Todd Stong is well into his 80’s, has had four heart attacks but he refuses to stop his work to improve life for the less fortunate. Years ago, Todd escaped the winter cold to central Mexico. A retired military engineer, he soon realized that potable and clean drinking water was a severe problem for the people of the region where he was vacationing. End of vacation.
Todd turned his expertise, experience, and engineering skills to cleaning up Lake Chappala to provide the local residents with drinkable water. He has been at it for more than 20 years struggling with political incompetence, bureaucratic red tape, and civil indifference in his goal to help the ‘little people.’
Here are his words about the situation:
Let me take a moment to set some local scenes while you take time to smell the roses.
Little village stone or dirt streets are all day long filled with little children far beyond the density to be seen in that fairylands of the north we call home. Such are the lights from heaven that arrive annually at impoverished homes all over the mountains in all directions.
Chickens/fighting roosters kept in wire cages all of their life, despite being never convicted of a crime. I can only imagine one going crazy with being confined as such. I enjoy pulling greens about the yard or collecting kitchen scraps to share with these prisoners facing life-long sentences.
An older fellow each and every day dragging an ice cream cart over miles and miles of cobblestone streets in hopes of selling some popsicles at a door that opens to his familiar call. Then there is a man coming down the sidewalk blowing a nice-sounding whistle, the alert to unseen ladies behind high walls, that he would love to sharpen their knives.
Not until I reached 65 did I discover at night looking northward over the mountain ridge to find the North Star (Polaris) which sits in the cup of the Big Dipper. In time I became skilled during the night awakenings to be able to tell the time within 15-30 minutes (1,2,3,4,5 AM) as that Dipper rotated clockwise about the north star. Why in the 60 years earlier had I not made this discovery? I must conclude now that Fred, Wilma, and Bam Bam Flintstone knew/saw/understood a myriad of things in nature that we may not in 100 years even guess are there. Even Fred’s pal, Barney, must have known more than we will come to understand.
Here one can learn the names of 50+ people in 3 blocks that can provide you with every service you might need. Their faces are unchanged in their shops for decades, not weeks as in the USA. Our butcher Enrique, our baker Luis, Edna the bottled water lady, our banker Monica, our mechanic Carlos with his helpers Alejandro and Victor, and the many husbandless mothers in their front rooms at our many tiny food stores (tiendas) that can be found every 100-200 feet along our streets, Then we may add Sandra who solves my cell phone mysteries, Gerardo my English speaking on-call construction project supervisor, Maria the near 90-year toothless senior lady who sweeps most of our street for some hoped-for coins from the neighbors. I love to place a folded up 100 peso ($5) note in her hand once or twice a week to just see the love in her face/the light in her eyes, knowing she will soon rush to a nearby tienda to seek a prized giant bottle of Coca Cola. In each of the 40 villages about our lake, the largest in Mexico, I treasure knowing and honoured to be viewed as a patron saint to a wide variety of natives as well as their 3-year long term mayors and presidents of the farmers’ group. The sweetest sound you can offer to the poor, is the sound of you calling their name, that confirmation that they are visible and remembered.
To read more about Todd’s work, click: STONG