The news (May 2021) about Covid is that it's much better in the area we are assisting, and we don't have any known Covid patients right now. This is thanks to everyone who has donated towards food and medical support - as well as the work of the Brigada. People are gradually getting vaccinated as vaccines become more available.
During 2020, the provided care or education to 367 vulnerable people with respect to Covid. Over 30 people died in the area (from what we understand because they could not breathe), but no testing was done (because of the cost). Poco a Poco San Pedro rented and borrowed oxygen machines to assist people with their breathing, as people were reluctant to go the hospital and believed they would die there.
At the earlier "peak" we had 11 oxygen machines on loan, and we purchased one portable tank for use when taking people to hospital. We now have one machine on loan to us, one donated and one that we own.
In early 2020, Anita (the Brigada leader), asked us to provide the monthly despensa for more families - which brought the total to 55 families. And she also asked us to provide a special despensas to families who have kidney patients, who need specific diets (50 patients) from Mezcala, San Pedro Itzicán and Aqua Caliente. This was all before Covid arrived...
When things began to close down in mid-March 2020 - factories closed down; buses were cancelled that transported people to pick fruit; maids who worked in Guadalajara were let go; and less money was being sent by family members who work in the US. So the cumulative effect was rapid. In these poor areas, people live day to day on what they earn that day. They have no savings or spare money. And lack of money for food quickly became a crisis. Especially for children and the elderly.
We saw this happening, and thanks to the support of many donors, we rapidly increased our spending to provide basic despensas to the more vulnerable families who had no other income. And as we've seen before, under the leadership of Anita Torres of the Brigada, her team of youth stepped up and started distributing the food to people who really needed it.
In early April 2020, the Brigada team visited everywhere in San Pedro Itzicán and each town and village nearby, and signed up heads of households who needed food. The team identified the number of households where the people were unemployed (760), as well as those who were elderly, disabled or sick (1,160 households).
Of the population of around 20,000 people in these 12 towns and villages around Lakeside (around Lake Chapala in the Municipality of Poncitlán), initially over 1,900 households were signed up as needing food.
Most households have a minimum of 4 people (some many, many more), so the need was to help feed over 8,000 people!
Very quickly we ran out of money, using savings from other projects, to keep buying food. Fortunately FoodBank Lakeside, helped enormously! And we are so grateful to the other individuals and organizations (including Lake Chapala Nameste and Lake Chapala Sunrise Rotary among others) who supported us. Thank you all so much!
At the beginning of April 2020, we were spending over 90,000 pesos a week on dried goods (beans, rice, lentils and soya), 10,000 pesos on fruits and vegetables and 5,000 pesos on gas for the truck and water and food for the Brigada team. So we were trying to raise 105,000 pesos each week (over US $4,300 a week).
You can see the crowds below waiting for food in May 2020. Social distancing? Despite our efforts this was difficult - because people were worried they might not get any food if supplies run out, and they were hungry...
The Pet FoodBank Lakeside also provided dog and cat food, as animals also need food.
Our sewing team made thousands of masks and we gave these out for free in the San Pedro communities.
When some people returned to work at the end of August 2020, we re-concentrated on our Community Kitchen program in San Pedro to feed kids at least one hot meal a day - and provide fresh water to them as well. By May 2021 we were feeding 310 children, five days a week, in three locations.