A homeowner in Juchitán surveys the damage to his house. A homeowner in Juchitán surveys the damage to his house.

Adopt an oven one of two aid initiatives

Oaxaca organization seeks donations to buy cooking pots, food aid

Two local aid initiatives in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca are helping residents get back on their feet after last month’s devastating earthquake.

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One is the “adopt an oven” program, which involves distributing large, locally-made earthenware cooking pots to families in Xadani, San Blas Atempa, Unión Hidalgo and Juchitán, where thousands of people were affected by the September 7 quake.

The “ovens” are purchased from potters in the town of Ixtaltepec, who were also affected by the quake, using money that has reached the region through donations.

Families who lost everything in the powerful temblor can then get back to cooking their own meals or even sell food to others, helping them to generate much-needed income. The pots are traditionally used to make corn-based food such as tortillas, memelas, tamales and totopos (corn chips).

The idea for the initiative came from the Melendre Committee, an autonomous Zapotec group made up of local men and women that is helping with the recovery efforts.

The group exceeded its initial goal of buying 50 pots in a matter of hours after launching the project and consequently raised the target to 500.

Now, a week and a half after the initiative began, the group has enough donations to place an order for 1,000 clay cookers but eventually aims to distribute even more across the worst affected communities in the region.

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Committee president Gubidxa Guerrero told the newspaper Milenio that over 10 pottery workshops are contributing to the project and the income local potters receive will help them to rebuild damaged or destroyed kilns. Each oven requires a 600-peso (US $32) donation.

The other initiative — canasta básica istmeña (basic Isthmus food basket) is also led by the Melendre Committee and consists of putting together food aid packages made up of local products.

Some of those included are corn-based items made in the same clay pots the committee is distributing. Each package costs 300 pesos (US $16) and families with children and senior citizens are given priority.

Guerrero said the end goal of both initiatives is to stimulate the local economy and ensure that aid ends up where it is most needed.

“. . . It’s about encouraging the potter, the farmer and the corn chip maker . . . . We believe it’s a virtuous circle that benefits several sectors and the victims themselves help by consuming local products.”

Guerrero also said that all donors receive a file number and a photograph of the family that their donation helped, so they can have confidence and certainty that their money is directly helping those in need.

“There’s no possibility that the supplies won’t arrive at their destination,” he said.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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