Friends who have read the Newsletter from the Sierra Madre for years are by now quite familiar with PROJIMO, the Program of Rehabilitation Organized by Disabled Youth in Western Mexico. Begun in 1981, PROJIMO grew out of Project Piaxtla, a villager-run health program started in 1964, based in the remote pueblo of Ajoya. Piaxtla and PROJIMO are best known internationally for the self-help manuals they gave birth to: Where There Is No Doctor (now in 83 languages), Helping Health Workers Learn, and Disabled Village Children. A new handbook that draws on the PROJIMO experience is Nothing About Us Without Us. Sample pages are included in this Newsletter.

Over the years, PROJIMO—like most cooperative grassroots programs—has had its ups and downs. Some of the biggest advances have resulted from crises that threatened to close down the program. One early crisis, discussed in Newsletter # 25, involved an internal power struggle where the more extensively disabled, unpaid participants organized a revolt against the less extensively disabled, paid program leaders. The outcome was greater equality and more democratic management. A later crisis, also discussed in Newsletter #25, emerged from the growing number of youths disabled by gun-shot wounds, coming from Mexico’s fast-growing sub-culture of violence.

There followed a chaotic period of drug use and violence in PROJIMO. Man families were afraid to bring their disabled children. In the long run, however, some of the angriest, most violent street youth turned into creative and caring rehabilitation workers. (See below.)

The current crisis at PROJIMO —described in this issue—is also largely a consequence of the violence and crime that has swept across Mexico since the mid-1990s. For a time it looked like PROJIMO might cease to exist, and the program’s future is still uncertain. But exciting possibilities are emerging as the team of disabled workers attempts to adapt to the new, more difficult reality.

The growing crime and violence in Mexico has caused big problems at PROJIMO. One time two disabled street youth, high on alcohol and drugs, attacked an elderly diabetic schoolteacher. (For the full story, see our Newsletter #25.)