A Letter from Mary Barrett
Dr. Barrett and I went on a fantastic trip to Tamazunchale, Mexico where we met up with Bob and Suzanne (our friends from Tamasopo). They introduced us to Rodolfo Reyes, the man who builds stoves for the poor indigenous people. I’m going to take you back in time for a moment because some of you don’t know the full story. So here it is…
Dr. Barrett has been involved in medical mission work since 1995 with a group sponsored by the Catholic Dioces of Austin, Texas. He provides chiropractic care as part of a multidisciplinary team that includes nurses, medical doctors, dentists and pharmacists. Through this team, he was introduced to a wonderful couple, Wayne and Kelvia Ford. They live part time in Clear Lake, Texas and part time in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico.
When in Mexico, Wayne and Kelvia provide eye exams and fit the poor for glasses. Wayne and Kelvia met and became friends with another couple who live in a different small Mexican town. They are Bob and Suzanne French and the only Americans living in Tamasopo. Through this relationship, Wayne and Kelvia went to Tamasopo to do their eye glass work. During this time, Dr. Barrett and Cordell St. Cyr had been working on establishing a mission team based out of St. Laurence Parish in Sugar Land, Texas, part of the Houston-Galveston Diocese. Wayne and Kelvia were able to coordinate and introduce Dr. Barrett to Bob and Suzanne, the mayor of Tamasopo (Charo), and his wife (Hilda) who run a governmental community needs program called D.I.F.
Because of all these people coming together, a new medical mission was started in Tamasopo. Dr. Barrett has been back several times now and I have been able to join him at times. We find all of this a wonderful blessing. As we have come to know and love all the people in these towns and all the people involved in both missions here in the United States and in Mexico.
During one of the mission trips, Suzanne and Bob told Dr. Barrett about some work they were doing with a local man who lives in Tamazunchale, a town about 21/2 hours from their home.
He teaches the local people about ecology and helps them build stoves which improves their health and saves much of the forest. What he learned was that Rodolfo could produce a stove for about $10 to $15 dollars ( U.S.). Bob and Suzanne had been helping Rodolfo by providing him with some funds to build stoves. Dr. Barrett told the other medical team members about their project and of course, everyone reached into their pockets to help support the project. About $600 was raised! Up to this time, Dr. Barrett had not met Rodolfo or seen the stoves; we had just seen photos and heard the stories about the stove building effort.
In January of 2004, a wonderful friend of ours, Joe Vitale was giving a three day seminar in Austin, Texas. Joe asked Dr. Barrett if he would be willing to speak at his Super Summit Marketing Seminar.
And of course, he did. The talk was on the Power of Giving and he shared his various mission experiences. The impact it has had on his life, my life, the other team members, the locals in Honduras and Mexico and the people we have come to meet, help and love.
During this talk, he spoke about Rodolfo Reyes and the changes he is making in the lives of his countrymen. Dr. Barrett challenged everyone to look beyond themselves, become part of something bigger, go beyond self and step out of their comfort zone to help others and bring abundance to others. What happened next was truly beautiful and magical. Many of you were there, and part of it so you know what happened. People rose to their feet and one woman (Christy) challenged every one to become involved as she handed Dr. Barrett money as a donation to build some stoves. It was overwhelming and very emotional as so many gave from their hearts. Some like Scott Halllman, Mike and Teri Levine were extremely generous and gave significantly large amounts. No matter what the size of the contribution it was all wonderful and unexpected. Every dollar would go towards building a new stove and changing the lives of a family. In all, about $2000 was donated towards the stoves from this seminar with additional monies pledged. It truly was incredible. We sincerely thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts.
Because of this generous outpouring, Dr. Barrett promised the seminar attendees he would provide them with additional information on the project and photos to show how their money was utilized. The opportunity to travel to Mexico came about in April of 2004. Although we could only manage a short trip, it was incredible and very productive! Because we didn’t have an associate doctor in the office at the time, we could only leave our patients unattended for a few days. So after our last patient on a busy Wednesday, we packed up the SUV and headed to Mexico at about 8:30 p.m.
I drove for about two hours and Dr. Barrett drove the rest. We arrived in Ciudad Valles thirteen hours later at 9:00 a.m. This is where we had prearranged to meet our friends, Bob and Suzanne. We were given instructions to meet at a roadside hut which served a typical Mexican meal outside of town. Remarkably, we found it without difficulty. This meeting place was about an hour from where Bob and Suzanne live, but we had not been there before. Amazingly, we reached this spot an hour early, so our friends weren’t there yet. And Dr. Barrett didn’t even speed to get there (not much anyway). Although early in the morning it was already about 80 degrees so we sat at one of the tables and drank a beer. (He deserved it after driving that long, besides you don’t want to drink the water.) When Suzanne and Bob arrived, we were ready to head out again.
Another three hours put us at our destination-Tamazunchale. Part of our drive was on the old Pan American highway. This region is absolutely beautiful. It is below the Tropic of Cancer and just what you would expect-gorgeous lush tropical mountains, heavy vegetation, beautiful rivers and abundant fruit (mangoes, papayas, bananas, oranges, etc.) We went directly to meet Rodolfo and his wonderful wife, Alicia. As we got acquainted over lunch at a roadside eatery, a course of action was decided upon.
Our next step was to go to a nearby village or Xicotla and a few others to see the people, view the conditions, see some of the work Rodolfo had already accomplished and begin the process of building new stoves.
Rodolfo took us to one small village where only 48 families were living. This was a unique village because the auxiliary judge and assistant were females. They have the distinction of being the only females in power in the entire county. These villages I am speaking of are all indigenous people.
They are the Nahuatl Indians. Rodolfo tells us there are 158 Indian villages in the mountains around Tamazunchale. 75 in Matlapa, 67 in San Martin and 48 in Tapacan. So you can see there is a huge need to help these people in many areas but especially to create a new healthy home environment by building an efficient stove.
Next, Rodolfo took us to Encino Solo a village of 125 families. Here we were about to help him build the first stove of this community! But before I tell you about the stove building, here’s a little background on Rodolfo and how the stoves came to be a part of his work to help the poor.
We are very fortunate to be able to communicate with Rodolfo because he speaks excellent English. He is a Nahuatl Indian but was fortunate to be brought to the U.S. as a child for about seven years. Here he was schooled and learned English. Returning to Mexico, he had a variety of jobs including working for the Ethiopian Embassy in Mexico City. But eventually his heart brought him back to the area of his birth and his family.
He became very interested in ecology and for the past fifteen years has been involved with it. All those years ago, Rodolpo and a few others started an ecology group. He is the only remaining member of the group called Agua, Tierra Y Vida (meaning water, land and life). This group was concerned about the destruction of the forests. The group grew to about thirty people and comprised of teachers, dentists and professional people, but because people become too busy or for one reason or another, mostly frustration, all the other members abandoned the group. This left Rodolfo to the daunting task of educating the people and providing alternate solutions to many of their harmful practices. So what he does is to go to the villages and speaks to the people about preserving the forests and saving the water. He would ask, “Why do you cut down the trees?” And of course, the reply was, “I need the wood to cook.” Unfortunately, the people can’t afford fuel for stoves. So he needed a solution to the problem.
About nine years ago he found the solution in a most unlikely place. In a government office, in one of the larger Mexican cities, he came across a mold and components to build an ecologically efficient wood burning stove. It had just been gathering dust in storage. He inquired about it and it was given to him with complete instructions for the proper mixture to construct the stove. The stove is made by packing a wooden form with a mixture of cement, dirt, cow manure and straw. These are mixed together with water to create a substance that can be packed into the form and then will harden.
So about nine years ago after he discovered the forms for the stoves, Rodolfo went about the task of educating the villagers on the merits of the stoves. Of course, like anyone else they don’t like change and initially was a hard sell. But once they see how the stove changes their lives, almost everyone wants one.
Rodolfo is currently working with 245 Nahuatl villages, the smallest of which has 12 families and the largest of 286 families.
When we were able to get the word to Rodolfo of our plans to visit him, build stoves and treat his people with chiropractic, he was overjoyed. He arranged for us to start work in the small village of Encino Solo where no new stoves had yet to be built. We were extremely fortunate to be a part of the building of the first stove in this village. This stove would belong to Doroteo Gonzalez, the auxiliary judge who is the leader of the village.
Rodolfo creates a sign up list for all those who want a stove. After he teaches and has the first person participate in building his family’s stove, it then is his responsibility to aid in building the next family’s stove. So all the community comes together and shares in the work of creating something new for one another.
As we take part in building this stove, Rodolfo shows us how he coats the form with used motor oil to facilitate the removal of the form after it has been packed with the “mud” and given sufficient time to harden.
Drying time is about an hour and 15 minutes. During this time we get to know the village a little more and learn about the daily existence of the people. We learned that just the wood gathering is an ordeal as the men cut wood daily to stoke the fires for cooking. The quantity of wood needed is larger than the circumference of your arms if you held them in front of you to form a circle. This large bundle of wood is carried by the men from a strap around their forehead that hangs on their backs.
Can you imagine cutting and carrying wood like this everyday of your life just to cook your food? (Most people think the drive thru or microwave takes too long and is too much effort!) One bundle of wood is needed per day, but with the new stove, one bundle will last seven days! This is a huge savings to the environment and to the amount of work the people have to do. After the allotted time we return to remove the forms very gently.
Now it us just a matter of time before it can be used. It will take about 15 to 20 days to cure properly; therefore, the family will have to rely on relatives for their cooking needs for a short time. By the time we are finished with this project we are very tired. We head back to the main town where Rodolfo lives and we all talk some more, get dinner and prepare for bed. It’s about 11:00 p.m. before we hit the bed very exhausted. After all we have been up for 40 hours! The next morning we start out early and go to another town. Here, Rodolfo has arranged for Dr. Barrett to provide chiropractic care for the people.
Dr. Barrett uses this building to treat patients. Rodolfo, Bob, Suzanne and I organize the people so that their treatments can go smoothly as possible. Dr. Barrett explains to Rodolfo what information he needs to relay to the people because they have no understanding of chiropractic care. It is fascinating because many of the people don’t even speak Spanish. They speak their traditional language of Nahuatl. Rodolfo taught Dr. Barrett a few phrases in Nahuatl so he could put the people at ease. Rodolfo said he did very well. Rodolfo did a great job translating Nahuatl to English for the doctor. As always the people are very generous with the little they have. Some of the women got together and made watermelon juice, gorditas and napolitas for us. It was quite a wonderful treat!
Rodolfo did a great job in spreading the word that Dr. Barrett was there because we had people traveling miles to get to him. One young man traveled over two hours to be seen and treated. Most of the people were treated on Friday and a few on Saturday morning before we had to leave.
By the end, about 100 people had been treated. These people live a hard life and have many health problems. Dr. Barrett treated many extremities problems as well as the usual neck and back problems. He showed them exercises and proper lifting techniques as well as handed out supplies of our favorite topical analgesic-Biofreeze.
Friday night we had a great meal in a small restaurant in the main town of Tamazunchale. It’s hard to describe because it is not like a restaurant you would expect in the U.S. It’s really just a small room where the owner/cook and her daughter prepare and cook the food on a small stove. We sat right next to her and watched her spin her magic-the food was excellent. We watched many people coming to pick up food to take home.
On Saturday, we treated some more people and then started the long but beautiful drive home. We had a very successful trip in many ways. We made new friends with Rodolfo and Alicia, treated some wonderful indigenous, delivered money for more stoves, built stoves and ate very well. Dr. Barrett and I know that from this, more good will come and more avenues to help will be opened up. Dr. Barrett is now working on the possibility of getting good water to some of these communities through an organization here in Houston. We thank everyone who was involved; every one of you who have donated money has made a huge difference in many lives. I hope you enjoyed our journey. We both look forward to talking to all of you about it more and updating you on future escapades.
If anyone is interested in continuing to help Rodolfo build more stoves please let us know.
Thanks again for all your love and support.
We can usually be contacted at the office:
Barrett Health Centers
4642 Riverstone Boulevard
Missouri City , TX 77459
Office Phone 281-499-4810