The Mahahualenas

by Marilyn Marshall (Feb. 2012)

1. January 2007– I felt that a connection between women in our community is very vital, so to compensate for a very "masculine" town, I started a ladies' social group… It grew to 30 ladies, luncheon… we talked about doing some benefit work in the community mainly with school needs…. 

2. In May '07 we held a marathon for the children …it was well received… we had 40 children attend. In May '08, even with the reduction of residents due to the hurricane we had  65 children – it was bigger and better.

3. Worked with the schools… talked about building a shade structure for the children in the school yard as there are no trees … planned some bingos to raise funds for it. Then built their palapa which they use for a lunchroom and meeting area.

4. August…. The hurricane hit our area as a category 5+  – one of the strongest in history….  Husband Bruce and I sat through it along with 15 other residents along the 60 km. coast.

5. After the hurricane, Bruce and I got involved with hurricane relief efforts and worked on bringing in shipments (to no avail) and distribution of clothing, food, water, tools, medicine, tents, roofing materials, etc… We distributed first aid kits to all of the small hotels and restaurants so people could get to them easily while clearing the debris.

I worked with the medical team from Chetumal inoculating people against dengue fever…  I took a course in detecting this illness and brought supplies back from Chetumal to our local clinic which to my surprise was in great need that very day. Sorted clothing in my home and distributed food dipensas, water, shoes, clothes, medicine, tools to communities 60 km. radius from Mahahual. We had to travel by boat and 4-wheelers to reach some people… we were offered water in cut-down bottles by these gracious people who were so thankful. They blessed us as much as we blessed them.

Went to Chetumal and solicited roofing material (from the government….. had to fight off the mayor for possession). This was for local residents (lamina) which we  delivered and we trudged through mud (it was rainy season), We continued doing this distribution of emergency needs for about 8 weeks… 

Many of the residents in our private development brought down several chain saws (a huge help) and tools along with tents and lomas (tarps) for temporary shelter for those who lost their homes.

The Mahahualeñas (that’s our ladies' group…. It means ladies of Mahahual, which is the name of our town) borrowed a megaphone and announced that school would be commencing (5 days after the hurricane).. the townspeople applauded us with tears of happiness, everywhere we went.. they were looking for some normality…. We purchased school supplies to get them started…  along with some sporting equipment and backpacks… we purchased uniforms for every student in town (approx. 100) along with shoes ….  Also gym uniforms for the secondary school as they play competitive soccer.

6. The hurricane destroyed the house at the school that the teachers used, as they travel from 200 km. to teach in our village and only go home on the weekends…  the Mahahualeñas collected funds (no solicitation)… and we built a house for the teachers…   One of the Mahahualeñas loaned her casita to house the teachers for the interim…  we installed plumbing and power – which were not services they had prior to the hurricane.

7. We recently built the palapa shelter with seating around it for the students to use during their lunch break ….  It is used for many purposes… even the teachers use it for meetings, etc.

8. We then solicited some donations of snorkeling equipment to start up a "marine biologist" program for Junior High Students (Sr. High which is called preparatory – they have to travel 60 km. to school). With the aid of the marine biologists (they have an international station just to the north of town), we introduced the program in the fall. The team leader is working with us to establish this program as we feel it is important for the children to understand and study the reef and sealife that is at their doorstep and how to conserve it.

9. We are currently teaching children about littering… recycling, and GVI is offering English classes… 

10. We are in the process of finding a means of building a learning library for the children who receive no remedial help..… we have many English primary books that I took down from the Calgary Board of Education (7 boxfuls), but we are in need of Spanish books.  A friend, Lulis, (one of our ladies) has Spanish schools in Tabasco, where the flooding took place and she is asking her teachers if there are books that can be contributed to the library. We also sent relief items to Tabasco during their traumatic floods.

11. On April 22 (Earth Day) our ladies took trees and plants to the Primary and Secondary schools and had the children plant them in the schoolyards to raise their awareness of conservation and to provide "long term" shade…. 

12. Our ladies group is made up of Mexicans, Italians, Germans, Americans, British, Canadians, and French – we are an international group and it is indeed awesome.

Easter Sunday.
1. I held an Easter Sunday church service on our front patio… it was small but effective.
2. A friend, who just became a Christian called me to meet with her.
3. We started "ladies" Bible studies and met every week until I left…. in May. Debbie is continuing the studies…  we have 6 women at the moment and we have been donated Spanish and English Christian materials from churches in Canada and United States.
4. One little girl who comes to our house 3–4 times a week, Bivi, wanted to know about God, so I have given her a Spanish/English New Testament which I happened to have… however she speaks fluent English…
5. Michael, a resident up the beach from us has been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer (terminal) and I have been visiting him… our study group donated medicine for him and he wants to finish the school house plumbing to give back to the community! He is American and is very lonely and was so happy to be visited… 
6. We have been assisting an American lady who wants to build a house on her property for some Mexican workers… I took the initiative to do the contracting for her and it has been an interesting venture getting materials… the owner of the hardware store had a heart attack… and although we had paid up front, he could not supply the plywood…  no money, no plywood…   (the lady – who is from Colorado, whom I am doing the work for raised 7,000 dollars for our group).
7. Town has some very sad stories to tell after the hurricane… family breakups, drinking polluted water, unattended medical needs…if a resident needed to go by ambulance to Chetumal they had to pay a user fee of 400 pesos for the gas… we (Mahahualeñas) donated pesos to the local doctor to be kept in reserve for emergency aid for those who are unable to pay.
8. At Christmas time, we held a Christmas party for the children, bought a Santa suit and had pictures taken with Santa of every child - (we had a professional photographer, who just happens to live in our town). We supplied gifts, drinks and candy bags for the children, cake and coffee for the adults, we held a draw for a TV as a door prize, and they all went home happy and excited about seeing Santa for the first time in their village.

The town has been reconstructed by Fonatur….  The federal tourism agency,  they came in and built a Malecón, which is a boardwalk along the waterfront, planted trees, paved streets, lighting, and public washrooms….   It will be a pretty "cruise ship" destination… 3 per day in high season… 

A Mexican friend has a restaurant and they are struggling to keep it going; they were recently asked to find another location…. A difficult thing for them to do at this time as they have no money and they were using this facility  "free of charge" which was donated after the hurricane, but now the owner wants it back. Shipping product to Mexico is virtually impossible so it needs to be "muled" down in luggage or if driving.

I have performed weddings, also a funeral of a friend and close neighbour whom we discovered dead in his home near us here in Mexico, … I had limited materials… but used "purpose-driven life!" for his funeral.

What we do:
1. We now do two events for the children each year. The annual Christmas party and the Children's Marathon. We are a small town of 3500 people in the winter and dwindles to about 2000 in the summer when the expats return to their northern homes.

2. For a couple of years we participated in the town's Carnival (Mardi Gras), donating monetary gifts to the winners of the royalty (kings and queens).

3. The small school in Km. 55 was not large enough to house all of the students and we built on a classroom each year. Unfortunately, the school is now closed as of this Fall 2011, as the government is alas stepping in and building a new Primary School.

4. Since we are now a Cruise Ship Destination, all efforts by the Mexican officials are directed to tourism. The local people do not have the customary "zocolo" town square where they would meet in the evening for their social time. That is why we are trying to provide some "fun time" for kids.

5. We distribute clothing, shoes, and household items to Mahahual and a few outlying areas on a regular basis.

6. We purchase uniforms, shoes and school supplies annually for those needing them.

7. We purchased computers for the Secondary School (that are no longer working) and we are trying desperately to have them repaired.

8. The Primary School has 12 computers of which only 3 are working.

9. We are working on a sewing centre for single moms (there are many of them here in this town).  Five sewing machines have been donated and brought down from Canada... boxes of fabric, notions, etc.

10. This week, we are looking for a "Holistic Retreat" centre for some ladies in town who do therapeutic massages and holistic healing.

We are a diversified group of ladies, always on the lookout for needs in our community. Although we concentrate on children ... we try to enable others to work for the good of the community through many diversified efforts.

God is working in Mahahual and with His people.

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