Update on PROJIMO
PROJIMO—which stands for “Program of Rehabilitation Organized by Disabled Youth in Western Mexico”—is now in its 25th year. Over the years the program has evolved and changed in many ways. Due to increasing crime and violence in the mountain villages, in the mid 1990s it moved its base from the remote mountain village of Ajoya to the more peaceful and more easily accessible village of Coyotitan, near the main highway an hour north of the coastal city of Mazatlan PROJIMO also split into 2 independent programs. The main PROJIMO “Community Based Rehabilitation Program” based in Coyotitan, and the smaller PROJIMO Work and Skills Training Program based in the village of Duranguito, some 20 minutes from Coyotitan. The main focus of the Duranguito program is making custom designed wheel chairs for disabled children.
What distinguishes PROJIMO from the vast majority of CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) programs around the world is that PROJIMO is run and staffed by disabled persons themselves. The two coordinators of PROJIMO, Mari Picos and Conchita Lara, are both paraplegic. The official “President” of the program is Rigo Delgado, who is quadriplegic. The head of the orthopedic appliance shop, Armando Nevaro, had polio and uses leg braces. And the new head of the prosthetic shop, Alberto, is a young amputee who first began learning how to make artificial limbs by helping make his own.
Indeed, nearly all the workers at PROJIMO first came for their own rehabilitation, and then decided to stay on, learn skills, and devote their lives to helping other disabled persons meet their needs.
Some of the disabled persons—or parents of disabled children—who have learned skills at PROJIMO and spent years there helping others, have gone on to start other programs in other areas. For example, two physically disabled young men who first came to PROJIMO for rehab in the mid 1980’s and then spent a year volunteering there, later started an urban CBR program in the state capital of Culiacan named “Mas Válidos” (which means More Valid, in contradistinction to “inválidos” or “minusválidos,” the common terms in Spanish, which mean invalid or less-valid.)
Likewise Gabriel Zepeda, a disabled wheelchair builder who helped start and coordinated the PROJIMO children’s wheelchair program in Duranguito, has helped get several other cooperative wheelchair shops started in other parts of Mexico and Guatemala. He is currently helping start a wheelchair-building shop in Tepic, Nayarit (the state south of Sinaloa, where PROJIMO is based)
Each one teach one. One of the understandings that PROJIMO tries to have with its workers is that before they move on to start new programs or other activities, they train another person to take their place.
Marcelo Acevedo, for example, was one of the founders of PROJIMO. Disabled by polio as a child, Marcelo over the years became a highly skilled maker of orthopedic appliances and prosthetic limbs. Last January (2006), after more than 20 years with PROJIMO, Marcelo moved to Culiacan, where he now works with Mas Válidos in the shop making assistive equipment. But before he left PROJIMO, Marcelo trained Alberto to make prosthetics. And Alberto, in turn, is now training another young apprentice who, like Alberto, is an amputee who first came to PROJIMO to get his own limb.
Collaboration from PROSTHETIKA. Help with PROJIMO’s limb-making program over the last couple of years has come from ProsthetiKa, a small non-profit organization in Santa Rosa, California, run by Jon Batzdorff, a highly skilled prosthetist. Jon first visited PROJIMO as volunteer under the auspices of the Barr Foundation 3 years ago, and since then has been making yearly visits to help PROJIMO’s limb-makers upgrade their skills. He also obtains donated prosthetic components to help the program be able to provide limbs to those in need at low cost or virtually free. Jon will also be working with the PROJIMO team in making a series of education videos to teach amputees how to use their new limbs, and stay healthy.
To learn more about PROSTHETIKA see: www.prosthetika.org.
Each One Teach One: The Evolution of PROJIMO’s Workers
PROJIMO’s Influence on the Concept and Practice of Community-Based Rehabilitation
PROJIMO is increasingly known around the world, among those who work in the field of disability, for a combination of reasons. One reason is the books—Disabled Village Children and Nothing About Us Without Us—that have grown out of the PROJIMO experience, which have been translated into many languages and are now perhaps the most widely used guidebooks on CBR.
Another reason is that PROJIMO has lots of visitors. Many are students or professionals in different areas of disability rights and rehabilitation. Some of these visitors then go on to volunteer or work in other community rehab programs in countries ranging from Latin America to Asia and Africa. We get a lot of positive feedback from these former volunteers, who tell us how they are adapting ideas and methods to the situation where they are now working.
Yet another way of sharing experiences and approaches comes from the networks that are forming in different countries. PROJIMO has been one of the cofounders of the Red de Discapacidad y Comunidad (Network of Disability and Community) in Mexico. The Red will be having a groundbreaking Encuentro (Interchange) on CBR in Mexico City in January, 2007. Likewise, at a regional conference in Honduras last year, PROJIMO’s input was important in the formation of the Central American Network of Community Based Rehabilitation Programs, which will have links with the Red de Discapacidad y Comunidad in Mexico.
Still another way that the empowering methodology of PROJIMO is shared with other programs is through the hands-on workshops that David Werner facilitates in countries ranging from Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia, Brazil, and Guatemala in the Americas, to India and the Philippines in Asia, to Iran in the Middle East, to Russia in Eastern Europe, to Kenya and Angola in Africa. This February David will be facilitating CBR workshops in the rural area near Capetown South Africa. Reports on David Werner’s CBR workshops in different countries can be found in the newsletters at www.healthwrights.org.
For several years David has also been teaching in an International CBR training program in Holland. (See www.enablement.nl)
Some of the PROJIMO staff have also shared their experiences in international conferences. For example Mari Picos participated in a conference of RESNA (The Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America) where she shared ideas about meeting needs at low cost using local resources and skills.
In all of these exchanges with different programs and in different lands, the message that PROJIMO tries most to communicate is that the leadership of disabled persons and family members in disability-related work is of fundamental importance. When everyone works together in the problem-solving process, the results are likely to be better, and the disabled persons are more likely to be more fully included and respected.
The Importance of Disabled Persons Helping Each Other
Atilano, who is paraplegic, treats the pressure sores on the back of Moises. a 13 year old with spina bifida. Atilano lies on a gurney to keep pressure off his own pressure sores, on his butt. Moises now lives at PROJIMO and attends the village school. His sores had long since healed, but formed again in the hospital, where he recently had the shunt in his brain replaced. Atilano, a farm worker from Oaxaca, was very depressed after his accident, but has found a new purpose in life helping others at PROJIMO.