. If you ask them to fight for something you THINK they want, it will not.
If you are interested in helping this village help itself, to stop babies dying, to ensure young people live a life to be proud of, please contact the author. Believe in the courage of the young.
MOONYEEN PATRICIA KING
Column: Profiling Tepehua
Settled in Mexico 13 years ago. The intention was to retire into the arts as a writer, poet and painter...that didn’t happen. Beneath the smiles of the peoples of Mexico there was such a great need for change, especially for the women and children of the barrios, Moonyeen has dedicated these years to change the face of this little corner of the world. The work done by the volunteers of the Tepehua Community Center is teaching that change is possible anywhere. Moonyeen was portrayed as “Woman of the Year,” also two Paul Harris Rotary awards for the work done at Tepehua. “Life in Mexico is very fulfilling. The Mexican people give so much more to us immigrants than we can possible return.