On the 31st of December 2014 we embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. Setting off in two groups – Jess and Simone on one flight, and myself and Ben on the other – we converged in Mexico City airport for an 8-hour layover. As the clock struck midnight we excitedly raised our plastic cups to health, adventures and an exciting 2015.
Having collected our Colombian friend and coffee expert, Miguel, from arrivals, we boarded our next flight to the south of Mexico. Over the mountains we flew, descending into the tiny thatched roof airport of Huatulco. Two more hours on the road and we finally made it to Zipolite, a place we would soon call home. Forty hours without sleep; 30 degrees and humid discomfort.
After a swim, a couple of Coronas and a good night’s sleep we were ready for what lay ahead. First on the agenda was meeting Sofia and Flavia from Piña Palmera. We weren’t quite sure what to expect. But nervousness was immediately quelled by the generous and warm hospitality of the staff and members at the centre. Set amongst an oasis of coconut trees, Piña Palmera is a centre for people with disabilities. With more than 30 years experience in the field, Piña Palmera’s mission is to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families through workshops, community-based rehabilitation, therapy and education. At present they work with 350 families across five municipalities. These guys really know their stuff when it comes to disability rights, inclusion, integration and equality!
Over the next couple of days we watched, listened and learned as the team at Piña Palmera shared their knowledge about the region and disability with us. I think we all agree that the highlight of the trip was when Flavia and Sofia drove us into the mountains to meet the locals of Pluma Hidalgo. With a population of only 3000, Pluma is a coffee-growing hub – it’s in their blood. We met with local people with disabilities and their families, and had a round-table discussion about the challenges and strengths of their community, coffee growing and living with disability. We then visited the homes of each family and checked out their back-yard coffee crops. This was particularly insightful, and we could see Miguel’s mind go into overdrive as he excitedly exchanged tips and knowledge with the locals. While it’s clear that improvements to plant quality can be made, there is also a wealth of knowledge for us to learn from.
We left Zipolite feeling both humbled and excited… and with a lot of work to do! Meeting face-to-face with the people at Piña Palmera and Pluma Hidalgo gave us a new appreciation for the project and those we are collaborating with. Our trip was far too short, but there our hearts remain – in Mexico awaiting our return in the near future. Now the hard work begins… making it happen!