Author Archives: Almendra Gutiérrez

Supporting Babies During Coronavirus

Hello fellow Friends of Cozumel and supporters. We are writing today with details on a new service that we are engaging in on the island. The economic impact of Coronavirus has created the need to support babies; or babies “at risk” without basic needs of formula, diapers and wipes. Many parents have been impacted by losing their jobs, and we have stepped in to help with the following:

  • We have been supporting 10 babies with basic needs of formula, ecological (cloth/washable) diapers and/or wipes.   
  • Parents of 6 of the 10 babies have received FOC scholarships; parents of the other 3 babies are members of Vida Abundante Church.
  • 1 is a new family with 4 young children whom we met this week. The father is out of work due to business closures during COVID-19.
Mama Blanch, Baby Fernanda & Edwin

Mama Blanch, Baby Fernanda, and Edwin are a young family struggling to make ends meet after Edwin was laid off from work at the Cozumel Airport due to COVID-19.  Blanch was the first in her family to graduate from Prepa (high school) several years ago. Many Friends of Cozumel volunteers and donors have known “Blanca” for years. She and Edwin have assumed the role of coordinators of her extended family’s decisions, resources, school needs and care for the grandparents.  They just made a bold move from living in a very cramped part of a room in the extended family’s rustic homestead on the transversal to a modest rental room in town. Fernanda will now have more space as she learns to stand and walk.

NAN1 and wipes provided by our donors

Formula is needed here by many babies because mothers can’t produce enough milk to breastfeed. This is a result of lack of a nutritional diet and adequate hydration. Formula contains the dietary supplements babies need to fully develop their immune systems and for healthy growth.  However, formula is very expensive and often costs more than a week’s wages for parents earning minimum wage. Thanks to generous donors, we’re able to provide formula and baby wipes.

Coming soon… News about ecological diapers Friends of Cozumel is providing for babies. We’ll keep you posted!

Helping the most vulnerable with basic needs

Elsa Marina Maldonado

Friends of Cozumel is focused on helping the most vulnerable families with basic needs of food and medicine. Highest priorities include:
• Seniors who don’t have family to support them
• Single parents out of work
• Persons with serious health conditions who need medication or specific foods to boost their immune system
• Families with special needs/disabilities
• Babies in need of formula, diapers, etc.

Elsa was all dressed up and eagerly waiting to receive despensas at her home.  She and her husband are in their 70’s. They do not have a pension, regular income or family to help them.  Their only source of money comes from walking the streets and picking up bottles/cans to recycle and receive a few pesos each day.  Staying at home means they cannot be self-sufficient.

Cristina and Evelyn

Mama Cristina and 5 year-old daughter, Evelyn, appeared at our gate over the weekend to ask for help because they had no food.  Cristina is deaf and mute. Children are not supposed to be away from home but Evelyn came to communicate on behalf of her family of five.  They received despensas and a gift card to use at Chedraui grocery store. Victor, Cristina’s husband, lost his job as a waiter when restaurants closed.  Later that day we received a phone message from Victor explaining he was very grateful for help and he didn’t come because he was embarrassed to ask for help (again).  

During the two weeks March 22 – April 4 Friends of Cozumel helped 37 families (98 people) with food, medicine and/or temporary work to earn money.  Thanks to many donors who are making these efforts possible.   

There has also been some great news – This week the government began distributing boxes of food despensas to families in their homes using a grid approach street by street.  It is unknown if there will be enough resources for everyone on the island but we are encouraged as we see live news coverage and read messages from families we know personally.  We may be able to suspend providing food for a while and will begin again as needed.   

Thanks again for your support and stay tuned as we report on conditions in the community. 

Serving during “Social Distancing”

It’s quiet here on the island.  No cruise ships, few (if any) vacation visitors and many part-time residents have returned to their home country.  Closure of the port, beaches, bars, many non-essential businesses, schools, churches, restaurants (except for take-out) and a dramatic reduction of flights, ferry/cargo services are resulting in soaring unemployment in this tourism based economy.  Night curfews are being enforced.  Families are expected to stay home unless they are working or need to go out for food, supplies or medical treatment.

We see a “good news” story amid the grim reality of COVID-19 even though the initial phases are just now beginning to impact Cozumel.  The spirit of local people is truly amazing.  Of course they are concerned about the health and well-being of their family.  However, they are resilient, value time spent with family during this stay at home period, focus on what they do have vs. what they don’t have and are willing to help/share what little they have with others. 

The need to support families now is greater than anything we’ve seen in recent years, including past severe hurricanes because people knew once the hurricane was “over” the rebuilding could begin.  The uncertainty of the COVID-19 timeframe and the impact is unsettling.  Friends of Cozumel has identified 5 ways we can help families by providing:

  • “Despensas” of food, cleaning and disinfectant supplies.  The government has announced their intent to help all families with basic food needs in April.  The supplies FOC is providing will help bridge the gap between now and implementation of the government program.
  • Baby formula, wipes and ecological/reusable cloth diapers (a new initiative).
  • Medication and transportation financial assistance to required medical appointments on the mainland.  Limited to families we currently support and does not include $ to pay for treatments/operations.
  • Temporary project work with modest wages for selected local individuals to support their families (i.e. sewing, basic carpentry, sorting/organizing donations normally done by our volunteers).
  • Computers, internet access and printing services (free) to students for online learning in collaboration with Vida Abundante church.

Our weekly goal is to help 5-10 families impacting an average of 30+ family members.  Priorities include helping families with the greatest need:  single parents out of work; families with special needs, disabilities and/or ongoing health issues; seniors whose families cannot support them during this time, etc.  We are working quietly “behind the scenes” one-on-one to deliver food and supplies in a way that demonstrates social distancing and educates families.  We do not have the capacity to take on a major new initiative to help masses of people in need but we’re confident the steps identified above will make a positive difference in enabling some families to survive and thrive with basic necessities during this time of uncertainty. 

Thank you to donors and volunteers who have contacted us and offered to help.          If you would like to contribute to this effort click here http://friendsofcozumel.com/your-help/how-to-make-a-donation/