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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Dean’

Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards…Mahahual

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 9, 2007

As the year winds down and the holiday season is upon us, it seems fitting that we bring the Playa Pals Mahahual relief effort to a close. Our regular blog readers know that after Hurricane Dean devastated the small town of Mahahual, about 175 miles to the south of Playa del Carmen, a small group of Playa residents banded together to see what they could do to help.

Children of MahahualThis informal group started out by just trying to get emergency food and water to the area. The word was sent out via email, online forums, blogs, radio advertisements, and even Radio Margaritaville, that help was needed. We set up a PayPal account and asked people to give what they could. And give they did.

As the money came in, our little group began a regular routine. Every couple of days. armed with our most current shopping list, volunteers would spread out over Playa del Carmen buying these items. The group would then drive them down to Mahahual, and with the help of Mahahual locals, distribute them door to door.

The needs of local people changed daily, almost hourly. Food and water were always at the top of the list. Medicine, clothing, tools, construction material, diapers, and just about every necessity for daily living showed up on the list at one time or another. The Playa Pals also supplied the local community kitchen, which was trying to feed as many families as possible. And, since the area had been turned into a virtual swamp, insect repellent and mosquito nets were highly in demand.

After some time, we realized what had started out as a short term emergency supply project was the only lifeline many people in this devastated area had. For reasons which are too complicated and delicate to discuss here, there was no international or governmental aid available to the area. It became quickly apparent that if the people of Mahahual were to survive, it would be because volunteers were willing to help.

Many people and organizations other than our little group, the Playa Pals, assisted Mahahual. They did what they could, and what they did was important. As the days turned into weeks and longer, the need for more money to buy more goods to help the people of Mahahual increased. In response, money continued to come from people all over the world.

Eventually, the people of Mahahual regained some self-sufficiency, and emergency food, clothing and medicine were no longer needed as often. Families began to move away from the area, lessening the needs, and finally some forms of government assistance appeared. By the time this happened, the Playa Pals had raised over $35,000 US. By the time the need for emergency supplies had ended, we had spent all but about $10,000.

A Mahahual mom & her kidsWe asked locals in Mahahual the best way to spend the remaining money. Over the last several weeks, a lot of ideas have been considered. However, now there is a consensus that the money should be utilized to help build a much needed hospital in Mahahual and for medical care for Mahahual residents. We think that’s an excellent idea. Kevin Graham, who has been the point man in Mahahual for volunteers and relief work, will be supervising the expenditure of the rest of the money. Kevin guarantees that it will be spent only for the medical needs of the people of Mahahual. We trust Kevin implicitly. So, in the next few weeks, the remaining money will be transferred to a foundation which will serve these specific goals. At that time, the Playa Pals PayPal account will be closed out and this chapter of the Mahahual relief project will come to an end.

We didn’t want to let this moment go without offering a few observations about what we’ve experienced and learned during this amazing time. Helping the people of Mahahual offered us rewards we could not have imagined. We received nothing but smiles and thanks for our work down there. No one pushed, no one shoved, no one stole, and no one took more than they needed. It was humanity at its finest. At the same time, we became painfully aware of how people’s lives can be affected by politics and geography.

But most of all we were stunned with the generosity of people. Let’s start with the Playa Pals volunteers. Nothing would have happened without Kevin Graham. A local real estate agent with Costa Maya Living in Mahahual, he lost his home, his business and everything he owned in the hurricane. His first response was, “What do other people need?” He worked without rest, literally for weeks on end, to help the people around him. Ethical, committed and of a great heart, Kevin is one of a kind.

Then there is Claudia Hurtado Valenzuela. Claudia was the point person in Playa who first sent out the call that help was needed in Mahahual. A local Red Cross volunteer, Claudia is the nearest thing Playa has to a Mother Theresa. No one who needs help is ever turned away by Claudia.

Mahahual cutieThe group that Claudia brought together included some of the most wonderful people we’ve had the pleasure to meet. Unfortunately we don’t know everybody’s names. Some volunteers came for a day, some for two or three, some just worked anonymously and we never had the chance to meet them or thank them. But we did get to be very close to some of the regulars. First, there is Heather Anderson. We knew Heather before this project, but not well. We found out that not only was she a butt-kicker organizer, relentless in her energy and drive, and one of the funniest human beings you’d ever want to spend four hours in a car with, but she also has a heart of gold which quickly turned to mush every time some four year old thanked her for water or food.

And of course there was the group we with great love call the Dutch Army. Ex pats from the Netherlands included, among others, the adorable couple of Jessica Schaap and Alex Huis. It didn’t matter what time of day or night you called; they would be ready and willing to work. And regardless of the hour or the situation, their upbeat, delightful happiness infected all of us. And of course there was Willem. The best way to describe Willem is to compare him to a ride we love in Disneyland: Big Thunder Railroad, which simulates a runaway train barreling down a mountainside without brakes, heading for the next steep curve. Willem was a force unto himself, and he used all that energy to help. These folks also raised and contributed a lot of money on their own.

And there are more. The folks at the La Tortuga hotel, Andrea from the Italian consulate, Il Barretto restaurantSoriah, Michael Holmes, the boys from Israel…dozens and dozens of others. If we forgot anyone, forgive us; it’s late here. However, the real heroes are the people who donated money. From donations of five dollars to thousands of dollars, literally hundreds of people answered this call. Without each of you who gave a little something, volunteers would not have been able to feed and clothe and offer care to hundreds of devastated families for several months. The money you gave saved people’s lives. And now it will build them a hospital.

So this is the end of our Mahahual reporting. We wanted to give credit where credit was due, and as we say, most of that credit goes to those of you who answered the call for help. This holiday season enjoy the warmth and satisfaction that comes from knowing that you made a difference in people’s lives. Thank you all. Happy Holidays.

Posted in Hurricane Dean | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Long After Hurricane Dean, Mahahual Continues to Suffer

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 10, 2007

Some of the 200 despensas packed up at the Luna Blue Hotel.The little group of Playa del Carmen volunteers known as the Playa Pals for Mahahual returned to Mahahual with more supplies on Saturday, September 8. We were saddened to find that despite publicity and promises by the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations, no one other than private volunteers and the occasional government assistance truck has been to Mahahual. Three weeks after Hurricane Dean devastated this region, there are still no established relief programs in place. There is no regular supply of food, water or medical supplies. There is no organized assistance for rebuilding individual homes. In some isolated areas, there is literally no help at all.

With the help of the Dutch consol and a number of Holland ex-pats who we affectionately refer to as “the Dutch Army,” we took more than 200 despensas (packages of food containing rice, beans, cooking oil, coffee, soup, soap & tuna); about 450 mosquito nets for hammocks; boxes and boxes of mosquito repellent, sunblock and mosquito coils; lots of blankets; bags of donated clothing and new underwear for children and adults; many tarps and, as always, bags of candy for the kids.

Loading and unloading water at the Costa Maya InnWe pulled in to the parking lot of the Costa Maya Inn where Kevin Graham, local organizer of volunteers, and his group of helpers have set up headquarters. There to our joy was a large Cristal truck which Alex, one of our Dutch friends, had arranged to come from Chetumal to meet us there. They had 1200 gallon jugs of water, which they sold to us at a discount and delivered for free. Everybody pitched in unloading the truck and putting the water into the vans and pickups which were going to be distributing aid door to door throughout the area.

We were asked by Kevin to distribute our truckload of goods (food, water, clothing, mosquito repellent) in the central part of Mahahual nearest to the beach and the former tourist area. The other truck and van were directed to other outlying areas. If you’ve never been to Mahahual, it had a beautiful beach looking out on the Caribbean Sea. Lining a sand road which ran along the beachfront were small hotels, shops and palapa restaurants. It was a tiny tropical village. The second road back from the beach began houses, again mostly wooden with palapa roof. Behind them was the giant mangrove forest. Wherever the forest opened up, small Mayan style houses had been built. There is a school and a very small city hall.

A local Mahahual resident, Otto, guided us door to door. He was invaluable. He knew families that were in trouble and he knew houses that looked abandoned and destroyed but were actually home to people still living there. He also knew where to tell us to drop food and water for people who were off working but would return. Unfortunately, the population of Mahahual has dramatically shrunk since we were there last. The area experienced a forced evacuation when Hurricane Felix threatened. Although the hurricane came nowhere near Mahahual, many of the residents decided not to return. It is no small wonder given what we saw there on this day.

Little boy guarding his family's tent.  Their home is gone, and they are out looking for foodAs always, the people of Mahahual were friendly, gracious and effusive in their thanks. We asked one local resident, as we offered him food and water, if he had received any government or Red Cross help. He said that the government had been through once since the hurricane, offering despensas, but there had not been enough for everyone. He replied that a local official had been telling people that if anyone asked about the assistance, he should not say that the “gringos” brought it down.

We also saw little in the way of rebuilding of the homes that were destroyed. On our previous visits, the town had been a beehive of activity with people digging out and beginning to put up new boards, walls and roofs on their small homes. We saw none of that this time. We learned from a local newspaper article that palapa style homes could not be rebuilt or fixed up unless the owner first obtained a permit from the local government at the cost of $500 pesos. Any attempt to rebuild without a permit, according to the newspaper article, would result in a government-enforced halt on work. We personally saw more than one building with “Clausurado” signs, indicating that no permit had been obtained. It appears that larger concrete structures are exempt from this permit.

Although we observed no Red Cross or government aid offering food, water or medical assistance, we did see surveyors in several locations near the beach. We stopped and offered them water and asked who they were. They informed us that they worked for the governement and were surveying for the building of the new malecon (oceanfront walkway). It seems that a “new” Mahahual more conducive to tourists and cruise-ship daytrippers is planned. That plan seems to include an expanded and modernized beachfront. It does not seem to include the small colorful wooden Caribbean-style buildings and homes that existed before.

Sign saying 'We have received no help; we have been forgotten.'Among other changes that we learned of, Kevin informed us that the community kitchen which had been serving up to 200 people per day was closing on Sunday (yesterday). The kitchen had been one of our primary means of distributing food and water to the people of Mahahual. It had been run by Francisco, a volunteer chef who worked nonstop for the past three weeks but always seemed to have a smile. Our question of course is who will feed these people if the kitchen is closed? Another change we saw were new signs throughout Mahahual posted by the Department of Tourism proclaiming that Mahahaual would be rebuilt. And, near the beginning of town there is a large sign hung by the people of the nearby areas of Placer and Ubero which says “We have received no help; we have been forgotten.”

We have to say again that despite announcements by the International, American and Mexican Red Cross organizations that they would soon be offering aid in Mahahaul and the rest of Costa Maya, there was no sign of any organized help.

With the drop in population, the Playa Pals discussed last night focusing more on individuals rather than on large-scale relief. Claudia made a request on behalf of a 70 year old man. He has a serious infection in his leg that needs immediate medical attention. He is afraid that if an ambulance takes him to the hospital, he’ll just be abandoned. Claudia asked if the Playa Pals could pay for an ambulance and oversee his initial medical treatment. She asked for approximately $500.00 for this, and we said yes.

In the same vein, Willem and Alex of our Dutch Army contingent came back from their distribution of goods with a sad story of a family, two adults and three children, living in one of the poorest areas of the mangroves who were desperate for assistance. The family had lost everything, and both parents were so crippled from rheumatoid arthritis they could not easily begin to recover. The guys were invited into their home and found nothing but a hammock. NOTHING. The guys suggested to the rest of our little group that we give this family special attention and provide them with some of the necessities of life even beyond a package of food or water. We all agreed that we would spend some of our money and donations buying such things as cooking pots, plastic table and chairs, specific clothing for the children, shoes (no one had shoes, and the ground and swamp water is filled with parasites), and whatever else we could think of to help them create a home again. The thought of our group is that without institutional help, we cannot possibly sustain food and water for everyone in Mahahual, but we can help some specific families. The Playa Pals for Mahahual still have some money left in the treasury and will be spending it this week on another shopping list to be provided by Kevin. We will all be heading down again next Saturday, sooner if Kevin says he needs us.

We’d like to tell one more story. As we were handing out food and water in one area, a pregnant woman with a small child accepted some of our help. A short while later she returned with a bowl which she had obviously made herself by cutting the bottom of a plastic container. The bowl was filled with water and a few cubes of ice, which she then asked us to pass around our little group, insisting that we needed it because we were working so hard. That’s when our friend and fellow volunteer Heather started crying the hardest.

By way of something positive, here is an email we received the night before last from Kevin Graham, who is coordinating the volunteer relief efforts in Mahahual. It was originally written to his fiancee, but he sent a copy to us:

To My Playa Family…

The most incredible thing happened today. Early today we had no more water to give the public commissary which is preparing 300 meals per day in centro. Then an entire water truck from Cristal arrived courtesy of our friends in Playa……I think 2500 1 Gallon Jugs and we distributed it to go out with the convoy from Playa. They brought hundreds of mosquito nets from the Dutch Consul, dozens of lonas, and enough dispensas to go around all the areas of Mahahual and Xcalak, too. It is amazing to see what Luna Blue, playa.info and the Dutch community are doing and it all appears to be seamless. It is really hard to tell who is bringing what! They work together beautifully and selflessly.

After the convoy was split up and sent their different ways with volunteers from here I was privately worried that we may not have had enough dispensas to last for a more than a few days. Just then a huge bus full (same size as an ADO) of college students from a university in Cancun arrived and asked for me. I have no idea how they ended up her but will find out. In addition, they had a moving truck full of at least 1200 dispenas. What an emotional moment. When the students asked me to tell the entire group what Costa Maya means to me I couldn’t help swallowing my words…they know what it means to now. One doctor that came with the group came up to me and thanked ME for taking care of the Mexican people. I told him that I will never come close to repaying the kindness and warmth that the Mexican people have given me. The students and volunteers from here connected instantly and worked together to deliver dispensas to the pueblo and then went with a guide to Limones, Chacchoben, and Noh Bec on the way back to Cancun. There will be enough food for another week now, too.

The town is shutting down the public commissary tomorrow, so now we are all really worried. Still no aid from anyone other than volunteers.

Lic. Kevin Graham

We’d like to end with these words:
“And if ye mingle your affairs with theirs, then they are your brothers.” — the Koran

Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Great News for Mahahual and the Quintana Roo

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 5, 2007

We just received this email from Kevin Graham down in Mahahual:

Hola,

The government of Mexico has declared a state of emergency for Costa Maya and other areas of Costa Maya. The other areas such as Cozumel and Cancun may have been added to the list in order to obtain more funds. This has been confirmed now.

So, where do go from here? Until the aid arrives here we have to keep going but this should open the door for formal humanitarian aid. At this moment I was told that 3 tons of food, water, and lamina are on the way to Mahahual that are independent of the lamina, food, and clothing that Marilyn secured yesterday. When it appears, I’ll let you know.

And, who can I thank? If you received this email you are to be thanked individually. I am so afraid that I will leave someone out that I can’t single out anyone. We know each other and that is enough. I think the most powerful thing has been all of your combined positive thoughts, actions and spirit that will change the history of Costa Maya. This is the truth.

Life is about celebrating the small and large accomplishments…this is a big one. Take a second and think about what you have done.

Thank you,
Lic. Kevin Graham
Si necesitas ayuda, solo avisame – If you need any help, just let me know.

How great is that?! Maybe, just maybe, us amateur relief workers can get out of the way for the professionals. We have no doubt that the money, donations, time, emails, letters, links, etc. that so many people from so many places and so many websites have contributed has had a very positive effect on the decision to make this happen. You are all heroes in our book.

Let’s remember in the two weeks since the hurricane that it has taken for this to happen, YOUR DONATIONS have fed, clothed and helped house the people of Mahahual. Let’s also remember that the professional relief workers aren’t there yet. As Kevin has said, there is still an immediate need for food, water and supplies. Another convoy of supplies is scheduled for Saturday. We are continuing to receive donations and don’t worry–the money will still be well spent.

If surplus money exists once the official relief effort is underway, the Playa Pals for Mahahual volunteers will meet to discuss where that money might best be contributed or spent. What a great problem to have to deal with. Anything we do, we will inform you on this blog and playa.info.

Again, thanks to everybody!

Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mahahual Struggles to Survive

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 4, 2007

Some of the better living conditions in MahahualWe’re back. Sorry there hasn’t been a new update on this blog for awhile, but we’ve been a little busy. We’ll try and cover as much of what’s going on in Mahahual as we can. We’ll also do a couple other blogs about some other things that have been happening. Believe it or not, we’re still trying to have a life.

Since our last blog entry about the Mahahual relief efforts, Playa Pals purchased another 150 construction kits as well as 100 hand saws from Manzanilla, a local hardware store. We had previously purchased other materials from them and, with the help of someone from the Red Cross, negotiated a 13% discount. This time, we went on our own and negotiated a 15% discount! It may have been that they, too, wanted to contribute to helping Mahahual. Or it may have been they were impressed with Cheri’s new Mexican flag bikini top which she wore, much photographed by the stock boys with their cell phones. Either way, we were glad to save the money. Our “Dutch Army” (friends Willem, Jessica, Alex & more) did their own shopping trip for boots (also negotiated at great discount), food and more. We don’t know what Jessica wore for the discount, but we’re happy she got it. :)

We actually had planned on not making the trip on Saturday to Mahahual. We were expecting a large group who is taking over the hotel for the week, and we needed to be there to settle them in and make sure everything went without problem. Unfortunately, Friday night we discovered there was some confusion as to who was driving what and when. We wanted to make sure the construction kits got there, so we loaded them all into our white Chevy Express van, affectionately known as the Big Bastard, and drove them down ourselves. We didn’t go with the convoy since, because of what was happening at the hotel, we needed to make the 8 hour round trip as early as possible. We rolled out around 6:30 am and zoomed down to Mahahual. If you can call a four hour drive “zooming.”

We hooked up with Kevin Graham, who was working with a team of other locals from Mahahual to make sure the goods are distributed. They have set up their operations center in the Costa Maya Inn, which withstood Dean’s winds, but unfortunately still has no plumbing or water. Kevin’s volunteers helped us unload the construction kits. He promised us they would be delivered to the outlying areas where they were needed most as soon as they could find a truck. Then we got a quick report on the status of things. It was pretty much the same. While the government has been working on restoring power and clearing roads, only private relief drives like our own Playa Pals have brought in food and water. We promised that we would return on Tuesday with as much food and water as we could carry. With that, we were back in the van racing back to Playa to get there for our incoming guests.

Willem's house in Playacar - now converted into a donation collection stationOn the way back, we passed Jessica, Alex, Willem and another volunteer (sorry, we don’t know his name). They’re all from Holland, so we call them the “Dutch Army.” They have been relentless in their efforts to raise money and distribute goods to Mahahual. Willem, who we refer to as Wacky Willem, is a force of nature unto himself. He looks a little like Anthony Bourdain, the guy from the Food Channel network. When he’s not helping buy, convoy and distribute goods for Mahahual, he’s buttonholing people in Playacar, the wealthy suburb of Playa del Carmen, and demanding contributions. His home in the same area is now covered in signs alerting people to the crisis in Mahahual and pushing them to volunteer, donate or get involved. As far as we can tell, no one has the ability to say no to Willem. Like we say, he’s a force of nature. And Jessica and Alex are two of the most committed people we’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. The Dutch Army in and of itself have raised about $3,000, and every penny has gone directly to the Mahahual people. (BTW, the pictures on this blog entry were taken by Alex). They helped to organized a Mahahual fundraiser last Saturday night and have another event planned (with large raffle & lots of cool prizes, including a 5 night stay at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden) for this coming Friday night, September 7, at Pinche Gringo’s in Playa del Carmen.

When our friends returned to Playa del Carmen, they gave us their report, and it was pretty discouraging. Kevin directed them to a couple of areas where relief just had not reached yet, which is pretty sad. It has been two weeks since the hurricane, and there are still people who do not have power, drinking water, food or help of any kind. These of course are the poorest neighborhoods which were tucked away among the mangrove swamps. Those mangrove swamps have now been tripled in size from the storm’s battering and rain. They are filled with crocodiles, harmful parasites and dank bacteria-ridden water and have become a breeding ground for millions of mosquitoes. It is an ecological and health disaster in the making.

The folks from Holland, who didn’t get home until late that evening, told us that once again they encountered nothing but smiles and polite thank yous. Nobody rushed for goods; nobody took more than they needed. People did make requests, and the number one request was to help them get away from the overwhelming swarms of insects. Insect spray, mosquito netting and sunscreen were on the top of their wish lists. This is the same story that we heard from friends and people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In our last visit to New Orleans, one woman told us that even after the flood waters receded she had to sleep under wool blankets in 90 degree heat to avoid the mosquitoes. This seems as bad, if not worse.

Of course, at this point Playa Pals are simply trying to meet the emergency needs of the people: food, water, clothing and simple tools to build some shelter. This does not address the long-term economic loss of the region. People in the central or beach area had begun to develop an economy based on tourism. The cruise ships, day trippers up north and people looking for a little slice of paradise had discovered Mahahual. Now that is destroyed. The cruise ship dock is gone, the beachfront shattered, and most of the little stores are in pieces. And of course, there are no tourists. However, the damage goes deeper and is much larger than that. Many outlying Mayan communities had eked out a living by carving farms out of the jungle. Growing various crops and fruits for their own support and to sell at market had been a way of life for many generations. Those crops are now gone, as we said before, the mangrove swamps seem to be everywhere. For a report on this, go to Hurricane Dean Damages Mayan Crops.

We have no explanation or understanding of why there has been no organized help. We understand that Mexico has had a series of blows recently with Hurricanes Dean and Henriette. However, we’re stunned that international aid has not arrived here. Where is the Red Cross, the UN, Habitat for Humanity….anyone? Perhaps it’s too small. Perhaps the media just hasn’t made it a large enough focus. Maybe, as someone else said, people are “Deaned out.” We just don’t know. We continue to hope, along with the people of Mahahual, that some organization with much more resources than local private fundraisers could ever have will step in to help.

Where do you go when it rains?Of course, now there is the threat of Hurricane Felix. As we type this, Felix is projected to make landfall considerably south of this area. That’s the good news. The potential bad news is that Felix, depending on where it makes landfall, could still send massive amounts of rain, storm surge and wind to poor little Mahahual. In anticipation of this, the government has evacuated the area. We had planned on taking down another truckload of food and water today but have been instructed by Kevin to wait until Saturday when people have returned to see what is left of their homes after this second storm.

Now, the good news. People have continued to contribute. As of this morning, the paypal account contributions (and personal donations delivered to the hotel) stand at just over $21,000. So far we have spent a little over $14,000, leaving us in the neighborhood of $6,700 still to spend. As always, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog you know this already, every single penny/peso contributed to the Playa Pals for Mahahual fund (e.g., our paypal account) is being used exclusively to purchase relief supplies which are then immediately driven to Mahahual and the surrounding areas. No volunteer has received a penny of these contributions, not even for gas or to reimburse for personal expenses. None of this money has been directed to any third party or person. We want this money to be used for immediate relief, and we promise you that is the case. So please, continue to contribute. Our donations at this point have slowed to a trickle. Please help us to help Mahahual until somebody with more power and money than we have comes forward. To find out how to contribute, go to How to Donate to Playa Pals for Mahahual.

If you’ve already contributed, thank you very much. If you can’t contribute any more or at all, you can help by getting the word out. Link to the Hurricane Dean section of this blog (Playa Pals for Mahahual) on your personal websites or in emails to everyone you know.

Here are the items currently most needed in Mahahual:

WATER!!!!
Canned goods
Diapers – all sizes
Nan 1st 2nd and 3rd Stage baby milk
Baby clothes
Underwear mens and women
Lamina
Wood strips to attach the lamina and nails
Sunblock
Mosquito Repellent

And for whoever stands in the way of oncoming Hurricane Felix, say a prayer and keep a thought.

Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fundraising: It’s Not a Competition

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 4, 2007

There’s an old sarcastic saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” We’ve recently learned how true that is. When we started working with the other volunteers in Playa del Carmen to help the people of Mahahual after Hurricane Dean, members of our group, as far as we knew, were the only ones raising money and driving supplies to the area. In the days that followed, we discovered other people and private organizations were soliciting funds for help in Mahahual. We applauded everybody’s efforts and welcomed any and all volunteers, donations, or efforts to get the word out and the supplies in.

One of those organizations that began to solicit funds was a travel site based out of Akumal, Mexico called locogringo.com. They set up a fundraising campaign. One of their members even created a website, helpafterdean.org, which took people to their fundraising webpage.

Our thought was: the more the merrier, or at least the better. So, when we were posting on TripAdvisor we made sure to mention locogringo’s efforts. The link was also publicized on playa.info, which had already become home base for the Playa Pals to raise money. Again, nobody (at least in our little group) saw any issues of competition or conflict. We thought the more people raising money and helping, the better it would be for Mahahual.

That’s why we’re pretty surprised to find ourselves under attack on the locogringo forum. It started out simply enough from our point of view. We learned that locogringo had deleted a posting by one of its members which told about the Playa Pals’ efforts. We were confused by this. We were directing people to their website. Why were they not allowing reference to ours? After all, it’s all about Mahahual, right? The more money raised, regardless of the source or the site, the better. So we posted what we thought was a pretty reasonable comment. We explained who we were, who the Playa Pals were, and the work that we were doing for Mahahual. And we asked a simple question: why was the previous post deleted? In our comments, we praised locogringo and its forum members for their efforts on behalf of Mahahual and said that they should keep up the good work. And we meant it.

One of the moderators of that forum responded in a way that we thought was pretty unsatisfactory. There was no apology, no reaching out. References to our effort had been deleted, he said, because they had a policy of no solicitations. The reason for the policy, we were told, was to protect their members from con artists and unscrupulous people. We were a little taken back by that. We have never been perfect, and over the years we might have been called a name or two, some of them maybe even deserved. :) But to be lumped in with con men and “unscrupulous people” not only took us by surprise but frankly insulted us.

When we wrote again explaining how the legitimacy of Playa Pals was a simple matter to confirm, all hell seemed to break loose. Some members of the locogringo forum then began to post that we were jealous, ugly, seeking publicity, and trying to denigrate their great efforts. They said we were trying to demean and attack the owners of the forum (who we have never met and whose names we didn’t even know). And the best one of all: we were attempting to stop their fundraising!

We were pretty shocked. For trying to spread the word about the problems in Mahahual and give people an additional place to contribute or offer help, we were personally attacked and condemned. Not by everybody. Some people on that website offered their opinion that what we were doing was good and that we were not bad people. But they appeared to be in the minority. Some members of that website wrote us privately, asking us to just wait, that when the owners of the website returned from a visit to Mahahual, they would reach out to us and explain to their members who we were and what we were doing. However, that didn’t happen. Instead, when the owners returned, they praised the forum members for defending them against personal attacks!

We have not posted on that forum since, and we will never post on it again. However, our name continues to be abused—unmoderated—in forum postings there. This whole episode has saddened us deeply. To be called names, even by strangers, is never pleasant. To have the efforts of the Playa Pal volunteers (Claudia, Heather, Kevin, Alex, Jessica, Willem, Soraya, Michael, Jimmy, Doug, Luis, the other Luis, Laura of the Hotel La Tortuga, Andrea of the Bomberos, the Il Barreto restaurant, the people and owners of playa.info, and many many more, not to mention all the people who have donated money and material) demeaned by people living comfortably thousands of miles away is unfair and undeserved. And to turn fundraising into a competition is the worse offense of all, because it turns people’s focus away from the real issue, which is the need for help in Mahahual.

We’re also concerned that this same website is talking about how there is now a relief program in effect for the area. This is simply not true for Mahahual. The state government of Quintana Roo–to whom locogringo gave the majority of its funds–has been trying to help as many people as it can, but there is damage and people in need everywhere in the southern Yucatan. Their resources are stretched thin. They’re doing all they can. In Mahahual, the government restored power in an unbelievable three or four days. They sent in the Army for a few days to try and stabilize the area and clear roads so people like Playa Pals can get in. They have sent in Fonatur with heavy earth-moving equipment and trucks to remove debris. They have set up chemical toilets and brought in potable water in some areas. They are doing what they can and doing it well. However, Mahahual has not yet received food, water, medical supplies or assistance for rebuilding from any official, corporate or humanitarian entity. It is still relying upon private donations and private volunteers.

We raise these issues because we don’t want people who have been directed to locogringo to walk away with either a doubt about the continued need for donations, volunteers and work in the Mahahual area or a question as to the validity of the Playa Pals and the work they are doing.

The locogringo website has collected a lot of money, and we are sure they have spent it in the way they feel is most effective. We applaud the generosity and effort of their members. However, fundraising efforts should not be handled in such a way that other legitimate efforts are demeaned.

Thanks to our blog readers for letting us get this off our chest.

Note: Subsequent to the posting of this blog entry, and the posting of blogs by others who were treated similarly on the same website, the owners of the locogringo forum have decided to “delete any negative comments” related to this topic. Seems that since the most negative commentary came from a single poster who apparently cannot be reined in because of her volunteer work for the board, the entire thread in question was deleted, avoiding the need to admonish her or others. At least with the written evidence of this horrible exchange now gone, the only people who will remain affected are those who were involved and who read the thread, and that’s probably best for everyone, although the damage has been done to our feelings and to our reputation. We’ll take away our own lessons from this experience.

Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Hurricane Dean: Playa Pals for Mahahual

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 31, 2007

The finished construction kitsThe relief effort goes on in Mahahual. So far, the “Playa Pals for Mahahual” (being the volunteers from Playa del Carmen who have been donating and fundraising through our paypal account, posting on the playa.info thread, and hauling items to Mahahual several times a week) have raised over $16,000.

Yesterday, we went down with four other trucks and many volunteers. The items we took were:

  • 150 construction kits (shovel, hammer, machete & sharpener, gloves, nails, face mask)
  • 216 hygiene kits (soap, toothpaste, TP, toothbrushes, razors, candle & matches, deodorant, sanitary napkins, baby wipes, insect repellent)
  • 12,500 liters of water (collected by the Hotel La Tortuga)
  • Clothing
  • Towels donated by local hotels
  • Food
  • Unfortunately, in some ways the situation in Mahahual remains unchanged in the week since Hurricane Dean turned the lives of the Mahahualense upside down. As of yesterday, there were no professional relief agencies present. The Red Cross had indicated previously that it would start raising money and provide assistance in Mahahaul. So far that has not happened. The only assistance and relief Mahahual is receiving is from private donations and volunteers such as our little group.

    It is good to see that the Mexican government is present with earthmoving machines to clear debris and haul it away. They have also brought in a number of chemical toilets.

    We continue to raise money for Mahahual and ask everyone reading this to donate through our paypal account. On Saturday another convoy will be headed to Mahahual to take more materials and supplies.

    Some of the adorably cute & grateful kidsOn yesterday’s trip, after delivering the relief supplies, we made a couple of personal journeys through the devastated area along with our friend Heather. One was to deliver a bottle of tequila to Francisco, the volunteer chef at the community kitchen. Feeding a couple hundred familes each day, he has been working without rest since the hurricane passed through. He’s also working without pay. He was most appreciative.

    We also took a large quantity of candy down and passed it out to the local children. We were rewarded with incredible smiles and laughter.

    One example of the sad situation in Mahahual: A couple of days ago, our friend Claudia spent the night after making the trip down. There is one room in the Hotel Mahahual that is habitable, and it was offered to her. She protested, but the local family making the offer said that crocodiles have been coming out of the mangroves at night since the hurricane, and it was unsafe for her to sleep outside. She asked where they (a family of seven) would sleep. They told her, “Don’t worry, we’re used to it.” (!!!). This is one of the many reasons we continue to try and help this community.

    Another convoy is going down on Saturday. We won’t be able to make that trip due to work at the hotel. However, we will returning to Mahahual early next week and will provide more information then, if not sooner. In the meantime, we continue to ask for any assistance that anyone can give us at this time.

    Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Hurricane Dean: How to Donate to the Playa Pals for Mahahual Relief Effort

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 31, 2007

    Here is the information on how to donate to the people of Mahahual who were devastated by Hurricane Dean. All money is being administered by the Playa Pals for Mahahual, a small group of mostly ex-pat volunteers based in Playa del Carmen, who are making trips to the Mahahual area once or twice a week to bring and distribute the items needed most at the time.

    To donate money via paypal, go to www.paypal.com and click on the “Send Money” tab. The paypal email account to use is: helpthechicas@lunabluehotel.com. One hundred percent of all donations will be spent by the Playa Pals for Mahahual on the most immediate needs and taken by volunteers directly to Mahahual and the surrounding areas hit by Hurricane Dean. NO MONEY IS BEING SPENT ON ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS, including gasoline & other volunteer expenses, all of which are being donated.

    If you are in or near the Playa del Carmen area, you can drop off donations in kind at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, Calle 26 between 5th and 10th Avenue, between 7:30 am and 10 pm every day. If you plan on donating items and want a specific list of what items are most urgently needed, please send us an email and we’ll let you know.

    As needs in the area change almost daily, we prefer monetary donations at this time. This way we can be assured that we can provide exactly what the people need when they need it.

    This blog contains an ongoing report of the trips we have made to the Mahahual area. For more information, including pictures posted by the volunteers, you can also click here to read the thread on playa.info.

    Thank you to everyone who has donated and continues to donate. Your donations are making a HUGE difference to the people in this area.

    Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Hurricane Dean: The Mahahual Relief Effort

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 27, 2007

    Mahahual residents waiting in line for food, water and clothingWe’re sorry we haven’t posted in the last day or so, but we’ve been a little busy. After our first trip to Mahahual to take relief supplies, the response from this blog, the playa.info website, and TripAdvisor was overwhelming. The word got out across the internet, and money began to come in. As of this evening, we have raised over $10,000 in private donations from this paypal account alone. That does not count individual donations of volunteers and others that have been immediately spent to buy supplies.

    After the first trip down with all the volunteers from Playa, our friend Claudia Hurtado Valenzuela, an EMT volunteer for Cruz Roja and the instigator of this relief project, convinced the local state Red Cross to reevaluate the situation and send her back as an official representative with medical supplies. Part of her duties was to do a detailed evaluation of what specific aid was most needed. The Red Cross also agreed to open up its own paypal account for donations but specifically asked that private donations such as this one continue to operate.

    With this in mind, we began to prepare for a return trip to Mahahual two days after the first. With our friend Heather and an empty Big Bastard, we went on a shopping spree. We cleaned out Sam’s Club, purchasing giant bags of rice and beans, a pallet of over 300 bottles of water, 50 dozen eggs, and bulk amounts of toilet paper, baby wipes, sanitary napkins, diapers, milk, cooking oil, soup, pasta, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, Clorox…the list goes on and on. We & some of the other volunteers also bought machetes, hammers, hand axes, shovels, tarps and hundreds of shoes & gloves. The Big Bastard was filled front to back and top to bottom and sunk pretty low on the wheels.

    While we were shopping to fill the Big Bastard, other volunteers (Jessica & Alex, Michael, Luis, Willem and others) were also filling trucks. The Hotel La Tortuga also sent a truck and a trailer filled with mattresses. We helped coordinate pickup donations from the Barcelo Maya resort of 100 kilos of clothing that had been left behind by vacationing guests. And, all the time, locals and visitors alike were dropping off food and clothing donations at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, which were packed into the trucks.

    Some of the donation money was also used to purchase medicine and medical supplies at a huge discount from the Red Cross pharmacy.

    From the Luna Blue, we donated about 9 giant bags of towels, sheets, pillows & blankets as well as a few folding beds (one for the volunteer civilian doctor and one for Francisco, the volunteer chef—both of whom had been sleeping on the floor.). We’ll be encouraging other hotels to do the same. Locals also contributed toys, and we bought some soccer balls, to hand out to the children.

    Claudia had all the trucks (7 in all) and volunteers meet at Cruz Roja in Playa del Carmen at 8 am Saturday morning. Claudia made sure to tell us all that this was the REAL 8:00, not 8:00 am Mexican time (which could translate into 10 or 11). There was a last minute scramble to buy a couple things we needed and spend more last minute donation money. Then we were all off and running. We drove the Big Bastard and took our friend Heather with us. Not only is Heather a nonstop workaholic volunteer, she is fall down laugh hysterically funny AND she made sandwiches and brought food for the trip—all in all the perfect traveling companion.

    It took about four and a half hours to get to Mahahual again. Our route took us down highway 307 (the only main road through the Yucatan). We went from Playa to Tulum, on to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, through the little town of Limones and finally left to Mahahual. The road from 307 to the ocean and Mahahual had finally been cleared of the large tree trunks and branches that had partially blocked it on our first visit.

    When we got to Mahahual, not much had changed. There is still no power, no fresh drinking water, no potable water, no phone and no internet. People are using the remains of broken houses to burn for cooking fires and for light in the evening. As we neared Mahahual, we were tremendously cheered to see that CFE—Mexico’s electric company—had already made giant strides in restringing power lines to Mahahual. However, they had not yet, when we were there, been able to make a collection to supply lights or electricity. Of course, once electricity is restored, its use will be limited. People’s houses are gone; there are few electrical outlets or sources for electricity. And of course, the houses in which people had wiring, electricity and lights are now so damaged as to need major repair before they can make use of electricity.

    Our plan was to meet with a local Mahahual real estate resident and businessman, Kevin Graham, whose initial SOS to Claudia had started the entire relief effort. We had tried to hook up with Kevin on our first trip down, but the incredible chaos amid the destruction made it impossible for us to find each other. This time he was waiting for the convoy at the lighthouse, which is miraculously the only building still standing undamaged in Mahahual.

    Meeting with Kevin provided us a pretty good shock. When we had visited last, we had been stunned by the destruction of central Mahahual. However, this morning Kevin sadly informed us that this was only part of the area that needed help. There were at least three other sections where people lived and desperately needed food, water and supplies. Access to some of them had just been opened by the Army, and others were only accessible by walking in. The volunteers divided into four groups to take supplies to each of these areas. The Big Bastard was assigned the central Mahahual area that we had visited last, primarily since we had brought bulk good specifically for the community kitchen which was operating there.

    Kevin is our point person in Mahahual. Despite having lost his own home and office, he has been working tirelessly to help us coordinate the donations so that they reach the most people in the area. Kevin, if you read this blog, THANK YOU!! And, BTW, did anyone ever tell you that you look like Jimmy Buffet? :)

    We drove through the town, again our hearts breaking at the devastation there. The people of Mahahual were everywhere, piling up debris, digging out sand and trying to find a place to get out of the elements. As we went we handed out drinking water and supplies. Without fail, everyone thanked us profusely and gave us a smile.

    In the middle of town is a single story concrete building that had been the schoolhouse. It is now the center for the Army and the community kitchen. When we got there, we were very pleased to see that the Army had not pulled out and had received instructions to stay in Mahahual. It seems our efforts and news had finally reached Mexico City. As we pulled up, soldiers began to come forward to help us carry things into the schoolhouse. Francisco, the volunteer civilian chef who appears to have been working 24/7 nonstop since the kitchen opened, came rushing out. He remembered us and our promise to return, and he was obviously thrilled. For some reason, Cheri got more hugs than Tony did. We explained that some of the goods were in other trucks being distributed throughout other hard hit areas in Mahahual. He completely understood.

    After unloading the bulk food for the kitchen, we drove through the central part of down, distributing water, cookies, baby wipes and other supplies. We also wanted to get the news out to every person in town that there was food, clothing, and other items being distributed at the school. We drove as far south as we could before the road was too bad for the Big Bastard to handle. We have no spare for the van, and we have been extremely paranoid that we were going to get a flat tire each time we drove down and back to Mahahual. So far we have been very lucky.

    As we drove around town, we also stopped whenever we would see a group of dogs. There are many pets wandering lost around the town. We had purchased a big bag of dog food, and each time we spotted some, we’d get out and offer them a meal. They looked pretty happy to get something. When we found families who obviously had pets, we dropped off bags of dog food to them.

    After we distributed all the supplies we had, we drove back through town past the school and army post. We saw the army placing some of the food items, clothing and water that we had delivered into army trucks. We immediately went to investigate. The one thing we did not want to happen was to have our donations for Mahahual shipped back to Mexico City or other areas of Mexico.

    Heather, who speaks pretty good Spanish, had struck up a friendship with a comandante (major) of the army who seemed to be in charge at the school. It was pretty obvious he thought she was something special. Heather went to the comandante and asked him what was happening to the supplies, and he assured her they were being loaded onto the trucks to be taken to another area in Mahahual that had been badly hit. That was good enough for us.

    With the work done, we started back on the four hour return drive to Playa del Carmen. Claudia stayed behind to set up a medical tent with the Cruz Roja supplies we had purchased. She was also going to work on her list of needed supplies and return to Playa del Carmen either Monday or Tuesday. Once we have that list of supplies, we’ll go out on another shopping spree, again loading as many trucks as we can, and then heading back to Mahahual.

    At this point, private donations and some small help from the Red Cross seem to be the only relief being offered to Mahahual. The Red Cross will be notifying the government of Mexico, and hopefully bigger, more organized relief, including construction machinery, will still be on the scene. However, we have received numerous emails and questions from people asking if we still need donations next week or even next month. The answer is YES, with absolute certainty. An entire town has been wiped out. The people there have nothing left. Right now we are simply trying to provide basics, i.e., food, water, medicine and hope. As people reestablish themselves, they will turn next to trying to rebuild. They will continue to need the basics but also will need tools and construction materials. Until power is turned back on, they will need to operate by generators. It is going to be a slow, painful process which will take months upon months to complete.

    We are trying to fill the internet with pleas for more help. If you’re reading this, we ask you to help. We are not professional fundraisers or relief workers. We and our fellow volunteers from Playa del Carmen simply want to help our neighbors. Every penny that anyone contributes from our paypal site will be spent on buying supplies for Mahahual. No one is taking a penny to reimburse themselves for gas, food, or any kind of personal cost. When you give a dollar, you can rest assured that within a few days the items bought with that dollar will be in the hands of a family in Mahahual.

    Once again, here is the information on how to donate:

    To donate money via paypal, go to www.paypal.com and click on the “Send Money” tab. The paypal email account to use is: helpthechicas@lunabluehotel.com.

    If you are in or near the Playa del Carmen area, you can drop off items such as utilitarian clothing, non perishable food, candles, flashlights, roofing material, plastic tarps, tents, diapers, powdered milk, rice, beans, cooking oil, spaghetti, cookies/crackers, sanitary napkins, and anything else you think might be helpful in a hurricane zone at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, Calle 26 between 5th and 10th Avenue, between 7:30 am and 10 pm every day.

    If you want to help via check, Laura the “Map Chick” is accepting checks in the US which she will forward to Claudia down here. 100% of those funds will be used by the Red Cross in Mahahual. For more information, check out Hurricane Dean Assistance.

    Because the needs of this area are changing almost daily, monetary donations are preferred at this point. This way we can buy exactly what is needed and deliver it as quickly as possible.

    We will do a new report after we return from the next convoy or Wednesday, or sooner if we have news to report. And don’t worry, we will continue to provide information and reports on the pleasures of living in and visiting Playa del Carmen in the near future. First things first.

    Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

    Hurricane Dean: A Visit to Mahahual

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 24, 2007

    Destruction in Mahahual from Hurricane DeanWe’re pretty tired. We left at 8:00 am this morning, and it is now almost midnight. It was a round trip of about 350 miles from here to Mahahual. But before we went to bed tonight, people needed to hear and see what happened down there.

    For those that don’t know, Mahahual is a small village on the Costa Maya about 175 miles south of Playa del Carmen. A beautiful little pueblo, it has been hailed as the perfect Caribbean paradise. Unfortunately, it is also where one of the strongest hurricanes in history, Hurricane Dean, came ashore three days ago. It has been isolated since then. The information that has come out of Mahahual has been very bad. Locals here in Mexico decided it was time to find out how bad and to offer what help we could.

    This morning, a varied group of Playa del Carmen locals (Mexican, American, Israeli, Dutch and English) headed down the coast in a convoy with five truckloads of relief supplies for Mahahual. We weren’t sure what to expect, so we loaded our best guesses: water, rice, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, diapers, milk, clothing, etc. The entire thing was organized by the incredible Claudia, a volunteer EMT for Cruz Roja and long-time Playa resident.

    When we got to Mahahual, we were stunned. Most of the buildings in this small village had been destroyed. Those that are still standing are incredibly damaged. This was, after, the third strongest hurricane in history, and the little pueblo of Mahahual was right on the beach. We were incredibly surprised that no relief effort had yet reached them. We were the first. The Mexican Army was there and had set up a great soup kitchen, but their primary task was to open the roads and clear debris from public areas. The Army was itself isolated, and we ended up offering food and water to them, which they graciously accepted.

    The people of Mahahual are an incredible inspiration. They thanked us profusely for the assistance we brought. They calmly lined up to accept our donations. No one tried to take more than they needed; no one tried to hoard materials. When people had received food, water and clothing sufficient for their needs, they always stepped aside for the next person.

    We are talking about families, children, even babies living in shattered homes which no longer provide shelter, with no power, fresh water, plumbing, food or access to the outside world.

    The Army unfortunately is being pulled out on Saturday to go to other areas hit hard by Hurricane Dean. Mahahual will be left to its own devices and to the generosity of other people. The incredible Claudia is doing her best to get Red Cross to come into the area as quickly as possible, but resources are strained.

    Waiting in line for milkPlaya del Carmen locals, visitors and hotels are donating as much as they can. On the paypal account we’ve set up for Mahahual relief, we’ve currently received $2324 US.. Tomorrow 100% of that money will be spent purchasing more supplies in Playa del Carmen to take down to Mahahual. In addition, our friends at the Hotel La Tortuga in Playa del Carmen have amassed an incredible amount of goods and will be convoying them down by truck on Saturday. We will be joining that convoy with many others, trying to get supplies as quickly as possible to the needy. Any contribution that any of you can make to paypal will go directly to purchasing supplies that will go directly into the hands of displaced families within the next few days.

    How badly are things needed? One man asked if we had a shirt, since he had only one shirt left after the hurricane, and he had already worn it nonstop for four days. We stopped people from filling water bottles with rancid swamp water and offered them fresh water in bottles. Francisco, the chef at the soup kitchen, thanked us profusely when we gave him what we had and said they could really use some eggs, rice, beans, cooking oil, and large pots and spoons, as he was trying to feed 200 people at every meal with little or no supplies. Men with hands bleeding from hauling debris thankfully accepted the gloves that we brought. Mothers asked for milk and diapers, and we gave what we could until we ran out. The doctor who came down to work for free with no help and no end in sight simply asked if we had something to sleep on besides the floor. We found a sleeping bag. When we go back on Saturday, we’ll bring him a cot. And it was impossible to miss the babies and children playing in the rubble.

    Anything you can offer: $5, $10…whatever…will put food and supplies directly in thd hands of someone who needs it. And it is not just Mahahual. The nearby town of Limones and the surrounding area have many people who need food, water and shelter supplies as soon as possible. As we take our next convoy down on Saturday, we will be stopping in as many places and as many homes as we can.

    We took a lot of pictures today, and you can take a look at some of them at Hurricane Dean Photos. You can also find more pictures taken by more volunteers at Help Mahahual.

    Thanks to all of you who have helped and will help in this time of need. Muchas gracias a todo. When you get to Playa del Carmen, the Luna Blue owes you many thanks…and a margarita. We’re going to get some sleep. If we have a chance, we’ll post tomorrow. Otherwise, we’ll post a blog entry when we return from Mahahual on Saturday.

    Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

    Hurricane Dean: The Aftermath…Helping our Neighbors

    Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 23, 2007

    Yesterday we promised a wrap up blog on Hurricane Dean today. We’re afraid that’s going to have to wait, because it’s not over for some people. Our friend Claudia, who works as a volunteer EMT for Cruz Roja (the Red Cross) today asked Playa locals to help gather, contribute and convoy supplies down the coast to the area just north of Chetumal that was hit so hard when Hurricane Dean made landfall. Early tomorrow morning, we will be joining the convoy with the Big Bastard Chevy Express van filled with clothing, rice, diapers, toilet paper, tents, bottled water and much more, all contributed by the people of Playa del Carmen.

    There are many people trying to help in this area. The Mexican government and Army and international relief, including people from the United States, are all assisting. However, resources are strained because Hurricane Dean swept across the entire Yucatan peninsula, doing damage to both coasts, and then continued on to Mexico’s mainland. The people of Playa are going to try and do what they can to help their neighbors to the south. When we get back, we’ll do a new blog entry either Thursday night or Friday morning reporting back to you on how things look in the hurricane zone.

    It could have so easily been us.

    If you would like to help and you are in or near the Playa del Carmen area, you can drop off items such as utilitarian clothing, non perishable food, candles, flashlights, roofing material, plastic tarps, tents, diapers, powdered milk, rice, beans, cooking oil, spaghetti, cookies/crackers, sanitary napkins, and anything else you think might be helpful in a hurricane zone. Generators are especially needed. Donations will gladly be accepted at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, Calle 26 between 5th and 10th Avenue, between 7:30 am and 10 pm. Or, you can bring them to Cruz Roja (Red Cross) at the corner of Juarez and 25th Avenue. After tomorrow, there will be other vehicles headed down south as more items are collected.

    Or, if you would like to donate money, which will without doubt be put to very good use in this area, we will be accepting paypal donations (or cash at the hotel). One hundred percent of the money collected will go to help hurricane victims in the southern part of Quintana Roo, either directly or through Cruz Roja.

    To donate money via paypal, go to www.paypal.com and click on the “Send Money” tab. The paypal email account to use is:
    helpthechicas@lunabluehotel.com. (We are using the same paypal account we used for the Bloody Chicas’ accident, since it’s already set up).

    If you want to help via check, Laura the “Map Chick” is accepting checks in the US which she will forward to Claudia down here. 100% of these donations will be used by the Red Cross specifically in Mahahual. For more information, check out Hurricane Dean Assistance.

    On a personal note, we want to report that Mama Cat had not one but two kittens during the storm. We’re going to call them both Dean. Mama and babies are doing just fine.

    Many thanks to all of you,

    Tony & Cheri

    Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

     
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