House of Good Vibrations!

Today we handed over the keys to the “House of Good Vibrations,” as I now call it, thanks to the love and generosity of over 80 individuals, couples and families who built and furnished the small blue “Home for Juan Manuel!”

18 people attended an appreciation ceremony this morning, during which the new owners, Don Rodolfo and Juan Manuel, expressed their thanks to the VidaMaz community. Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo both were completely overwhelmed with your generosity. They both cried several different times and were at a complete loss for words. You truly have changed their lives and filled them with hope! They plan to move in tomorrow. Many people arrived today bearing food and gifts to help the men settle into their new home.

One of the attendees recorded the “giving of the keys” ceremony on her cell phone. Sadly the wind was rather gusty at times, but I believe  you can hear most of it. The full video is below:

We first announced this project to build a small house on November 25, 2020. Initially it was to be a 3 x 4 meter home with an outdoor bathroom and kitchen. Since Juan Manuel is on crutches (he has only one leg) and blind, we felt the home needed indoor plumbing, and you agreed. We ended up building a home that is 4 x 6 meters, so still very small, but very livable and much better than anything they would have dreamed possible. You even helped us install hot water! You all donated kitchen sink, cupboards, refrigerator, microwave, utensils, bathroom sink, toilet, shower, mirror, a shelf, a trundle bed, two tables, four chairs, a ceiling fan, boiler, a tinaco, concrete, gravel, doors, windows, septic tank… you truly rocked this! You gave monetary donations of 20 to 32,000 pesos. Thank you!

Every step of the way, if we had difficulties, you came through to help. We had been searching for weeks for a trundle bed. Two men will live here, but there is not enough room in the house for two single beds and a user of crutches to move around. Last week we kindly received the donation of the donor’s grandson’s beloved, solid wood trundle bed with two mattresses AND handmade quilts! Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo were over the moon when they saw it. Zata installed the front walkway this week, but, of course, most of Mazatlán has been without water this week. How to make concrete for the stairs? No worries; we figured it out.

In the end, we came in exactly with the money needed. Greg and I personally paid for a bonus to thank Zata, our albañil; without his honesty and dedication I can only imagine how difficult this project might have been.

Total Spent: 130,795 pesos or US$6507

Construction: 94,886
Refrigerator: 1225
Boiler, install and protection: 7784
Walkway and yard work: 14,300
Electrical from street: 12,600

The amount above is significantly higher than our original estimate for this project, but that estimate was for a basic structure only: no windows, doors, plumbing, electrical nor interior furnishings. Even with the ease with which it functioned—your generous donations, no theft, an honest and dependable builder—it was way more work than any of us imagined it would be. Feeling the joy and happiness of these two men today, however, made it more than worthwile. I trust you are happy to have participated.

The full story of the building of this house is right here. You can read it from the beginning if you are interested:

  1. Nov 25: My introduction of Juan Manuel and his father, plus asking you to help with the project
  2. Dec 1: An initial budget plus 22 donations
  3. Dec 8: Our first hiccups: re-examining the initial plans and having to find a new builder
  4. Dec 13: Architectural plans and a wonderful new builder
  5. Dec 16: Ground breaking!
  6. Dec 21: Foundation and plumbing during the second week of construction
  7. Dec 24: A Christmas Message from Juan Manuel plus thank you’s to the new neighbors
  8. Jan 2: Don Rodolfo’s first glimpse of his new home
  9. Jan 10: The roof is up!
  10. Jan 18: 87,000 pesos collected, but trouble paying our builder
  11. Jan 26: Exterior is plastered
  12. Feb 1: Interior plaster, delays on the windows and doors prevent us proceeding
  13. Feb 18: House is painted; videos of interior, exterior and the view from the roof
  14. Feb 25: Kitchen is in!
  15. Mar 8: Refrigerator, boiler and an invitation to donors

Bless you all! I trust your heart is bursting with joy! Pretty much everyone who attended the ceremony this morning remarked at how moved they felt, how honored they were to be able to make a difference in someone’s lives, and how wonderful it is to be in the company of people committed to making this world a bit sweeter.

The Kitchen is In!

You all are absolutely the BEST! Thank you for your generosity in making it possible for us to build a Home for Juan Manuel!

In our last post to you we showed you the newly painted outside of the house with its doors and windows in place, including several videos. Today I am happy to report that we have a working kitchen installed, using donated wooden cabinet doors and a steel sink and building a base around them for kitchen storage and a counter to cook on. Woot woot! We also have water and electricity functioning in the house! Zata has built a very basic back patio using extra block and gravel, where a hose bib and donated washboard will be installed so Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo can wash their clothes and the water will run off or soak in rather than make mud. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

A good friend of mine has offered to donate a brand new refrigerator. Fingers crossed! So, all we seem to be missing are:

  •  A small boiler for hot water—might you know someone who has one???
  • And two single beds (a trundle bed would be ideal) or at least single mattresses, as anything larger will not fit in this very small home.

Please help if you can. Ways to donate to support this project are listed at the bottom of the very first post in the series.

Once the above projects are finished, we still need to paint the interior. Some work remains on the septic tank as well.

My hope is that next time I write to you it will be to invite you to the masked and socially distanced celebration at which we hand over the keys to the home’s new owners! Bless you all!!!

COVID Update Mazatlán 2

0a8e9588-fdf1-4599-aa96-304b31832dadI believe it’s time for an update on COVID-19 here in Mazatlán. I have been working so hard to help out and these posts take time, but I realize getting information to you is overdue. Our economies need to reopen; our people need to work to support their families. My hope is we can do so sanely, smartly, wisely, effectively.

Throughout this crisis, official figures and those reported on the ground by medical professionals have differed significantly. Doctors at our three public hospitals tell me they estimate 1000 people in Mazatlán are currently infected with COVID-19, and of that number 800 are asymptomatic. We need to take care, please; even if you are not sick, please shelter at home if you can, wear a mask when you are out and maintain a safe distance from others.

From the perspective of our public hospitals and their medical staff (ISSSTE, IMSS and the new General Hospital), we are in a horrendous crisis. The federal government has us at MAXIMUM RISK right now. While fortunately in Mazatlán we have had enough beds and equipment, the new General Hospital, for example, tells me they are running with only 30% of their normal medical staff! And during a crisis, when you’d think it would be all hands-on deck! Such under-staffing is due to some staff being infected, but more to people quitting, refusing to come to work, or taking leave and citing pregnancy or underlying conditions. There is too much work, the stress levels are through the roof, medical workers are scared, and they are dropping out in droves. The reason so many medical professionals refuse to work is because they do not have the personal protective equipment (PPEs) they need to stay safe and healthy. Their work also requires them to live separately from their families during this pandemic, if they are able, or to risk infecting loved ones if they are not careful.

The new General Hospital is running with only 30% of their normal medical staff.

Yes, I agree with many of you: the federal, state and municipal governments should be providing that gear to public hospitals. I suppose they are doing their best; it’s not my role to comment. The bottom line is that our medical staff do not have the protective gear they need. I ask them to take photos of the staff with the gear we provide them, as proof to all of you that your money goes directly to helping them. In nearly every photo taken there is at least one person without appropriate gear, risking his/her life for our welfare. It is heartbreaking.

So many of you have been doing amazing and wonderful work during this time to help out our local community. Local businesses are donating protective equipment, food and money. Many individuals have donated to Mazatlán Comparte, a volunteer position I’ve held nearly full-time for the past six weeks—100% of those donations go to buy either food for the Food Bank or medical supplies for our local public hospitals. Many of you are making masks, face shields or desk shields and donating them to those who need them, which is terrific. Others are helping out at shelters or feeding the needy. Whatever you are doing, bless you, bless you, bless you. And if you can do more, please do. Now is the time. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

This crisis has brought out the best and the worst in people. For each of you who is feeding the needy, we see a grandmother kicked out of her home because her family doesn’t want to nurse her or become infected, or a single woman forced to leave her own home in a wealthy community because, instead of offering to bring their neighbor food and medical supplies, her neighbors “want to be able to walk their dogs freely without fear of contagion.” Today the first baby with COVID is in IMSS Mazatlán, but she is fortunately doing well.

How much PPE (Personal Protective Equipment for medical professionals) is needed?
A few generous people who have donated money to Mazatlán Comparte ask me, “surely you have enough equipment now?” Let me try to explain the insatiable appetite of Personal Protective Equipment. EACH medical professional on a DAILY BASIS needs:

  • 1 KN95 mask
  • 10 pairs of nitrile gloves
  • 10 pairs of latex gloves
  • 1 surgical gown
  • 1 pair of boot covers
  • 1 coverall (now we are buying reusable ones which can last up to 5 days)

Obviously, that’s quite a bit of needed gear. In one week, a medical professional will need six KN95 masks, 60 pairs of gloves, six surgical gowns and one coverall.

But the real problem comes in the quantity of people at each hospital who interact with COVID patients and thus need PPEs. At our IMSS General Hospital Zone 3, for example, on a daily basis 199 medical staff interact with COVID patients and need PPEs! That number includes 43 doctors, 97 nurses, 10 assistants, 11 social workers, 15 janitors, 12 stretcher-bearers and 11 triage doctors. That means that just ONE of our THREE main public hospitals here in town on a DAILY basis requires:

  • 200 KN95 masks
  • 2000 pairs of nitrile gloves
  • 2000 pairs of latex gloves
  • 200 surgical gowns
  • 200 pairs of boot covers
  • 200 coveralls

The new General Hospital tells me they need PPEs daily for 110 professionals who attend COVID patients. ISSSTE hospital needs PPEs for 190 professionals daily. That’s a total of 500 medical professionals who DAILY need PPEs to treat current COVID patients here in Mazatlán; the quantities are untenable.

Every day in Mazatlán’s public hospitals, 500 medical professionals need PPEs to treat COVID patients.

To put this all into perspective, with your very generous help, in April and May Mazatlán  Comparte supported local medical staff with donations of:

  • 820 KN95 masks
  • 190 coveralls
  • 37 pairs of boot covers
  • 36 boxes of 250 nitrile gloves (4500 pairs)

Today we will purchase 500 additional KN95 masks at the miraculous price right now of 104 pesos each. These donations are wonderful! There is no doubt they have saved lives. And yet, from a larger perspective, they are a sad drop in the bucket. The longer this pandemic continues, the more PPE is needed; it’s insatiable. That’s why we need to keep the curve from spiking by reopening wisely and doing what each of us can to prevent the spread of the virus.

Difficulties/Challenges with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)
Last time I shared with you how challenging it has been to help. Prices of many PPEs have skyrocketed, due both to demand and to greed/price-gouging (surgical gowns normally cost 30 pesos and now are up to 160 pesos each with IVA). Many of the PPEs for sale are counterfeit and won’t work properly, so we require vigilance at every step of the purchase process and verification of every shipment upon receipt by medical professionals. Finally, the PPEs can be very difficult to find, though thankfully over the past weeks that has eased a bit. We now have a stable of trusted providers who are dedicated to selling us verified protective equipment at fair prices; let’s hope that continues. The problem is that prices of some needed items can skyrocket, or become unavailable, so it’s always a challenge. And the needs vary, too, as material is received from federal, state and municipal authorities. At Mazatlán Comparte we give the PPEs that the hospitals most need at the moment to the hospitals that are most in need. During a week ISSSTE might receive a shipment of coveralls and not need them for a couple of weeks, while IMSS might be in desperate need of masks that we can provide.

The second challenge has been in getting the PPEs to those in need. Unbelievably, especially in the beginning, there were medical professionals who resold some of the donations received (none of Mazatlán Comparte’s, thanks to careful teamwork), or handed them out to their friends at work rather than just to those working with COVID patients. At Mazatlán Comparte, we have team members from the IMSS, ISSSTE and new General Hospitals who are in charge of COVID professionals and who ensure the PPEs we provide are used for exactly the purpose intended.

Protect a Medical Professional for One Week: 2500 pesos. That amount will purchase everything that person needs for a week of work: hooded, reusable coverall, KN95 masks, nitrile and latex gloves, surgical gowns and boot covers.

How Can You Help?

  1. Please wear a mask when you are out and about, as the government recommends. This protects you and those around you. Please wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer.
  2. Please do not use medical grade equipment for non-medical uses! Using medical-grade overalls and KN95 face masks to spray bleach on the malecón or to sanitize cars is overkill and deprives our medical personnel of vital material. Neither is required for day-to-day use by normal people like you and me. If you have medical-grade material, please consider donating it to a hospital.
  3. Maintain social distance as the government recommends. Stay vigilant that the bank you go to, the restaurant you’re visiting, are following sanitary protocols and, if not, get out of there.
  4. Reach out to neighbors who are alone; offer to bring them what they might need.
  5. Stay calm and centered; don’t give in to fear. This is a virus; an infection is very painful, but what we are doing is trying to prevent the curve from spiking. We want to reopen our economies, resume our lives, but let’s do so smartly.
  6. Donate: Mazatlán Comparte has systems in place to ensure that the PPEs we buy are functional. We also get better prices, due to buying in quantity and coordinating amongst multiple hospitals and cities. KN95 masks, for example, have varied in price to us from between 121 and 71 pesos per mask, while they tend to be much costlier on the open market. We buy reusable medical-grade hooded coveralls for 350 pesos each; again, much higher on the open market.

Protect a Medical Professional Campaign
Mazatlán Comparte has a new campaign: Protect a Medical Professional. There are several options. The amounts below will purchase everything that person needs for a week of work: hooded, reusable coverall, KN95 masks, nitrile and latex gloves, surgical gowns and boot covers. Remember that just in Mazatlán’s public hospitals, we need PPEs for 460 medical professionals every week!

  • For one month: 10,000 pesos
  • For one week: 2500 pesos

Or, you can help by donating smaller amounts. A week of the following for one medical professional:

  • Surgical gowns: 1120 pesos
  • KN95 masks: 700 pesos
  • Reusable hooded coverall: 350 pesos

Or, one surgical gown and a pair of boot covers (for one professional for one day): 200 pesos

To donate for medical gear: Donate to Hospice Mazatlán, I.A.P. with the comment “Mazatlán Comparte” to distinguish that your donation goes to combat COVID-19. http://www.hospicemazatlan.org/donativos/

To donate food: Donate to Banco De Alimentos Mazatlán Iap with the comment “Mazatlán Comparte” to indicate that your donation go to COVID-19 relief. https://www.paypal.me/BAMXMAZATLAN

Other Ideas
Mazatlán Comparte is also thinking to do a series of online auctions. That could be fun for everyone involved. Might you have a skill that you could share? Say, cooking a gourmet dinner for four people, and we will deliver it to the purchaser? Or maybe your company could donate something it provides? Cases of wine, kilograms of coffee, boxes of frozen shrimp and scallops? If you do, please let me know.

Bless you all! I know many retired folks are on fixed incomes and find it difficult to help. Many of you help friends and family. Whatever you do, thank you! I pray you stay healthy and well, and that as a community we become stronger together!

Help the Homeless

Flyer_AmigosSanJosemaría_2020_PRINT_Page_1There are so many people in Mazatlán reaching out in awesome ways to help their neighbors. One of them is Amparo López, of the Albergue San Josémaría. The shelter feeds hundreds every day and provides temporary housing for to up to 15 people. They have three locations: the cafeteria, a house at Melchor Ocampo 523 downtown, and a home for the elderly and mentally ill.

Amparo called me today asking for help. The house on Melchor Ocampo is at over-capacity with 16 people residing there right now, and two more people arrived today asking for a place to stay. She desperately needs another home to house people in during this crisis, as she doesn’t want to force people onto the streets. If you have a home available, please won’t you reach out? Her phone number is 669-123-3539. The house can be completely empty; she has cots, sheets and pillows. It can be located anywhere in Mazatlán.

Amparo is also desperately requesting used men’s clothing. Any clothing will help, but she is especially needing men’s. And, of course, your donation of tortillas, eggs, any sort of food or money, will help, too. Flyer_AmigosSanJosemaría_2020_PRINT_Page_2I know many of my posts lately have been about helping out. I’m sorry about that. It is insane how many people are unemployed and hungry right now. It’s our time to help if we can. Thank you all and bless you!

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Helping During the Crisis

Collaborators

The great news today? With your help we were able to purchase 50 sets of medical grade hooded and booted coveralls, along with N95 certified medical grade face masks and nitrile gloves. This is one month’s worth of gear for two doctors or nurses, and they will go exclusively to medical staff attending COVID-19 patients in our local public hospitals! We obviously have a loooooong way to go, but it felt soooo good to purchase these today!

A group I belong to, Mazatlán Comparte, is comprised of service organizations, associations and private businesses here in Mazatlán looking to help those in need get food on their tables and looking to get effective personal protective equipment into the hands of medical staff who treat COVID-19 patients. It is an amazing team of talented volunteers working llloooooonggg hours to accomplish these goals. We are doing our absolute best to make sure that the personal protective equipment we purchase is certified and authentic; that it serves its purpose. We are scouring for the best prices. I myself have spent full-time this past week since we organized making connections, getting bids and having medical people test samples, between running our social media.

Several times a day since I joined the Mazatlán Comparte team, I get a new video from one of our local public hospitals that brings tears to my eyes. These doctors and nurses are working without adequate personal protective equipment. They are using masking tape to close their gowns. Today I received video of a COVID-19 patient being transported through the hospital and the patient didn’t even have a face mask to prevent contagion! They ask us not to publish the videos, but I glimpse a bit of what they are going through and it pains me deeply.

As I’ve quickly learned, it is really difficult to help.

  • I’ve worked with suppliers for days, only to find out they are lying about the quality of their product once I get the sample.
  • Likewise, I’ve worked with suppliers who suddenly increase their price, or sell off to a higher bidder.
  • There is just way too much medical equipment on the market that is pirated and ineffective and knowing how to distinguish what is what is a steep educational curve.
  • There is too much equipment being sold at inflated prices, enabling vendors to profit off the pandemic. Sadly, even quite a few of our local vendors. We have tried our best to keep business here in our community, to keep the money at home. But people have to have the spirit of giving, not just profiting.
  • Worse, there are truly wonderful people sewing fabric masks and making face covers, yet many of them when donated aren’t making it into the hands of the personnel who really need them.
  • Some of the donated items even get sold.

What can you do? First of all, if you are out and about for essential errands, PLEASE wear only masks made for the average person, not medical-grade masks. At Mazatlán Comparte (Mazatlán Shares) we have been searching high and low to get certified, functionally appropriate personal protective equipment for the medical staff of our local public hospitals. The sad thing is that there is so little of it available. Now is NOT the time for average citizens to be using medical gear! Let’s save that for those working with COVID-19 patients.

Second, quite a few of you have contacted me to tell me you are making fabric masks or face shields you would like to donate. That is awesome!!! THANK YOU! Mazatlán Comparte is working closely with doctors and nursing staff at our local public hospitals: General Hospital, IMSS and ISSSTE. We will make sure your donation goes to those who most need what you have donated, depending on their patient load and current hospital supplies of equipment.

mazatlan comparte inglMost importantly, you can DONATE MONEY. Yes, I know most of us hate to part with our hard-earned money. But if not now, during this crisis, when? We will make sure your donation goes to buy NEEDED and FUNCTIONAL equipment for those who ACTUALLY TREAT COVID-19 patients in our public hospitals. Instructions for donating are below. If you want your money to buy medical supplies, donate to Hospice (information on the left). Be sure to indicate clearly on your donation that it is for “Mazatlán Comparte,” so they can distinguish the purpose of your gift, or send us a copy of the receipt. You can pay via PayPal, too; just scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Donate” button, adding in your comment during the process. If you want your money to go to buy food, please donate to the Food Bank (information on the right). They can buy much more food for the money you donate than you as a citizen are able to buy retail.

Bless you all! Thank you for all the help you give this community. Take care of yourself, each other, our neighbors. We will get through this. Share this post widely, if you would.