News from Mexico
PROJIMO, the community-based program run for and by young disabled villagers in the mountains of Western Mexico, has passed through difficult times, but now appears to be making a new start. In the last several years, fewer chilren have been brought to this remote rural center. One of the reasons is that PROJIMO has given rise to a number of other community-based programs for disabled children, located in coastal cities and more easily accessible areas.
From children to young adults. If PROJIMO has fewer children, the number of young adults has increased. Over the past few years PROJIMO has helped meet the needs of over 300 spinal cord injured youths. Most have been disabled by bullet wounds, in the growing sub-culture of violence resulting from increasing poverty and unemployment that leads to drug trafficking, drug use, and crime. The PROJIMO team has done its best to provide these youth with both physical and psycho-social rehabilitation. There have been many disappointments and much frustration. However some of these desperate young people have found new directions and became capable and caring workers. PROJIMO is virtually the only program in Mexico that tends to their needs — or rather helps them tend to one another’s needs.
Community control. In order to make its services more accessible to families of disabled children from a wider area, the PROJIMO team considered moving the center to a village nearer the main highway. But the village of Ajoya protested. The villagers said they had been involved and supportive of the program from the start and were determined to keep it in their village. So the team has decided to stay, and with a new sense of community solidarity has renovated the Playground for All Children. The new merrygo-round provides constant entertainment for both disabled and nondisabled village children.
From rehabilitation to independent living. In the last few years PROJIMO has increasingly become a sort of independent living initiative for disabled young adults. Its focus has increasingly turned toward acquiring work and organizational skills for income generation. The team has improved the quality and rate of production of low cost wheelchairs, and recently UNICEF Mexico has been buying PROJIMO wheelchairs for other disability programs in Mexico. PROJIMO is also eager to upgrade its carpentry and toy-making shops, in order to produce and find markets for attractive and useful items that can be sold.
The quest for self-sufficiency has become more urgent because since the introduction of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) many progressive European funding agencies have stopped supporting Mexican initiatives, feeling that Mexico is now under the dominion of the United States.
Intensive Spanish Language Training Program for visiting Northerners. Spanish courses were initiated several years ago as a way of providing skills training and work for disabled persons, especially those with quadriplegia and other physically very limiting disabilities. Due to lack of a qualified teacher the program was interrupted. But now a group of capable disabled persons is eager to revive the venture and make it work.
In this Newsletter you will find an insert announcing the new Intensive Spanish Language Training Program. (Editor’s note: This insert is missing.) It caters to disabled activists and rehabilitation workers, but welcomes anyone interested in learning Spanish in a unique and informal situation. We should point out that the program is mainly for persons who already know a little Spanish and wish to improve it. The team especially welcomes students who, as they learn, will help the instructors upgrade their teaching skills. If you are interested in this Spanish program or know anyone who is, let us know.
A new cycle of courses for disabled rehabilitation workers and activists. An emerging informal network of community-run disability programs in Mexico and Central America is planning a 2-year series of short courses and workshops. Courses will be held in the center most qualified in the specific field. For example, PROJIMO will lead the wheelchair-making course and a workshop on grassroots management. Other courses will cover everything from brace making and physiotherapy to disability rights and sexuality. Since funding is becoming more difficult to obtain, participating programs are asked to cover the cost of their representatives. But some funding is needed for scholarships and other costs. Is anyone able to help? Any ideas?