ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE REJOGOCHI SCHOOL
After 40 years, thanks to this bicultural and bilingual primary school, almost the whole Rejogochi community can read, write and manage the basics of mathematics. Over these last ten years, we have had an average of 85 students, about 8 of them finish their studies every year and begin high school. This is an important improvement from 20 years ago when none of them would go beyond elementary school.
The school has succeeded in implementing a program that promotes the conservation and appreciation of their own culture, traditions and religious feasts; the children are taught traditional skills for farming and handicrafts, as well as new ones like growing fruit trees or vegetables. We provide the children with school items, clothes, medicine and two daily meals.
This year we have refurbished the tin roof, changed all the old wood windows for double glass aluminum ones, changed the old wood stoves and water heaters for propane ones and replaced the classroom furniture and the whole electrical system. Finally, we improved the water supply with rain-catching systems and new tanks.
The school functions with a staff of just 9 people: 6 teachers and 3 general service women (for cooking, laundry, etc.); but one important achievement is that 7 of them are Raramuri people from the very same community.
Other indirect impacts:
Thanks to the work over all these years, the community has become more involved and interested in their children’s education. One very important achievement is that this is true for both boys and girls. As a matter of fact, this year girls make up 55% of our student body.
Besides that, the school has improved nutrition, health and hygiene among children, and has educated the overall community as well.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE “WATER PROVIDING” PROGRAM
Even if since 1992 CACSTAC began digging wells, it was in 2000 that the water providing program went into full swing. Due to this program, CACSTAC has provided clean water to more than 850 families -5,000 persons- from 70 small communities. To achieve this, we have drilled 56 wells (which average about 150 feet deep) furnished with manual pumps to extract the liquid; we have installed 71 rainwater-catching systems (40 of them just finished this year) and 14 spring water systems. Some of them provide water to local schools.
Having clean water to drink and to wash dishes causes a radical drop in the incidence of gastrointestinal diseases and allows for healthier families and communities. It also reduces the economic and human costs of illness, the need to go to the hospital or use medicine.
We can understand the impressive cost-benefit balance if we think that a well can give clean water for 10 or 15 years to an average of 12 families with 6 members each. This means that with 56 wells, at 3,500 dlls each, 4,000 people will have water –and better health- for more than a decade at a cost of 5 dollars per year. As for the rainwater systems, each one costs about 1,400 dollars, has a lifespan of 20 years and serves and average of 1.3 families; this means that with 75 systems we can provide water for 100 families / 600 persons –at least for 4 or 5 months a year- during 20 years at a cost of 8.75 dollars per year.
CACSTAC has the basic equipment we need for this work: a drilling machine and a 1975 truck… a pickup the staff adapted for this, a home-made trailer and a warehouse. There are 4 people on the staff: the same ones in charge of all the mechanics and vehicle maintenance at the hospital.
The experience the communities have had because of this program has created a more accurate consciousness and appraisal of the benefits of drinking clean water and health.
It is not unusual that getting 12 gallons of clean water implies one or even two hours of walking. So, by getting clean water nearer to their houses saves hours of walking for women and children (who are usually the ones in charge of getting water for the family).
Another positive side-effect of this program is that we usually have to change old wooden roofs for new tin ones that will last for up to 25 years. This saves a lot of work and pine trees, which are very scarce now because of deforestation.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE FOOD FOR WORK PROGRAM
We do not have an exact record of the thousands of tons of food that this program has distributed over 45 years, nor do we have an idea of the pain and the number of lives it has saved. But since the year 2000 we have distributed an average of 280 tons of food every year to the poorest and most isolated communities in our area. We estimate that we reach about 2,500 families; that means 340 pounds of food per family every year.
This year we distributed 380,000 pounds of corn, 51,000 pounds of beans, 38,500 pounds of potatoes. Besides that we gave out 2,788 blankets. All this went to 3,127 families and 10 boarding schools from 79 communities located in the municipalities of Bocoyna, Guachochi, Uruachi, Urique, Guazapares, Maguarichi and Carichí.
Obviously, this program does not solve the elementary problems of the Raramuri population, but it is important, because we give out food during the spring and summer months in which –usually- their crop reserves have been depleted; and food for two or three weeks could mean the difference between barely surviving on weeds, green apples or peaches and waiting until the first rainfall brings mushrooms and more edible vegetables.
- On the other hand, the program has brought significant benefits to the communities because of the work they do in return: these last years we have insisted in making soil retaining walls in their plots or along the rivers or creeks’ sides to prevent erosion and to improve the quality of the soil. They have also built or rebuilt dirt roads or donkey paths to get to the water supplies and little “warehouses” where they keep the food until they can get into town. They have also built some health rooms where sick people stay and get basic care until they can make it to town.
This program is administered by the same team we have for the maintenance and wells.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE HANDICRAFT SHOP AND THE LOYOLA MUSEUM
Originally, the Raramuri people used to weave “agave” baskets and wool blankets or belts. They also made coarse pottery and clothes for everyday use. But they did not make any handicrafts per se. Fr. Verplancken was the first one to promote handicrafts of more elaborated traditional items to sell to the tourists.
Since 1972 the Artesanías Misión shop sells Tarahumara handicrafts acquired directly from the Indians, either paying them directly or bargaining for products they need and we can get at better prices (fabric, food, raw materials for handicrafts, etc.). Thanks to this business, more or less 700 artisans –most of them women- that come to the shop, get about 70 dollars each per year. That doesn’t seem like much, but it means about 450 pounds of corn (enough for 3 weeks for a family of six).
The handicraft shop also has a little display room in which we have some traditional clothes, pottery, instruments and other special items from their culture and history. We also have books and pictures of the landscape, people, ceremonies and traditional work.
The store is run by 3 people; one of them is a Raramuri.
A new building, the Loyola Museum, exhibits 45 old paintings that Fr. Verplancken rescued during his 45 years as a priest from the different places he visited. The paintings were in very bad shape, most of them abandoned in the ruins of old churches or sacristies. He had them professionally restored by artists from the Czech Republic. The Museum used to get about 700 visitors a month; that means a little income for people in the Cusárare Community, who sell their handicrafts, food or beverages to the tourists in the store just inside the entrance to the Museum. Visits have decreased because of violence affecting tourism in Mexico.
Something meaningful is that the two girls directly in charge of the museum are also Raramuri. There is one director woman in charge of the Shop and the Museum.