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Huichol Indigenous Medical Project

Norma's Story

This story originally appeared in the Banderas News in June 2009 and was written by the director of our projects in Mexico, Ariel Duenas. The original story and pictures can be seen by clicking here>>.

In El Potrero de la Palmita, at 4,500 feet in the rugged Sierra Madre and only a four-hour drive from the glare and glitter of Puerto Vallarta, a group of Huichol - thought to be descendants of the Aztecs - live in near isolation as one of the world's last indigenous populations.

In late February we took a group from Global Volunteer Projects from Tepic, Nayarit on a forty-five kilometer drive to a magnificent dam on Agua Milpa, a huge artificial lake fed by the waters of the Grande de Santiago y Huaynamota Rivers and small waterfalls that plunge from the slopes of the blue-green mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental.

To get to this small community we had to take small motorboats, which took us between the mountains on a twenty minute wind-whipped and choppy boat ride to the rocky shore of El Potrero de la Palmita. I have to say that this is one of the most magnificent experiences I have ever had.

Upon our arrival, we walked up a steep, pebbled dirt path to the rustic pueblo, where the Huichol people live in small adobe or thatched huts, with no rest rooms or restaurants, telephones or televisions in sight.

After a long meeting with the Huichol community's Comisario and committee, we offered to bring Global Volunteers from England, Norway, Finland, Luxemburg, and other parts of the world to work in coordination with medical staff and volunteers from the Secretaria de Salubridad y Asistencia (Federal Department of Health Services,) and the Federal Department of Indigenous Development (CCDI Nayarit) to teach languages and skills, gather food and clothing and help the community build an Eco Tourism center.

Today, this Eco Tourism center, called TAWEXIKTA Lugar del Sol, is comprised of a few beautiful cabins on the edge of the water and a clubhouse that also serves as a dining room where meals are served to those who stay in the cabins. Four handcraft shops, where the Huicholes will show and sell their art to visitors, are currently under construction.

Lugar del Sol is an amazing place. Visiting the Huicholes on their own land and living their life for even one day - rather than exploiting them in tourist centers that hide timeshare sales people behind the art, like many hotels do - is the best way that you can help these amazing people.

Well, we met a lot of very interesting people on our different visits up to El Potrero de la Palmita, people with special needs, people with a great spirit of service, and people with great needs, too.

One of these great people was Little Norma E., a 10 year old girl who was born with a physical disability. Norma is a cheerful child with a great personality and a wonderful grandmother who cares for her deeply.

On our third visit we brought doctors from Guadalajara to give free consultation to the ones who needed it most, and also a female doctor to talk to the Indian ladies about 'girl stuff.' When little Norma approached, we immediately noticed her problem. Even though she had a prosthetic leg, it was obvious that she was in pain and needed prompt attention.

After taking care of all the 'red tape' and protocol procedures with public hospitals in Guadalajara, we had everything ready to take Norma in for a minor surgery and a new prosthetic leg that would change her life forever.

After all the analysis, on Thursday, June 4th, Little Norma was operated on at the Cruz Verde Sur, (Green Cross.) All of her expenses were paid by different entities, including: CCDI Nayarit paid for transportation; Global Volunteer Projects organized everything, took care of logistics, made sure all was done when needed, and paid for accommodations and meals for Norma and her grandmother; OPD Zapopan and Cruz Verde, did not charge for any of the medical costs, Xrays, analysis, surgery, doctors, hospital costs; JAJAX MPS A.C. helped with the logistic; Dr. Daniel Islas Mora, traumatologist and Orthopedic surgeon; Dr. Andrade, chief of staff and anesthesiologist; Dr. Marta Flores assistant.

Now Norma is just waiting to get the new prosthetic leg so she can continue going to school and playing with her friends, mission accomplished!

Our work with the Huicholes doesn't end here though. A little boy needs a heart surgery and a new valve. (We are working on that now...) We also have a few more people to help, a lot of dogs to feed, we have to work together with them to find long-term solutions and help them promote their own little paradise and eco tourism lodge for them to make a living... there is a long way to go still.

We want to invite everyone to come and join us, to visit them, to buy some of their art, to donate, to be part of this great community and help them back on their feet. This is not only about giving money, it is about making a commitment and making the Huicholes a part of your life.

The Huichol project is an additional cost of £200 which covers the cost of transport, your accommodation, the medical team that will accompany you and materials and medicines for the Huichol.

To join the medical project in Mexico, Click here>>



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