Local DIF the human side of the administration
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
The DIF (Family Integral Development) system is an institution that focuses its efforts and resources on improving the lives of the most vulnerable residents in the city. With 14 programs and 18 million pesos to operate yearly, the municipal DIF tries to bring hope to those who have little.
The DIF system is a relatively young organization. It was founded in 1977 by Carmen Romano, wife of the then president of Mexico, José López Portillo. The governmental office focuses its effort on promoting the development and wellness of Mexican families. DIF, by tradition, is chaired at the national level by the president’s wife, at the state level by the governor’s wife, and in the municipalities by the wife of the mayor.
Since October 10, 2012, Karla Ramírez has been president of the local DIF, and her goal has not changed since then: to make people feel good and help them to receive the warmest attention ever.
About 30 minutes from San Miguel, near San Luis de la Paz, a rural community called El Fraile is located. The community is made up of 90 families, each of which has an
average of five members. One resident, doña Carmen Mendoza, commented that the main economic activity is agriculture without irrigation. “Some have their own crops, and those less fortunate work on others’ farms,” she said. The community has a kindergarten as well as a primary school; those students who want to continue studying have to go to another community, la Huerta, in San Luis de la Paz. Older students who are able can attend preparatory school in Los Rodríguez, and others work on farms or leave their hometown in search of the “American dream,” said Mendoza.
The community of El Fraile was severely flooded last year during heavy rains. During the storms the earth literally opened up and some houses were damaged as a consequence. The community remained isolated for a few days because of the large fissure, which later was catalogued as a geological fault. On February 6, personnel of the municipal DIF as well as the president, Karla Ramírez, visited the community. Ramírez told them that the local DIF was concerned about their situation and she was there to hand out food and blankets for the elderly and toys for children. Ramírez remarked that DIF also brought help to allow people to invest more money in repairing their houses or pay for other necessities. After Ramírez handed out more than 200 packages, the señoras approached her to request all kinds of support. “She always listens to our concerns and sends us help as soon as possible,” said Rosa Nely Rosas.
Every morning in the facilities of the municipal DIF, located on calle San Antonio Abad at the corner of Insurgentes, it is common to see senior citizens engaged in zumba, yoga and folkloric dance. They receive a breakfast after their exercises. In the dining area they can play table games or listen to music while they enjoy their food. These activities help them stay physically and mentally healthy. Thanks to this program several elderly people have been rescued from the street, where they used to beg for money or food.
During Ramírez’s administration, the breakfast service was reinstated. The cook in charge of preparing food for more than 600 people weekly is Rosy González, who has became good friends with some of the attendees. She commented that she knows the story of many of the elderly, who are frequently rejected by their families or feel useless at home; for that reason, said González, “they love spending time in the facilities.” González, who has been working eight years for the system, also has learned to share what she has with those most in need. “Two brothers used to attend, and suddenly they disappeared, but I knew where they lived. I went and brought them soup, and they were so grateful,” shared González.
Sometimes, there are reports of elderly people abandoned and wandering the streets, and some cannot even remember where they live. When that happens, DIF along with ALMA, provides them shelter; in the meantime, the DIF social workers try to reach their relatives to inform them of the situation. “We exhaust all the resources we have to keep families united,” said the president.
In the gerontology area of DIF, senior citizens can request an INAPAM card, which allows a discount on services. As an example, they pay only half the regular fare for public transportation.
The institution is also concerned with children who spend part of their days in the streets while their parents work. Twice a year social workers walk through the streets looking for these kinds of children and invite their parents to enroll them at no cost in the programs of Casa Esperanza. The house is not a school, but rather a place where the children can take part in activities and have breakfast or lunch before going to school. Besides getting a meal, the children can train in Tae Kwon Do; they also attend dance and music workshops, among many others. Monthly, 470 children benefit with no cost to them, and 60 receive scholarships. The teachers of Casa Esperanza, located in colonia Olimpo, won 50,000 pesos in a state-sponsored contest, and the money will be used to buy musical instruments.
More than 60 communities are supported through DIF’s food program. Every school day the students in the benefited areas receive nutritious breakfasts that include milk, cookies and dried fruits. In other communities, the secondary and preparatory students, along with residents, receive hot lunches or breakfast. Parents who live in the communities are the cooks in these DIF-sponsored
kitchens. Those who benefit from the meals program make a weekly payment of five pesos, which is invested in vegetables or other ingredients not provided by the system.
Mi Casa DIFerente, another program operated by the municipal system, provides houses to those most in need: single mothers in extreme poverty and those with salaries under 120 pesos. The houses consist of two rooms, a kitchen and a living room. The program also provides materials for constructing an extra room or concrete floors for those who already have a house. Twice a year DIF publishes a call for applicants and receives more than 400 requests. The state government decides who the recipients will be. Last year, the program handed over 50 DIFerent houses and supported the construction of 36 ceilings, floors or extra rooms.
PREVERP is a program aimed at preventing psychosocial risks, such as addictions, suicides and early pregnancy. Esther Muñoz, who heads this program, commented that they mainly work in schools, where at least 10 out of 50 students present suicidal tendencies. These teenagers are channeled to specialists. They also work with the parents, who must acknowledge the problem and work within the family to resolve it.
The CEMAIV area supports women and men who are victims of psychological, financial or physical abuse. This area has the goal of arranging agreements with the families in order to integrate them, but when that is not possible they are channeled to the corresponding authorities. Each year the office receives 130 complaints: on average, about 70 complaints from women, 10 percent from men, and the rest from children and the elderly.
DIF needs a helping hand
The system has an association of female volunteers, and DIF holds fundraising events to be able to develop projects in schools within rural communities. The president of DIF, Karla Ramírez, said that all donations are welcome—financial or material donations—which will be handed over to the most vulnerable in San Miguel. To donate, go to the DIF office.