They had little to begin with and even less now. Help!

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, November 21, 2013

The southern Mexico mountain village of San Miguel was among those devastated by Hurricane Manuel in September. Rain and mudslides washed away homes, farmlands and lives, leaving only memories – and hope. Photos: top by Matt Black; bottom by Mike MacDonald
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Violent weather has dominated headlines the past few months. Last weekend’s deadly tornadoes across the U.S. Midwest; before that, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; and before that, right here at home, the Flood of 2013 – all have left their mark on landscape and lives.

But, thanks to extensive media coverage, these disasters also prompted an outpouring of compassion breathtaking in scope and impact.

There was, however, one violent weather event back in September with which many of our coffee companions are not familiar. Largely neglected by the media, Hurricane Manuel devastated marginalized communities in the mountains of southern Mexico. Winds, torrential rains, mudslides and floods robbed some of the world’s poorest of the poor of what meager possessions they had. And to add insult to injury, the storm even stripped subsistence farmers’ mountainside fields of precious topsoil.

The aftermath of that natural disaster has been heavy on me and many in our area who, 14 years ago, helped found the humanitarian outreach known as Mission Mexico. (See my column for Sept. 26, 2012.)

Mission Mexico began out of concern among members of St. Mary’s Church, Cochrane – and in particular, its pastor at the time, Fred Monk – to provide urgently needed assistance in education, sanitation, healthcare, and human rights to isolated communities in the State of Guerrero. This outreach was soon embraced by schools and parishes throughout the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.

One of the villages served through Mission Mexico is San Miguel Amaltepec. San Miguel was especially hard hit by Hurricane Manuel. (See accompanying photos.) In recent years, thanks to the generosity of Albertans, its young people have been able to attend a high school built by Mission Mexico in a nearby community, while parents have participated in local adult literacy and nutrition programs.

Mission Mexico’s Board Chair is former Cochrane Town Councillor Joann Churchill.

“This natural disaster has only added to the struggle of these very poor people as their life, every day, is a struggle just to survive,” Joann says. “They had very little to begin with; now they have even less! They need our help. Every donation given from the heart makes a difference.”

For information on how you can make a difference in their hour of need, see


© 2013 Warren Harbeck

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