Awesome Opportunity for Nature Lovers!

Protecting Migratory Birds in Mazatlán: A Workshop for Birdwatchers is a new FREE OF CHARGE series of excursions for English-speaking residents of Mazatlán, designed to acquaint us with the incredible biodiversity of Monte Mojino and its upcoming designation as a National Protected Area, the largest by far in the state of Sinaloa at 200,000 hectares in area. It will increase Sinaloa’s protected nature areas by 300%!

Monte Mojino is located in the municipalities of Concordia and El Rosario and is home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including 310 species of native and migratory birds—at least 79 of which are in danger of extinction. Many new species have actually been discovered in the area.

This project, conducted by Conselva, our local award-winning conservation agency, with help from the Packard Foundation and US Fish and Wildlife, will involve five sessions, every other week, January through April 2021:

  • Four excursions:
    • January 28th
    • February 11th
    • February 25th
    • March 11th
  • There will be a final, closing event in April which will include a photography exhibit, when participants will share with the community of Mazatlán what they have learned.

For the four excursions participants will carpool in their own vehicles into Monte Mojino, where they will be guided by local experts and residents of the areas we’ll visit. Sandra Guido, director of Conselva, assures me the trips will be safe. Conselva has worked with the local communities for over twelve years and know the area and its residents very well. 

The goal of all of this is to build awareness of and respect for the natural areas of Sinaloa, as well as enthusiasm for conservation and ecotourism. It sounds like a lot of fun to me and something I don’t want to miss! To register for this terrific free workshop, fill out this form. If you’d like more information please send an email to mazatlanmigratorybirds@conselva.org.

Conselva also has a volunteer opportunity for you:

They will also be conducting a series of birdwatching sessions for youth (15 and up years old). These will be held on Saturdays beginning January 16th. They are looking for people to help engage the kids and help them find birds and wildlife to watch—no need to be an expert birdwatcher. Ability to hike around natural areas within the city limits and ideally some basic Spanish will be helpful. Send an email to mazatlanmigratorybirds@conselva.org if you are willing to volunteer. If you know of young people who would be interested in this, please share with them this link: https://www.conselva.org/aves-2020

Fifth House Update

This week we are commencing our second week of construction. Thus far Zata has been doing an excellent job. He sends us photos of his work on a daily basis, as well as photos of all deliveries and invoices. That system has been working great and hopefully will continue that way. The foundation and underground portion of the plumbing are in, as you can see from the photos—note the pipes for both the kitchen and the bathroom. Next will be installing the platforms for the walls and putting in the floor.

Jorge and Greg went to the job site on Friday to review the work and pay Zata. The architect went by today (Monday) to check on the quality and accuracy of the work. Late last week we opened an account at a construction supply store that makes deliveries to the job site every day in order to prevent theft. However, we are having to get resourceful as some days the supply shop doesn’t have what we need, so we have to go looking elsewhere. But, so far so good. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

To date we have received donations from 41 wonderfully generous people for a total of almost 72,000 pesos. In addition this week we received an in-kind donation of a toilet and bathroom sink, as well as a few smaller items such as a toilet paper holder, towel bars and shelves. Bless you all! Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo will be over the moon to own such high quality ceramic items!

The lot on which we are building the house is very small. However, it is in an excellent location within the invasion, with green space and a nice view. The neighbors also seem kind. Here is a short video of the location:

Zata is telling us that he is hoping to have construction of the house completed in six weeks, which means four more to go. Fingers crossed! Thank you all for your holiday generosity! Your caring is making a huge difference in the lives of these two gentlemen. Please get the word out to your friends and neighbors; together we can do this. Here is the link to the initial article with information on how to donate.

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!

Progress on a House

Bless you, everyone! 32 donors have chipped in 62,510 pesos plus donated ten sacks of cement, a cart of gravel, and two doors for our house for Juan Manuel! We also have a couple who have volunteered to help with finishing up the house once it’s built. Our sincere hope is to have it ready for Juan Manuel and his father by Christmas.

As I told you in my previous update, I noticed that the plans they originally submitted to us were for a very basic room and nothing more: no windows, doors or roof, no bathroom or kitchen sink or plumbing. Obviously they will not have sewage, but they can run basic electrical and also get water from a hose. The builder then drew the above basic plan.

That initial builder has gone AWOL, but it has actually been a blessing as we have an architect who has volunteered his time to design a cinder block room, updating the basic outlines above, rather than a room using the more expensive brick. Going forward we will be able to use this architectural design for other basic rooms/homes for other families as we see extreme need.

In the meantime, the pair have had to move to a new rental home, because the owner of the house I photographed them in has returned to Mazatlán. They are most anxious to move into a new room of their home and save on rent, so they can purchase diapers for Juan Manuel as well as much-needed medicines.

Bless you for your help! Please send good energy that the architect produces good plans quickly, and the new builder does his job well and speedily. We will of course pay the builder only as work is completed, and we will buy supplies directly to protect the money you have generously shared. Fingers crossed I will be able to show you photos of groundbreaking soon!

Additional money received will go towards making this very simple home the best it can be. Once building gets close to finished we may ask you for donations of basic appliances, mattress, lighting, roofing, etc. that you might have extra and are willing to part with. So, please let your friends and neighbors know about this project and hopefully we will have a wonderful Christmas present for Juan Manuel and Don Rodrigo soon!

Blessed holiday season, Dianne

Update on “A Home for Juan Manuel”

Juan Manuel Tovar Valdez

You rock! Bless you all! Thanks to your generosity we have met the budget we received from Juan Manuel and his father for a new home! But we are not done yet; please read through and do what you can. 

We have had 22 parties donate to the “Build a Home for Juan Manuel” project thus far. One person donated the 10 bags of cement and the cart of gravel, and another couple offered to help install flooring and light fixtures and help paint. You are generous! We have spoken to the albañil and are hoping he will start construction soonest. We plan to pay him directly with your kind gifts.

However, as is typical, the budget we received did not include a roof, windows, doors, flooring, toilet or sink, plumbing, paint, etc. So, we would like to raise some additional money to actually complete the house for these very deserving and wonderful men. I’d also really like to be able to build them a second room, so they’re not smooshed all day and night into one 2m x 3m room, even though they say they are ok with it.

If you could help us out by sharing the original article to your social networks with your personalized request for assistance, I believe we will be able to do this. Also, please let your friends and neighbors know so this can be a community effort. I have added an easy way for people in Canada to join in; see the payment options in the original post. If you have used but servicable windows, doors, sink, toilet, etc., we would welcome your donation! 

If you or someone you know has access to construction materials, that’s great. 

Thank you! Blessed holidays to all!