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An open letter from an American expat asking for help for her Mexican neighbor

LatinaLista — Dr. Jacqueline Mackenzie is a Latina Lista contributor who shares her stories of what it’s like for an American living in a small town in Guanajuato, Mexico. This morning, she sent the following email.

My Dear Amigos Reading Latina Lista,

As an occasional writer for your magazine, you know that we live in a small indigenous village in central Mexico, Cajones, Guanajuato. In five years here, we have become a part of the community, not just “those Gringos behind the wall”.

We have a number of “Mexican grandkids” about 135 (our swimming list), plus a large extended family, whom we try to help out as much as we can. The help we offer goes from simple stuff like teaching swimming, horse back riding – equine therapy for the disabled children, English, and art, providing nutritional supplements to newborns, up to and through providing school supplies and in some cases uniforms for those really in need. Rarely are we asked for help except in the most severe situations, usually we have to hear about someone’s problems through the neighborhood grapevine.

We always hire local folks for any jobs at our place. It’s not always easy given our limited resources, but we do our best. Until now, we’ve not asked financial help from friends like you all. But now we have a special case!

The reason for this letter is an appeal for your help for one of our neighbor families who suffered the total loss of everything they owned in a fire Monday, Feb 18th. As you can see, their one-room house was completely gutted.

The loss was caused by a wind-driven grass fire which ignited the wooden window frames letting the flames into the house. Fortunately, in one way, no one was home so no injuries, but no one could give the alarm soon enough.

By the time neighbors saw the smoke, it was already too late. Their simple (no septic, no water, two light bulbs) one-room home and contents were gone in a matter of minutes.

If there is a bit of good news, it is that the fire moved so fast that the concrete and brick walls, ceiling, and floor were not destroyed and can be restored. I verified that myself. A wood and tar paper room addition was gone in seconds!

We’ve known this family — dad, mom, four kids — since we moved here. Dad is a hard-working guy, steady, does low paying jobs in town. Mom is a stay-at-home mother who picks up part-time domestic work when she can and always sells vitamins to her neighbors.

No matter how tight things have gotten for them they have never asked for a handout, including now. They are wonderful parents who do everything possible for their kids including transporting them to a better school in another town. Consequently, we feel they deserve a big helping hand to get back on their feet. This simply isn’t going to be possible on our own.

What we’ve been able to do so far is to arrange for a front loader and dump truck to remove the ashes and ruined furniture, replace the girls’ school supplies and uniforms, and started a clothing drive for all the family (we got 64 items of used clothing).

We will also donate enough of our leftover paint and supplies to redo the house inside and out. After that, we need to raise the funds for rebuilding — that’s where we are hoping that, even with the crappy economic situation, you can help a little bit.

Building materials here are surprisingly cheap (from a gringo view point) per example, $20.00USD will buy: 2 1/2 bags cement (we’ll need 30), one ton of sand (we need 5), or 250 fired bricks, (we need 2,500). After that it’s all the necessary furnishings: fridge, sinks, bathroom fixtures, etc (we jut got a used stove-top yesterday).

I figure that with our discount at Home Depot we can make the place livable again (with water) for about $3,000USD, pretty darn cheap for a home for a family of six, don’t you think?

Please understand that our neighbors, while sympathetic, cannot do too much as they are also living nearly as close to the edge. No one here has insurance.

So, if you can contribute please do, any amount will help, if you just can’t believe me we really understand, just wish us luck getting them back into their home ASAP.

If you can, please consider a $20 tax deductible donation to this effort.

The links are PayPal, if you do not have that service, you can mail a check to our USA agent: Summerland, 2343 West Old Ajo Hwy, Tucson, AZ 85746.

We are a USA and a Mexico nonprofit charity.

Gracias for reading this – PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO OTHERS.

Don, Jacquie, and Jolene

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