Today is the Day of the Dead here in Mexico when departed loved ones are remembered with ofrendas, special alters that are set up in homes to celebrate their lives and acknowledge their passing from this world. The ofrenda is adorned with candles, photos, cempasúchil (tall marigolds), flor de terciopelo (velvet flower), fruit, favourite foods, and delicious pan de muerto (bread of the dead). People await the spirits of their loved ones who will gently visit during the night. Today and tomorrow, families form a steady stream into the cemeteries, cleaning the grave sites, and placing incense and flowers. Many will share a meal while others play guitars and offer songs to their departed. The smoke and smell of copal hovers like a light fog over everyone present.
Among the Atzin staff and families in Tlamacazapa, we have lost many this past year, and while this loss has taken its toll on everyone, now is a time to remember them. In Mexico and across the Americas, people are again engaged in fierce struggles against inequality, racism and ecological degradation, with the deaths of students, environmental activists, immigrant children escaping violence and acute poverty, and those protesting unfair prices and privatization. The celebration of the Day of the Dead is an act that honours death, life and resistance. Especially today, sorrow about loss is held simultaneously with a determination to hold on tight to a spirited dream of a bountiful future for the living. Your support helps us to hold on tight.
Scholarships for education - a remarkable achievement
By Susan Smith | Director
Lina helps with math as her community service
Dear Friends of Atzin and Tlamacazapa,
Those readers keen on health and wellbeing may also be interested in education and our recent report on Atzin scholarships awarded from 2001-2018.
THE NUMBERS. A total of 80 individuals from Tlamacazapa received funding for their studies during those years. 65 young people received partial scholarships as cash each month; 15 individuals had full scholarships (with all fees, books and materials, transport and in most cases, room and board). Counting by year, Atzin managed a total of 209 scholarships as many recipients received multi-year awards.
It is an impressive number, especially since each recipient did community service (usually four+ hours per week) – a way of “paying it forward” – which also had to be organized and supervised by Atzin staff.
THE GOOD NEWS. In August 2019, Atzin won grant funding for our education program from the PSM Foundation based in Mexico City. Along with continued donations from loyal supporters, this grant means that this year eight young women in Tlamacazapa now have partial scholarships (7 in junior high; 1 in high school) while four more from Tlamacazapa have partial (2) or full support (2) while studying in Cuernavaca, Morelos.
HELP TO KEEP THIS GOING. Education is vitally important, particularly for those trapped in poverty. Education increases people’s opportunities in life, and as studies have shown, the education of women is correlated with better child nutrition and fewer deaths of children in future. Atzin aims to build up the scholarship awards, contributing to the development of careers of all types.
The sheer amount of firewood carried out of the forest each week came as a surprise. We already knew that gathering firewood for cooking was heavy, constant work, carried out by both men and women, but when we dug deeper into cooking and fuel consumption, our findings were staggering.
In 2017-19 with financing from Rotary Club Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada), Atzin distributed ecological rocket stoves to 300 families trapped in acute poverty and cooking over an open, three-rock fire.Ecological rocket stoves use up to 60% less fuel and emit up to 70% less smoke when compared to cooking over an open fire, thereby reducing consumption of natural resources and toxic smoke inhalation as well as allowing faster cooking time and using just small sticks for fuel. The proper use of a rocket stove frees up considerable time for family members, especially for women cooks - time that can then be spent on other activities and with their children.
To better understand the adoption of the stoves, two young village women interviewed each female household head twice (pre- and post-stove) about family size, cooking practices, and time and quantity of firewood required. This information was then organized into tables and analyzed.
Findings. Of the 300 households (HH) on the pre-stove interview,
223 HHs (74%) invested time and effort to gather firewood, and did not purchase firewood.
40 HHs (13%) gathered firewood and also purchased supplementary firewood.
37 HHs (12%) always purchased their wood and did not make gathering trips to the forest. They spent money on firewood but not any time gathering firewood.
Older youth or men typically carried a load of firewood that weighed between 36 to 41 kg. A total number of 694 trips per week were reported by those families that gathered firewood. Each trip represented one heavy work day of 4-5 hours per person, with each family having a designated people who did this work, either by individually (always men) or in small groups of 2-3 people.
The 694 trips per week roughly represent 20,820 kilograms being extracted from the forest each week by the 263 HHs, using a conservative weight of 30 kg/load.
You might want to read that again – 694 trips extracting roughly 20,820 kilograms of firewood each week by only 263 families - just imagine the time and effort involved.
As an affordable and efficient technology, an ecological stove can certainly make a difference, and contribute to the wellbeing of families.
With your support, we can continue to lighten the load for those living in poverty in Tlamacazapa.
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