First House Update of the New Year

Left to right: yours truly, Zata, Rodolfo, Yolanda, Jorge and Greg

I trust you all had wonderful holidays! I did not update you on progress on a Home for Juan Manuel last week, so I am anxious to do so today.

Today Don Rodolfo, Juan Manuel’s father, joined us when we went out to review the progress. He was so incredibly moved. I post video of him below, thanking each of you for your help. What I failed to get on video was the spontaneous dance he did, joyously singing, “I’m stepping on my own land!” He has had a lifelong dream of owning rather than renting a home that, thanks to so many of you, is about to come true.

We have received a little over 81,000 pesos from you, and to date have paid out about half of that for supplies and the albañil labor. Zata worked all through Christmas and New Year’s, taking off just the two main holidays. He and his helper have finished putting up the block walls and are ready for the roof! Wood has been delivered for scaffolding, and they have sand and concrete to get started pouring concrete. The block walls have spaces for three windows and two doors. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

You can see in the photos that this week progress was not of the quality level that it has been up to this point. Zata had explanations and reasons for every error, and assured us there wouldn’t be any more. Jorge admonished him that if the quality didn’t return next week his payment would suffer, so fingers crossed.

This past week we received a kind and generous donation of a microwave oven, which as soon as it’s delivered from the store we will get over to Juan Manuel and his father. The oven they have been using had an actual hole in it. I’ll feel much better when they stop using it.

Don Rodolfo’s facial paralysis and left hand numbness continue after his minor stroke, but he has now seen both a neurologist and a cardiologist. Juan Manuel has been suffering with a boil on his back that is very bothersome and prevents him from sleeping well. Yolanda was fortunately able to get them both some of the medicines they need through her social services connections.

I do hope that 2021 will bring our world more health and physical connection. Bless you for your generosity of spirit and pocketbook! I’d welcome you sharing the original article on this project with your friends and family to help us get more donations of money or materials.

Merry Christmas/House for Juan Manuel

May the joy and hope of this holiday season fill each of you and help keep you healthy and happy throughout the year!

Today on Christmas Eve Day we went out to Colonia San Antonio. Having handed out chickens and food every Christmas Eve for nearly 25 years, it just didn’t feel like the holidays without it. We gave out some toys to the kids, some clothing and household items to the adults, and chatted with some of the friends we’ve made there over the years, including Don José and Maestra Zulema. We got to know Juan Manuel’s new neighbor, Lucero, who has kindly agreed to store our supplies in her fenced yard that’s guarded by watch dogs during our construction process. 

This week we made great progress: the concrete floor was poured, and the workers began to build the cinder block walls. It is wonderful to be able to walk inside the house and feel the size of the rooms and picture how it will be! Very exciting stuff thanks to all of you!!!

After reviewing this week’s progress and paying Zata and his helper, we went over to wish Don Rodolfo and Juan Manuel a Merry Christmas. The horrible news this week was that Don Rodolfo had a mild stroke. He is a bit paralyzed on the left side of his mouth and in his left arm/hand and leg. He was lucky, for sure. He went to a neurologist for assessment and has medicines, and we are hoping to get him to a cardiologist right after Christmas. Below is their beautiful greeting of well wishes and appreciation to each of you:

Fourth House Update

We have broken ground on the home for Juan Manuel, folks! Zata, the construction worker, began work with his assistant on Monday. On Tuesday Don Rodolfo visited the site and Zata reported that tears of joy welled in his eyes! You all are giving the most marvelous Christmas present to Juan Manuel and his father! Bless you now and forever! Below are photos of the first three days of work:

Let us hope that things can continue to go well. Zata and his helper have found the dirt to be very hard to dig, thanks to the lack of rain we’ve had this year. I pray they both stay healthy and continue with the excitement for the project that they are currently showing.

In my last post I shared with you Zata’s bid for labor. We now also have two different bids for materials. We are still in negotiations with the providers. One has everything and is our best choice, and they’ve promised to discount their bid for us. The second was a bit cheaper, but that is because they don’t have all the materials we need. Thus, I have created an updated budget, below. I am trusting the materials budget will go down once we hear back from the supplier.

 

To date we have collected nearly 70,000 pesos. As with any construction project, I am sure we will have some overruns, so it will be very good if we can have a bit of cushion money-wise. And, as I mentioned, theft of supplies and equipment is a major potential problem of which Zata is very aware.

I trust you are as happy as I am with this news. I know Juan Manuel and Rodolfo are glowing with joy. Please keep getting the word out to your friends and neighbors. You can share with them the original post with information on how to donate, or any of my progress updates. Together we can do this! And, hopefully, if all goes well, we will have workable plans and a system in place to build further simple yet safe homes for those in most dire need in our beloved Mazatlán. 

 

Third Update on the House

Bless you all for your big hearts and your willingness to help those in need! We now have 34 donors and 63,645 pesos to build a house (cinder block room) for Juan Manuel and his father! Our core team has grown, and we hope to break ground the middle of this week. Thank you and please keep getting the word out to your friends and neighbors!

This week we were able to make substantial progress, which very much relieved me prior to everyone stopping work for the holiday season.

  1. Two architects, Sergio Wong and Jesús Iván Moreno Jiménez, have donated their time to produce plans for us. Please join me in thanking them for this volunteer service! Their work is important, as we want a very basic one-room home that will be pleasant and secure to live in, and the plan we put together will hopefully become a prototype for future simple homes for other needy families. The final design is 258 square feet or 24 square meters and includes an indoor bathroom and kitchen—both a change from the original plans which had both outdoors, but something we feel is important. It will be built of cinder block rather than brick, as that is both cheaper and resistant to salitre, the salt staining that is so common here. The roof will be concrete, and the flooring simple outdoor tile. The home will have front and back doors, a window facing the street and a long, narrow window in the bathroom for light. Water will initially come from a hose but will be plumbed in hopes of city water one day. The one room is a “stub” or “pie de casa” which can easily be added onto in the future if good fortune strikes. 
  2. We have found a new albañil or construction worker, Zata (real name Edward), who is very experienced, seems quite capable, disciplined and committed to this charity project. Let us hope.
  3. I invited our compadre, Jorge Hernández, who has 30+ years of experience in building and maintaining homes, to a meeting with Yolanda, Zata, Greg and myself, with the architect attending by phone. To me this meeting was crucially important. 
    • Jorge pointed out a couple of things that will cost a few pesos now but will be crucial for Juan Manuel’s future, such as running 4-inch drainage pipe under the floor that can easily be connected to a sewage system once there is one in the community; slanting the floor slightly so rain water will run off (invasions are notorious for flooding); and adding in connections for possible future ceiling fans.
    • Greg’s input was invaluable in making sure that doorways would be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and that the bathroom would be ample enough to accommodate turning around in one. While Juan Manuel is currently on crutches, he may someday be in a chair due to his health challenges, and if this plan is a prototype for future projects, accessibility is a key issue.
    • Jorge has kindly agreed to volunteer as project supervisor during construction. I am very grateful Jorge, with his experience and expertise, has joined the team! He is recovering from a horrible bout of COVID, so we must be mindful of his energy.

Sadly, we are still waiting on updated materials lists from the architects so that we can get bids and update our budget. While they told us we’d have these by Friday, now they tell us it may not be till the new year.

We have received Zata’s bid on his labor, and I post that below. I am thrilled that he is ready to start work tomorrow, Monday 14 December. He will begin by excavating and then installing the septic tank. A key issue during construction will be preventing theft. Both Zata, Jorge and Maestra Zulema, from Colonia San Antonio, cautioned us about the high degree of theft of building materials. We have planned to order only a week’s worth of supplies at a time, and to store them at Juan Manuel’s current home, so that Zata can pick them up there on a daily basis. Hopefully that will minimize our exposure to theft.

If any of you know someone who could donate cinder block, that would be an enormous help. Also needed soon will be rebar, concrete and, of course, the septic tank.

What else can I tell you? As you know, the home will be built in Colonia San Antonio, an invasión or squatter community here in town. The lot was gifted to Juan Manuel and his father. It is in the section of the colony run by Maestra Zulema, who we know well from the Chicken Breakfast. She assures us that Juan Manuel and his father have all their paperwork in order to build. However, building in any squatter community involves risk. No one owns title to the land on which they build until, at some later date they hope, the municipality awards it to them. Such is common practice for people living at poverty levels here in Mazatlán and throughout Latin America, but I want everyone who donates to understand the situation. Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo have been paying electricity and water, which provides them legal protection for their lot, but they do not legally own it outright despite having paperwork that says they do. The colony has hundreds if not thousands of squatter homes, so there is strength in numbers.

There are several options for donating money or materials to help with this project:

  • Click the “Donate” link in the right-hand column on this VidaMaz.com website, and pay via PayPal.
  • Go to any OXXO and donate to BanCoppel account 4169-1603-7041-0699 (photo below) in the name of Yolanda Medina.


 

  • Canadians who prefer to email money can send it to Jeanette Leraand: jleraand@gmail.com
  • Contact Yolanda via WhatsApp at 669 431 4529 to arrange a time to meet and give her your donation.
  • Contact me at dianne@vidamaz.com and I’ll pick up your donation.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! Blessed Hannukah and Kwanzaa! May 2021 bring us much more health, sanity and joy, as well as a new and much-needed home for Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo. No doubt you all have good karma for your help with this project!

Perfect Antidote to the Pandemic!

Juan Manuel Tovar Valdez

Today I met one of the kindest, happiest and most inspirational people I’ve met in eons. I’ve also figured out how to make this Christmas merry. My hope is that you will choose to join with Yolanda Medina (from the Chicken Breakfast and DIF) and me to help Juan Manuel Tovar Valdez and his father, Rodolfo in a project we are calling, “A Home for Juan Manuel.”

Juan Manuel is a 34-year old young man who smiles from ear to ear. Diabetic since birth (he was diagnosed at two years of age), his health took a huge turn for the worse three years ago. Training as a graphic designer, his heart broke when he began to lose his sight. Renal failure then took one of his legs. Now legally blind in both eyes and walking on one leg with crutches, there is a joyful glint in Juan Manuel’s eyes and his words are all upbeat. “The sun feels so good on my face! It’s really nice to be outside in the fresh air,” he told me as he stood, masked and on crutches, this afternoon in front of the home the father and son rent in Pradera Dorada. 

DIF Certificate of Disability

Cute, colorful government-built concrete townhomes from the outside, there isn’t much inside: a sitting room, bedroom where both men sleep, and a kitchen/bath. Their main furniture is a plastic patio table and two chairs. Rodolfo, 63 years of age, normally sells funeral services door to door. COVID-19 has put a stop to that, and he finds it increasingly difficult to buy the diapers and medicines that Juan Manuel needs, in addition to food and rent. Juan Manuel’s mother died from breast cancer 21 years ago. Their younger son, married with two children, lives nearby and contributes money to his brother and father every Saturday. But it’s not enough. They pay 1200 pesos/month rent, and receive 1300 pesos/month disability plus 500 pesos/month from DIF. “We have been gifted a vacant lot in Colonia San Antonio. There, if we build a simple room to live in, we won’t have to pay rent. The savings will help so much!” Rodolfo tells me. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Rodolfo has been working for months to pay the electric and water bills on the new lot, so that as soon as he can get the funds together, the pair can build a 6-meter by 3-meter (194 square feet) room to live in. “But, Don Rodolfo, here now you have a home with a bedroom, living room and kitchen. Why do you want to build a much smaller home?” “Because we can’t keep paying rent. I can’t do that and pay the bills. Now that we have been gifted a lot on which to build, that’s the wiser choice for us going forward.”

Meeting Juan Manuel today brought me so much joy! How can I be frustrated with being shut inside when this young man—with his whole life ahead of him—had the professional skills he worked so hard for robbed from him, his eyesight and his leg taken, and he’s still happy? “I love to draw. I can draw in every medium except paint; I never mastered that. And I love baseball. I played center field. Now I’m a passionate fan, listening on the radio.” 

 

My personal hope is that you all will be so generous that Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo will be able to build a home bigger than 18 square meters. Fortunately building a simple home here is very reasonably priced. I hope you’ll find it in your heart to help. Reality is that the father and son will be over the moon happy with their new room. “We already have electricity, and I’ve been paying our share of water to Maestra Zulema in Colonia San Antonio. In our room we can have a small kitchen as well as a bath. We can live and sleep in the same room,” Rodolfo explained to me. 

Yolanda has worked to obtain a list of the materials and labor needed to build the one-room home. If you are able and see fit, won’t you donate to help these men out?

“A Home for Juan Manuel” Budget

1500 Bricks ($2800 millar)

$4200

15 Kilos of annealed wire ($40/kg)

$525

Bags of mortar ($150/each)

$3000

10 Bags of cement ($195/each)

$1950

1 Cart of sand

$1900

1 Cart of gravel (6 meters)

$2000

10 Pieces concrete reinforcement mesh ($170)

$1700

30 x 3/8 rods ($130/each

$3900

Rent of concrete formwork

$2000 (pending confirmation) 

Concrete mixer

(Pending confirmation once the walls are up)

Materials Subtotal

$21,175

 

 

Labor

$18,000

 

 

Grand total

$39,175 pesos (approx. $2000 USD or $2500 Canadian)

Together we can do this, folks! We can make 2021 brighter for Juan Manuel and Rodolfo, and for ourselves! Giving and helping out do the heart and soul good! To donate, you have several options:

  • Click the “Donate” link in the right-hand column on this VidaMaz.com website, and pay via PayPal.
  • Go to any OXXO and donate to BanCoppel account 4169-1603-7041-0699 (photo below) in the name of Yolanda Medina.

  • Canadians who prefer to email money can send it to Jeanette Leraand: jleraand@gmail.com
  • Contact Yolanda via WhatsApp at 669 431 4529 to arrange a time to meet and give her your donation.
  • Contact me at dianne@vidamaz.com and I’ll pick up your donation.