A Visit to the Village of Nuevo Noh Bec

by Michele Kinnon (Dec. 2013)

It's hard to believe until you see it for yourself but if you drive a few kilometers in any direction from the center of Playa del Carmen you will find tiny pueblos tucked away in the jungle with families eking out a meager existence and living without even the most basic services. Nuevo Noh Bec is one of these remote communities. Noh Bec is located on the NW side of Playa del Carmen ... beyond Guadalupana, beyond Pueblo Sac Be ... down a horrible road that you can't believe would lead to anywhere. A few weeks ago, I learned about this settlement from fellow Rotarian and KKiS organizer Gayle Collins who described the living conditions and the needs of its 1500 residents. I had seen some photos on the KKiS Project website but really wanted to see it for myself.

Nuevo Noh Bec


Nuevo Noh Bec

One Monday I took the long trip out to the village with Gayle Collins and Janet Lowe from The KKiS Project. They were scheduled to deliver school supplies to the secundaria classroom and distribute the lists for this year's Christmas Dreams' toy drive. We were accompanied by my friend Cesar Lagunas Garcia of El Fundador 8m and a kind gentleman named Aniceto, who helped with translation and prepared us a fantastic breakfast. Hipolito, the principal of the school, greeted us and introduced us to the students in his secundaria classroom. He spoke to the students about the KKiS Project, Christmas Dreams, and finally our own Kicks 4 Kids Holiday Sneaker Drive. The kids were all very sweet and graciously accepted the donated school materials. We all got our photo taken together and stood witness as a visiting mission priest blessed the classroom, the students and all of us.

Nuevo Noh Bec


Nuevo Noh Bec

The residents have slowly carved a small town out of the jungle over the past five years. There are a few concrete block structures in the village. Most are made with recycled materials, palettes, plywood, tar paper, old windows ... whatever can be found or salvaged. Many of the structures are incomplete, abandoned and left to fall into ruin. Water is obtained from hand pumps which are scattered throughout the settlement. A few families have been able to drill their own. There is no indoor plumbing. On a piece of borrowed land in what can be considered the town center, the parents have built classrooms for students. Some are open air, a few are almost fully enclosed, and others are getting knee-walls to keep out snakes, insects and rodents. The buildings lack basic services like running water and electricity, however the parents are proud of what they have accomplished and seem to enjoy the life they have made for themselves. Now a permanent home for a school has been donated and fundraising has begun to build a proper school for the village's 400 kinder, primary and secondary students.

Nuevo Noh Bec

With no textbooks or teaching materials, teachers write all information and instructions on whiteboards. The students are expected to copy everything into their notebooks. The new municipal government has recently provided the classrooms with whiteboards to work on and KKiS is going to be able to to help them with school supplies, but the need goes so much further. There is no health care for this community of 1500 people. Should a health issue arise, no matter how serious, the closest medical care is located 9km away, down a very badly pot-holed road. It was an uncomfortable, 30-minute trip in my car. A few of the mothers confirmed that their primary health concerns for their children are snake bites, insect stings and other puncture wounds which, in this climate and without access to medical supplies, often infect. I told them about our Kicks 4 Kids sneaker drive and their faces lit right up!

Nuevo Noh Bec

From there, Hipolito took us to see the piece of land that the new school is to be built on. It is about a 10-minute walk from the center of town but accessible. The land is very rough and heavy machinery will need to be brought in to clear and grade the land before anything can be planned or constructed. Municipal President Mauricio Gongora and his wife have visited the village and committed to assist in the building of the new school. Without support from the government, this project would not be possible but it will still require a lot of work from the parents and help from charitable groups.

To finish our morning, Aniceto invited us to the home of a friend where we were treated to a fantastic breakfast. We had pan-fried tostadas with eggs and beans topped with a tomato sauce with peas and hot habanero salsa all cooked over a wood fire. We were joined by a group of young missionaries who had been sent to work in the village. It was delicious and a nice time to sit and reflect on our visit.

Nuevo Noh Bec

This is just one of many tiny pueblos that have sprung up in response to the explosive growth that Playa del Carmen has experienced over the past 15 years. The people who live in these settlements are here because of the tourism boom and the need for labor to support an industry they will never have the chance to enjoy. As business owners in Playa del Carmen who have found great success in this region, Rob and I feel compelled to give back to the community and help those less fortunate than us. The needs of Nuevo Noh Bec, Cristo Rey and communities like them are many. If we all pitch in and help in whatever way we can, the lives of these disadvantaged residents can be made exponentially better. KKiS will bring school supplies and classroom support. Christmas Dreams will make their holidays a bit brighter with presents for Three Kings Day. Rob and I will help put shoes on their feet.

What can you do?


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