Dear friends,

As you may have read, heard or seen in the news, the coast of Mexico has been devastated by a brutal hurricane. While the focus right now is on Acapulco, the villages where I lived and worked for 2 years, Zipolite and Mazunte, have also been destroyed. According to an email yesterday from Anna Johannson, the director of Pina Palmera, the center for disabled kids where I volunteered, there's nothing left of the center, but they do plan to rebuild. Anna is in Mexico City with her baby but the kids, staff and volunteers are sheltered at the hospital in Pochutla, 45 minutes away from Zipolite. Pochutla didn't have electricity on Friday, but their phone line worked so I was able to find out that, thankfully, everyone survived. Having spent two weeks at that hospital taking care of a peasant friend who contracted tetanus (and became the first person in the region to ever survive it!), I can say from firsthand experience that it is not a place for kids. Sanitary conditions are a luxury we enjoy in this country, not in one of the two most impoverished states in Mexico. And it's going to be even worse for a while now since the hurricane. The Mexican government will concentrate their efforts and aid on the big tourist resorts, Huatulco and Acapulco, according to President Zedillo in a recent news item. Mazunte, Zipolite and Pina Palmera will, as usual, be left behind. They need our help.

I'm not positive how we "gringos" can be the most helpful at this very moment, but I have a feeling that what they will need in the not-too-distant future more than anything is hands with which to rebuild. Many of the kids at Pina are confined to wheelchairs and need the attention of the staff. Pina does have a construction team of 3 great guys and Adalberto, my gardening partner, is very capable, even though he's a polio survivor. I'm not sure how many volunteers are there now. But to rebuild an infrastructure for 60 people to live and be rehabilitated and countless people with health problems to visit will take more than a few people, I'm sure.

Mazunte, is a very small village that the residents have turned into an incredible ecotourism destination since the sea turtle fishing ban (that's how they used to survive) went into effect in the early 90s. The villagers have put much time and effort into beautifying Mazunte, and now it's been wiped out by Hurricane Pauline. I don't even know if all my friends survived or not, but better to take action than wallow in the unknown. It's hard to get accurate information. Communication has been cut off. I believe they've built a strong enough community that they, too, will rebuild. We can only hope! And support their efforts. Their economy is very dependent on tourism, so the longer it takes to rebuild, the more difficult to eat. People there really do live right on the edge economically. And, as I mentioned, the Mexican government cannot be trusted to come through with aid in a timely manner.

Here's a seed: maybe those of us who are able to should organize ourselves into a caravan or organized trip of some sort to bring supplies and tools and help in whatever way we can. We should wait for the moment because right now they don't even have enough food or water for themselves. It would be very important for us to be self-sufficient so that we don't burden them with more mouths to feed. We could set up a work camp close by, I imagine. It will probably take at least a couple of weeks to get something organized.

I realize most people can't take time from work on such short notice, but this is a crisis and not many people know about Pina Palmera and Mazunte, so if you have vacation time or can make it, please consider coming. It would be true service. It would be great if we could bring solar panels and water filtration systems, etc..., but the emphasis should be cleaning up and helping rebuild - their way. Working side-by-side with the local Mexicans is a wonderful cultural exchange. They're great people. And at Pina, they have greatly appreciated the help when groups of gringos came and helped with me the garden projects there, including an alternative spring break group from the University of Michigan.

I encourage people that want to help but can't go there physically to send money. The U.S. non-profit that handles contributions for Pina (they give them 100% of the donations) is:

The Slade Child Foundation
L'Enfant Plaza
PO Box 44246
Washington, DC 20026

(put "to Pina Palmera" on the check)

Visit Pina Palmera's web page for more information:

Mazunte also has a web page that can be found if you search under "Mazunte." Ignore the image. The beach is gone.
PiŅa Palmera, Rehabilitation and Care for Children, with or without disabilities, in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Storm Reports...

We'll need financial support if we do a caravan or trip, but please hold off sending money for the moment until we get more details about what they actually need and if they really want the help. It won't be for the faint-hearted. If you can't make a donation or go there in person, consider hosting a slideshow/fundraiser. I have some terrific slides from my time there and would be happy to show them again. And please forward this message to your email lists. At any rate, please light a candle or say some prayers. Everyone's contribution matters.

Here's a summary of some of the ways you can help:

- find out more information from their web pages
- send a tax-deductible donation to the Slade Child Foundation in D.C.
- join the caravan or trip if it happens (bring good boots and a big heart)
- send money for a caravan to go and help rebuild
- host a slideshow/fundraiser for Pina Palmera
- attend a slideshow
- pass this letter on to your email lists
- light a candle
- say a prayer (or several!)

If you can help in any way, please let me know and I'll let you know what the plan becomes as it emerges. Thank you in advance for your support.

With hope,

Dear Friends,

Thank you to all of you who have responded to my email of October 11th "Urgent - please help the coast of Oaxaca!" Already several people have called or written to say they're prepared to go there and help and more have said they want to contribute from here. And many have forwarded these messages. Every effort helps! At the moment the people they need there are medical professionals and skilled carpenters.

I just received a phone call from Alejandro Marcelli with good news - all the people in Mazunte survived. Alejandro is with Ecosolar, Mexico's oldest and most effective ecology and social change organization. With offices in both Mexico City and Mazunte, Ecosolar has been the most instumental group in co-creating economic diversity programs with the residents of Mazunte who used to make their livings fishing sea turtles. Now the villagers have the ecotourism project, they make the strongest, most beautiful hammocks I've ever seen, they have (had) a demonstration permaculture garden and tree nursery, they make biodigestors to process human waste ecologically and many residents now are part of a small cooperative natural cosmetics factory that The Body Shop of England helped build in Mazunte. The factory was one of a few structures to withstand the hurricane, but 90% of the homes in Mazunte were destroyed and almost 100% of the trees are down. They have spent the past 5 years doing a major reforestation project in Mazunte. But they're not heartbroken! They're ready to start over and will undoubtedly plant all native trees if they can get the seeds. Amazing people. They've set up a bank account through friends in Los Angeles to make it easier for folks this side of the border to contribute to the rebuilding.

It is: Wells Fargo - Los Angeles Account number 6831-376744 with the name "Ecosolar."

Ecosolar will also be helping the people in the Sierra who have lost their entire villages. There are many.

Our dollars go very far in Mexico these days with the peso so devalued. Please consider splitting your donation between Ecosolar and Pina Palmera. Also, because it takes a while for Pina Palmera to receive funds when they are mailed to Slade Child, Anna, the director, and Balbino, the doctor are using their personal savings (which I guarantee aren't much) for phone calls, transportation and other expenses. Trust me, having lived there and worked with them for more than 2 years, I can say that these folks live very simply and they need our help. $25 US dollars would go a very long way toward the list of things they need. Here's the latest letter from Anna:

Dearest friends,
I have now received another phonecall from Balbino. He told me that they need following:

Food and water Medicines: (Balbino is working in the clinic in Zipolite)
Mebenzole suspension y tablets
Flagyl 125 mg susp. 250mg y 500 mg en comprimidos (pills?)
Naproxeno, Clarisit, Analgesicos, Escabisan, Gasas (gauze)
Cream against fungi (foot fungus, etc..); Fungoral crema o Micostatin crema
Guantes, Jeringas, (medical gloves and needles)
tripple antibiotic cream.
Schampo against lice, combs to take away lice
kotex, diapers (adults and children)
gasoline lamps, cooking utensiles, brooms, rastrillos (rakes), matches, candles, towels, sheets, blankets (lightweight -it's very hot there), clothes, under clothes (ropa interior), Needles and thread, Soap to wash people and to wash clothes, tooth brushes and toothpaste, shampo, clorox, mosquito nets and MONEY.

The stores in Pochutla are open and the bancautomats (automatic tellers) are working. The banks are closed. The road inbetween Pochutla and Zipolite is transitable now.

Balbino, Flavia and Anna need money (cash or in their personal accounts) in order to pay for transportation, food, thelephone calls, and to pay for all other expenses. This is urgent, money to the palmgrove (Pina Palmera) has not arrived yet or it will take time until the banks open and we can have access to whatever has arrived. Meanwhile the three of us are using our personal savings and we all have very little left!!
Balbino's account: Banco BANCOMER, # 908937-5, Pochutla, Oaxaca, Mexico. Anna's account: Banco INVERLAT, # 50781-4 ,plaza 094, succursal 001, Pochutla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Flavia's account: Banco BANAMEX, # 006470 5, succursal 0509, succursal of Matriz Mezzanine in Mexico City, Mexico.


I would add gardening supplies, especially seeds, to the list. They are always hard to come by down there and will be especially important now. Old musical instruments you can spare, too. If you have any of the above, please put it aside until we figure out how to get it down there. Let me know what you've got so I can determine how much space we'll need.

Thank you in advance for supporting these people. I strongly encourage everyone to visit someday when things are less chaotic. It is a truly special place with remarkable people.

With even more hope,


October 16, 1997

Dear Friends,

Thank you to everyone who has responded to my appeals for help for Pina Palmera and Mazunte! I recommend subscribing to Pina's email list ( put "subscribe" in the body) for the latest up-to-date news from the coast of Oaxaca. David Grant, a volunteer from the States, has written some particularly interesting first-hand accounts of the harrowing rescue of disabled kids with water swirling at his chest level. And he's 6'2"! Also, check out Pina's webpage: An update on progress here in California:

Come to the Mexican potluck party this Monday! We will show a video about Pina's community-based rehabilitation program, a slideshow about the ecology education program I did as a volunteer for a couple of years, and kick off the California chapter of the Friends of Pina Palmera! No promises, but we may have some handmade tortillas and salsa dance lessons after the slideshow. It's a fundraiser, so bring your checkbook! We're trying to raise at least $1000.00 Monday night. $570.00 will go to purchase a water filtration system that provides clean drinking water for a village of 1000 people and the rest for other things Pina needs. Lawrence Berkeley Labs is actually lending us their research model for the month of November until Pina's own filter comes out of the factory. We will have information about the system there that night or you can see their page on the web: This will be very helpful for Pina Palmera. Much thanks to Ashok Gadgil and Dave Greene at LBL and to Seth Zuckerman for the lead!


When: Monday, October 20th at 6:30pm Where: at Nicole Magnusen's house in North Oakland: 453 65th Street, near the intersection of Adeline and Telegraph. What to bring: your favorite Mexican dish and something to drink or fruit to make "agua de fruta." Whole Foods is only a few blocks away for those coming straight from work.

Hi all,
Just a clarification on my address for Monday, the main cross-streets are Telegraph and Alcatraz. My street, 65th street, parallels Alcatraz, one block north (toward the UC campus). You have to get to this block from Telegraph, because the street doesn't go through. Turn at the Jack-in-the-Box. Also, the house is a duplex of numbers 451 and 453, and it's easier to see 451 from the street, so look for that -- or for the Brazilian flag in the upstairs window and the flowers in the front yard! Hope to see you next week.
NicoleI> Please RSVP by email on Monday so we get a rough estimate of how many are coming. It promises to be a fun party! It would be great if a few people volunteer to stay and clean up so that Nicole can pack for her trip to Oaxaca on Wednesday. Please also bring the following items if you can spare them for the kids:

triple antibiotic cream
bed sheets, blankets, etc...
seeds for flowers and vegetables that grow in a very hot climate
slide film for 35mm camera MONEY (checks are best)
ideas for raising future funds - they lost everything
friends you think might donate to this wonderful cause

Best not to send clothes and other things at this point, space is limited and the less to try to get through customs, the better.

If you can't come to the party, please mail a check today to California Friends of Pina Palmera, 1442 A Walnut Street, #239, Berkeley, CA 94709. Nicole has volunteered to be the treasurer and will deliver the money to Anna Johannsen in Oaxaca, where she is with her children.

Several people have expressed an interest in going there to help out. This is great! But it is still not time. According to the emails coming from Pina, it's pretty rough still and lots of disease is around. They want specialists in taking care of disabled children, who are fluent in Spanish and carpenters or bricklayers. Best if they know the Pina scene. That doesn't leave many of us. But I'm planning to go down mid-week with the filter, but only stay around for a few of days as my health isn't quite up to par after having been there for 2 years. It seems that my leftover parasites have heard that we're going back to Mexico and are already having a little party! Or it could be stress... And I'm sure the government will be spraying DDT since there's so much standing water and malaria can be a problem there during the rainy season. I don't want to expose anyone else to that. I'll check out the situation and see if we can get a group to go down over the winter holidays and help. I will take more slides and some video footage to show when I return. I have to admit, I'm so excited to see the kids and everyone else! Again, thanks everyone who is interested - keep in touch!

Anyone with contacts in the media? David Grant will be in Los Angeles for four weeks starting Wednesday and it would be great to get him some interviews while he's here. He's been through the LA earthquake, a coup somewhere in Africa and says those were nothin' compared with ol' Hurricane Pauline. Hey, someone should write the movie! I've got lots of subplot ideas (all true!).

Special thanks goes to Mina Diaz in southern California for an amazing amount of time and effort to help out Pina. Keep it up, Mina!

OK, all for now. Looking forward to seeing you on Monday. We'll have slideshows in other parts of California, too, when I return. Keep those candles lit for the kids!

Con esperanza y muchas ganas,

Pam PS Please forward this one, too!

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