COVID-19  Mexico Project #47964

Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico

by Atzin Mexico / Atzin Desarrollo Comunitario AC
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico
Atzin continues covid19 response in Mexico

Dear Friends of Atzin and Tlamacazapa,

At Atzin we recognize the importance of knowing well the local CONTEXT, its HISTORY and its HUMAN DYNAMICS. This critical assessment guides any strategic planning of programs and activities, yet it actually takes an asute eye and thoughtful consideration to determine what information is important. Let me share a true story entitled "Safety Pin" to illustrate this point (names have been changed for privacy).  

Aiming the pocket flashlight, I crouched low beside Victoria as she knelt to attend Berta who was delivering her first baby on a blanket on the dirt floor. The stick walls leaned in on us as we huddled in the tiny hut, one dim lightbulb hanging from the palm roof, her husband, Pedro, and her mother-in-law, Maria, watching to one side. Grunting, Berta gave one final strong push and Jose was born. Pedro suddenly reached out and slapped Berta hard across her face: “You didn’t protect this pregnancy,” he said angrily and left.

No one responded - we all saw that Jose had a gaping cleft lip and palate. Victoria waited for the placenta, rubbing Jose with a towel and wrapping him in a cloth, all the while speaking softly to him in order to comfort Berta. The delivery completed, we packed up, promising to return the next day.

Victoria explained that by custom, pregnant women fasten a large safety pin under their clothing to protect their baby from the harm of evil spirits. Berta had faithfully done this, Victoria said, but it had not been enough. At six months of age, Jose had his first surgical repair, and as he grew, Atzin covered the costs of additional surgeries and some language therapy – none of it helped to bring harmony to the family. During each visit, Berta complained that her jealous mother-in-law was nasty to the point of being cruel, and rather than support Berta, Pedro defended his mother. Berta’s relationship with Maria gradually became torturous.

Now caring for four children, Berta came home early from shopping and surprised Pedro in bed with a young teenager. Escaping a scene, he jumped up and ran. Through tears, Berta told me what she had kept hidden for years: her father-in-law had abandoned Maria for another woman when Pedro was an infant; Maria had started having sex with Pedro when he was 12 years old until he started living with Berta at 22. This had messed him up.

Berta was miserable, and wanted to leave Pedro but with four children, had nowhere to go. She actually only had two choices – stay or move forward bravely to something different. Not willing to risk losing her house on that tiny patch of land - her safety pin of protection - Berta stayed.


Reflection: Knowing something of Pedro’s history gave me a new perspective on the family dynamic. Like the pocket flashlight that illuminated just a portion of the dark hut at a time, a person’s life can be revealed to be so terribly multilayered, so terribly tangled, and so terribly sad. I thought about the consequences of intergenerational trauma, and how a disturbing act and its grim aftermath can become the troubling behaviours that, with cancerous tenacles, penetrate into each succeeding generation.

The importance of knowing context, history and dynamics become paramount for successful development.



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Palapa traditional palm roof
Palapa traditional palm roof


As readers will appreciate, good programs can only run with certain supports in place, like the right personnel but also, the right physical structures. Here is run-down on rehabilitation and construction, installations and general improvements carried out over the past three months.

Rehabilitation of the Atzin Centre in Tlamacazapa

The rehab started with a massive de-cluttering of accumulated program-related materials (what a difference!), removal of old paint on concrete floors (a tedious scraping effort undertaken by many) followed by the painting of walls and floors by the promoters and team. Followed by,

  • Installation of a satellite dish on the centre’s roof after much deliberation of how to best make internet happen. Now for grounding of connections, office equipment setup, and security measures. This will be a communication breakthrough.
  • Replacement of the leaking vinyl roof (the famous “lona”) over the terrace (which, depending on the day, serves as a classroom, a meeting space, an outdoor kitchen, or a prenatal waiting area). The original roof lasted 15 years, and its metal frame remains sturdy. The new roof lets in more light, and looks super.
  • Installation of a new 18’ fridge in the kitchen. The old one was on its last legs, having been hauled to Cuernavaca twice for repairs.

Pending: annual cleaning of rainwater catchment cistern and dry toilet vaults; funding search for replacement of the old and well-used but deteriorating kitchen counter with cupboards (yes, still the same one for those recall pouring water down the sink, overflowing the bucket underneath); and the painting of kitchen floor. Someone stole (siphoned) all of our cistern water in mid-December – an annoying blow; everyone went into ultra-conservation mode, relying on rainwater stored in three additional tanks to get us through the dry season – a “pipa” of water will be purchased right after Easter, trucked in from Taxco.

Atzin House/ Office in Cuernavaca

  • Construction of a traditional “palapa” with rectangular palm roof supported by wood posts in the yard in January-February. The palapa has already served as a classroom for a total of six days of training; a Board meeting room for two days; and a quiet place for conversation and relaxation. We need more working space – the House is crowded.
  • Startup of ecological rocket stove prototypes made of rebar and concrete – latest model = 7 minutes to boiling 1 liter of water. In preparation for a new pilot project focusing on kitchen gardens, rocket stoves and rainwater catchment.
  • Construction of a (wonderful) door to close-off an open office space – the one location in the House with peace and quiet for writing and conversations. Installation of sturdy clotheslines on the roof of Atzin House.

As always, a fierce thank you to volunteers, donors and all those sending good thoughts our way – we carry on with the little-by-little construction of a better future.

Sincerely, Susan

New "lona" covering terrace - a godsend
New "lona" covering terrace - a godsend


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Learning nutrition - post-covid emphasis promoters
Learning nutrition - post-covid emphasis promoters

Momentum Re-gained February 2022


To capture the work completed by the Atzin team over the last months is actually a task in itself – the days and weeks run together, creating a moving mosaic of activity and emotions. At the same time, re-gaining momentum in our programming has consumed much time and energy – considerably more than anticipated, and comparable to overcoming a sort of inertia, resulting from an all-consuming covid campaign.

Activities that functioned easily in 2019 now require a considerable input of attention to start up again. In part because of turnover of promoters with new people who all need training, but more so, the need to refresh everyone’s memory about the details that actually make a program run. Each major activity needs to be thought through (the specifics matter), sequenced (the order matters) and then, paced (so does the speed of implementation).

Diving into a new year with optimism and a fighting spirit, here are recent highlights,  

  • Covid illness continues but deaths are dropping in number since October – that is good news. Promoters persist in visiting families, offering support and food, and recording family reports of symptoms. This promotes considerable goodwill with families and gives an accurate compilation of all village deaths from all causes.
  • The Early Stimulation program for pre-school children re-started as a priority in September 2021 and with a total of 40 children attending in two groups in the afternoons, is doing well. The Nutrition program offers the children a snack of almond/soya milk with an amaranth bar.
  • Due to repeated parent demand, the Atzin team is in the throes of re-opening Tihueliske Education for Children this week with an age modification: children aged 6-9 years, whether registered in primary school or not, can attend four mornings per week. Schools remain closed except for one morning per week to drop off and pick up homework. With very limited literacy support at home and no access to internet, most children have not advanced in their reading and writing skills; older children have started working and are not likely to return to a classroom.
  • Active registration on the Special Needs program is now updated with services provided for 64 children and adults. Promoters visit individuals at home, distribute medications and vitamin supplements, and once again, accompany patients to medical appointments as possible to obtain in Cuernavaca and Mexico City.
  • Many more pregnant women now attend the traditional care offered each Saturday by our midwife, Victoria, with a promoter assisting.
  • Training of promoters continued; a new external accountant for Atzin Mexico is on board; a December fundraising appeal using multiple venues was our most successful to date; legal papers for Atzin and Yotlakat non Siwatl have been renewed. All provide necessary structure to the organization.   

Thank you as always for your encouragement and financial support. As a group, we are doing our best against tough odds, re-gaining momentum in all programs

Sincerely, Susan

PS. Produced during the covid19 pandemic on a shoestring budget, Returning to Strength captures our approach to community development and social change - well worth watching for our supporters. Click here to view


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Sorting food - green, yellow, red groups
Sorting food - green, yellow, red groups

One thing that we at Atzin have learned over time: the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” story rarely happens. Emerging from the quagmire of poverty, violence and marginalization requires more than personal determination.

For children living in difficult circumstances, hard work alone will not overcome the many obstacles to achievement of an education and decent living.

We recognize that the building of self-reliance often means sustained effort by an individual combined with a reliance on others at critical points in time. This is a world of mutual interconnections, and our focus is the creation of opportunity – opportunities that will allow the unleashing of potential and the possibility of change.

The smallest act in the most limited circumstances bears the seed of boundlessness, because one deed, and sometimes one word, suffices to change every constellation (Hannah Arendt)

Since our last report in early August, the Atzin team focused on these opportunities,

  • Five days of intensive participatory training about: development milestones for children under six years; better nutrition using the traffic light technique (green, yellow and red foods) and identification of higher nutrient foods; active listening; yoga for children and meditation; making oral rehydration solution at home for early treatment of dehydration, and cost-comparisons with purchased solutions.
  • Organizing and restarting the Tihueliske Early Stimulation program for children 2-6 years with registration of 41 children, organized in two groups, each for two afternoons per week. Orientation for two new educators. Incorporation of four small children with special needs.
  • Continuation of prenatal clinic and newborn home visits.
  • Condolence visits to bereaved families and continuation of registry of deaths with data analysis in process, and early treatment education.
  • Attention and visits to children and adults with special needs – a very necessary service-oriented program.

When people of whatever age are supported at the right time and in the right way, enabling them to determine a new course for themselves, we have done our job.

With your generous support, we carry on with the unleashing of people’s potential!

Abrazos desde Mexico, Susan


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Promotors, all young village women, strategize
Promotors, all young village women, strategize

Dear Friends of Tlamacazapa and Atzin,

First, a tidbit of good news: our recent video, Returning to Strength - the Long Road from Conquest to Discovery Lessons about Development from Tlamacazapa, Mexico, was selected for 4 international film festivals: Cannes International Cinema Festival (Can you believe that? Amazing!); Toronto International Film Festival; and, Berlin International Art Film Festival.

And, to our great pleasure, Returning to Strength was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Toronto International Women Film Festival.

Produced during the covid19 pandemic on a shoestring budget, and allowing us to creatively tell our story (and in the process, serving to release pent-up emotions), Returning to Strength captures our approach to community development and social change - admitedly an uphill labour, one that is, in fact, faced by everyone, everywhere. Click here to view Returning to Strength Tlamacazapa Mexico

Over the past months, families have strained to deal with deeper debt due to continuing covid illness as well as decreased streets sales of baskets and plastic trinkets, resulting in lower income.

In mid-June 2021, the village reeled with acute grief as five young men were assassinated by “narcos,” drug dealers without conscience sending a brutal message of intimidation to innocent people in a battle for control of territory. We work to actively support the widows and eight small children left fatherless - this is new ground for the Atzin team, requiring plenty of footwork, visits and phone calls. 

In times of covid, in moments of despair and fearfulness, we each can be a beacon of hope, extending ourselves to others in courageous kindness. We stand up and step out into the arena of life, doing our best against tough odds, pressing on with the creation of better times and a return to strength.



Here is that link again:


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Organization Information

Atzin Mexico / Atzin Desarrollo Comunitario AC

Location: Cuernavaca, Morelos - Mexico
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @N/A
Project Leader:
Susan Smith
Cuernavaca , Morelos Mexico
$1,625 raised of $10,000 goal
125 donations
$8,375 to go
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