I moved to Ajijic August 2018. Within a few months I was actively volunteering for a group called Poco a Poco (pocoapocosanpedro.com).
Their mission is to support the indigenous village of San Pedro Itzicán by providing educational opportunities for youth, and programs that teach skills for economic advancement. When I first went to the village I was shocked at the level of profound poverty. I had spent much time in India working in villages there and the parallels between the two places were obvious. The homes I visited in San Pedro were literally dirt floor poor, crowded, sometimes no toilet, usually no shower, wood burning stoves for cooking.
And I kept hearing about the high level of child malnutrition. Some kids eat one meal a day. The diet is highly dependent on chayote. Malnutrition contributes to the deadly kidney disease that is so prevalent (some say the highest in the world) in the area.
So I decided I wanted to put my energy into a food assistance program. We called it FoodShare. We started with a monthly despensa program for 40 of the poorest families. Women in these families earned the despensa by working on community improvement projects. Then we started an after school meal program and finally a weekly despensa to kidney patients and their families to help kidney patients eat the foods that are on their restricted diets.
All the while I fell in love with the people, their easy smiles, all the hugs and kisses upon arrival and leaving (what I would give for even one of those hugs now!), their ingenuity in the face of what lesser folks like me would find overwhelming, their stoic humility in the face of death after death of young people from the awful kidney disease.
Then Covid-19 hit. I knew a shut-down would be bad. People there survive day to day, using the pesos they earn one day to buy food the next. But still I was not prepared for the huge crisis that is happening. People don’t have food. Nada!
FoodShare is now collaborating with a group called FoodBank Lakeside (foodbanklakeside.org) to bring as much food to San Pedro Itzicán (and surrounding small villages) as we can but we need help. Desperately! We are now trying to give over 2,000 families something to eat. What we are giving is way below what they actually need: a kilo of rice, a kilo of beans, and a kilo of soya crunch twice a week.
Patricia Moran,FoodShare director
The Tepehua Community Center in Chapala needs to find a wholesale outlet in Guadalajara that will sell us large quantities of beans, rice, sugar – anything with a shelf life. Although we are not stricken yet with the virus, we are with hunger.
No one in the village has a job to go to. With the center closed, locals do not even have one hot meal a week, and women are coming to the center begging us for food. We are going to have to open a food bank.
If we buy wholesale we can re-package and it will save us money. We will also be putting out a call for donated food – either drop off or pick-up.
Going hungry is not a new thing to residents of the barrios. Obesity is caused from what they eat, not how much they eat. At the moment they are eating tortillas stuffed with anything they can find. But it’s all mainly starch – something to fill the stomach.
If they don’t get enough to eat they will not be able to fight what could be ahead.
Moonyeen King, for the Tepehua Centro Comunitario