Toward a healthier community

 

Through our work in the community a new program has emerged. The overall goal of this new program, The Juluchuca Garden and Nutrition Project, is to foster greater physical and emotional wellbeing as well as health and nutritional awareness for the residents of Juluchuca. The process for achieving all three will be focused in three different program areas: school & community gardens, nutrition education, and mind/body awareness through yoga.

This program came about after kids in Juluchuca kept asking for yoga classes. Coincidentally, back in November, we had a guest at the hotel who wanted to lead a yoga class with her kids and the kids of the local community, kick-starting our now regular kids yoga class. More requests related to health and nutrition also began to arise: the kindergarten asked for our support to design a school garden, and the community kitchen informed us that access to nutritional food and greater knowledge of healthy cooking are severely lacking.

We’re really just in the beginning — but to date, we’ve held several kids yoga classes both at Playa Viva and in the community; we’ve offered two nutritional cooking workshops (which are held monthly) through the support of the Eco-Vegana Cooperative in Zihuatanejo, and designed a garden at the local  kindergarten.

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In order to achieve our goal of increasing physical and emotional wellbeing, we first need to better understand the state of wellbeing and nutritional awareness in the community. We decided to do a survey to measure the “state of health” in the local community. The survey asked workshop participants how healthy they think their community is, what they believe are the biggest health problems, but also more personal questions about what their diet is like, how healthy they feel, how confident they feel in their ability to nourish themselves, and what limitations they have in achieving a healthier lifestyle (e.g. is it access to food? Is it lack of nutritional knowledge and/or cooking?). This survey will serve as a baseline as we continue to do work in the community and gauge their responses to these same questions over the years.

imageWhen asked, “how do you rate the health of your community?” responses were split between “Not very healthy” (42%) and “Somewhat healthy” (42%). 16% of respondents said “Not at all healthy.”

When asked what are the three greatest health problems in your community, people responded:

  1. Diabetes
  2. Cancer
  3. Drug addiction, high blood pressure, teenage pregnancy

When we asked participants about their personal health, roughly half of respondents felt that their health is only “somewhat healthy” with a roughly a quarter reporting “not very healthy”.

image 2Improving health and wellbeing in a community like Juluchuca is no easy task — it’s a rural community with few opportunities for economic advancement and has access to only very basic amenities, including food and medical care.

We could deliver a million nutritional cooking workshops, but without understanding and later addressing the limitations, then what good is telling people how to cook with ingredients they don’t have or can’t afford?

image (2)Perhaps not surprisingly, only 15% of respondents reported that they had sufficient resources (i.e. income, education, access to healthy food) they need in order to nourish themselves and improve their health.

The most common limitation? Not enough income.

Additionally, a lot of people reported that the stores don’t have sufficient fresh fruits and vegetables. As a resident of the local community now, I myself have witnessed it — there aren’t a whole lot of diverse, healthy options.

So, what can we do for the short term? Well, for now, work with what there is!

We’re working with the community kitchen to offer free courses in which they can learn to make healthy dishes with the ingredients that are available and plentiful to them. A huge advantage the town has is that fruit trees are abundant, so there is plenty of fresh fruit to go around. For example, jackfruit–very abundant in this area–can be eaten as is, but also as a meat alternative, and the seeds can be boiled and turned into a delicious hummus. Sesame, a crop widely grown, can be used to make milk, to fortify tortillas, and to make a tahini for that jackfruit-seed hummus.

Through the data, we are able to identify opportunities where Playa Viva can support. When people were asked what are most important factors in order to have a healthy community, the top three most common responses were:

  1. Access to healthy food
  2. A clean environment
  3. Access to medical care

image (3)We’re still learning a lot from these data and from speaking with the workshop’s participants. We discovered that all participants worry about their health to at least some degree, so it’s a topic that people care deeply about. Only about half of the workshop’s participants feel confident in their ability to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals–so, that’s something we can easily provide for them. As we move forward, our plan is to continue collecting data, offer yoga classes and cooking workshops, donate Playa Viva’s extra produce to the community kitchen (not to compete with local stores but to offer more fresh produce as an option), and work to create a community garden for the community kitchen so that everyone, even the poorest, can access fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Related to the story above, this initiative addresses two of our five Core Values at Playa Viva–Create Meaningful Community and Promote Transformational Experiences. Our work with the local community is focused on education, health and economic well-being. Under the health “pillar”, we strive to facilitate improved nutrition, exercise, and efficiency/productivity in work.

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Journey into a Community – WWOOFer/Nurse/Traveler/Organizer

This blog post contributed by Malene Jakobsen.

The ocean, nature, wildlife, mouthwatering food, friendship, insight in the Juluchucan way of life and a sense of being genuinely welcome and part of Playa Viva and the local community. These are just a few of the great experiences that I will take home with me after having spent a little over a month volunteering in the local health clinic in the village of Juluchuca. A project made possible through Playa Viva and their involvement with volunteers via the WWOOFing network.

My work as a volunteer in the health clinic has consisted of wound cleansing, injections, measuring blood pressure, blood sugar etc, and helping sort out the chaotic pharmacy. I’ve also had the privilege of carrying out a Pap smear and taking part in several educational meetings with the local women and their children. All of which have given me a unique opportunity of achieving insight in the life conditions of the inhabitants in the village, and of catching a glimpse of what challenges they are dealing with such as poverty, early teenage pregnancies and unemployment.

P1030141Another function of mine in the clinic has been being the person in charge of “the leaky roof project”. Together with the help of the kind guests and donors at Playa Viva we have managed to gather enough money for the materials for the construction of a new roof in the clinic, since the existing one was very leaky and would have resulted in serious problems with the coming rainy season during spring and summer.

The local board of health in the municipality of Petatlán is considering constructing a new and bigger health clinic in Juluchuca, but that is not definitely decided, and might take a couple of years before that becomes a reality.

The doctor and I have held several meetings with the most efficient decision makers in the village – the women, and we have together decided, that the best use of the money would be to have an aluminium construction build above the existing roof.
It has all along the process been crucial that the locals part take in the decisions and the work, and a representation of the locals has therefore agreed that every household in Juluchuca and surrounding villages contribute with 20 pesos each for paying for the manual labour needed, provided that the donations would pay for the materials.

The end result with the aluminium roofing has turned out to be a cheaper solution than first estimated and so a fund has been created for further possible improvements in the clinic, such as a new examination bed, an oxygen container and a manual resuscitator. All of which will be able to be used in a new clinic as well. This might be a little project for a future volunteer.

During my two months stay in Mexico I have all along felt more than welcome, both at Playa Viva, in the clinic, in the village and all along the pacific coast. I have been able to contribute in a small scale to the improvement of the facilities in local community and I have experienced a kindness, an interest and an openness towards me that has felt genuine and has been moving. And these have been some of the most important factors of making this work holiday/vacation one of my best journeys ever.

Urgent Care – Items Needed for Juluchuca Health Clinic

Teaming up with Pack for a Purpose, on-site volunteer and nurse from Denmark, Malene Jakobsen, has developed short list of critical items needed for the local health clinic. This just a list of supplies. We will also be raising funds to do some needed renovations in the coming weeks.

To see the list on Pack for a Purpose site – click here – and scroll down to “Project 2” or see list below:

Medical:
Blood pressure cuff – Digital, Examination gloves, Manual resuscitator, both child and adult size, Pen-torches / flashlights, Scissors, Spacers for asthmatic patients, Tweezers and Urine dipsticks

We will be updating this list from time to time. Regardless of whether you are a health professional, your assistance in obtaining any of the items on this list and donating them to the local health clinic would be most appreciated.  Keep in mind the limitations allowed by customs, any items that have an aggregate value of over $300 are subject to import duties upon your arrival into Mexico (above and beyond your personal items packed). If you have any questions about what to bring or how to declare with customs, please feel free to email us at info @ PlayaViva.com.

Thank you for your support.

Giving Back

HeartYogaPlayaVivaZBetween Thanksgiving and Christmas our mailboxes, both real and virtual, are filled with holiday cards that remind us how much younger we are not getting, catalogs that remind us to be good consumers and solicitations that remind us to donate to deserving causes.  Playa Viva did its part when we recently sent an email requesting support for the local community of Juluchuca and the turtle sanctuary “La Tortuga Viva” – “Buy a Baby Turtle” for the holidays.

Related to the holidays, I just got a list from our accountants of all the donations we made of free stays at Playa Viva in support of deserving causes. Primarily we support groups that promote environmental conservation/restoration and social impact. In social impact, we focus our support education, health and economic development especially for the Hispanic community.  If you have a group that promotes these goals, let us know how we can help.

Here is a short list of some of the groups that received donations of free stays at Playa Viva (auctioned off to raise money for their cause): KCRW – Public Radio in Los Angeles, the Oceanic Society, A Home Away From Homelessness, Liberty Hill FoundationRenaissance Entrepreneurship Center, Pacific Community VenturesTibetan Aid ProjectBaywood Elementary SchoolHillsborough Schools FoundationSidewell Friends SchoolWestside Waldorf SchoolServices Immigrant Rights & Education Network, La Casa Del Las Madres and many more. Several of these donations were done in conjunction with our flight partner Aeromexico.

We encourage you to give the gift of charity this year to help those in need and to protect that which needs our stewardship and care. Thank you.