In 2002 I wrote The Vanilla Chef and self published with the idea of donating $1.00 from the sale of each book to a medical fund for the poorest of the Mexican vanilla farmers. I chose Mexico because that's where vanilla originated. And I chose to self-publish because, contrary to how it may appear, authors receive very little for the sale of books, and I would not have earned enough to donate money from books published through mainstream publishing.
Last September, my friend Victor Vallejo, contacted me saying that the Papantla region Red Cross needed an ambulance, triage, and surgical equipment for emergency services for the people who live on ranchos. Although Papantla is a rural city of over 150,000 people, it is seriously lacking in services we take for granted in the United States. After a fire in December of 2002 where there was serious concern that the central part of the city would burn down, they FINALLY were able to secure a fire truck. And although the Mexican Red Cross has a small office in town, they have no supplies or equipment. This is especially frustrating as the Red Cross in many countries fulfills the same services that private ambulance companies provide in the US. The Red Cross unit helps people in need inside and outside of town with emergency care.
Yesterday we spoke with American Medical Response, a company that sells ambulances. They said they would be happy to donate an ambulance for the Papantla Red Cross!! We haven't finalized the details yet, but it's a milestone for us in our efforts to help farmers in the center of the Mexican vanilla industry.
We still need to secure triage and surgical equipment, wheel chairs, and other medical supplies. If you have connections to groups who can donate materials for this project, we would be very grateful. The Vanilla.COMpany is using the money we've set aside to pay for gas and other necessities to get the ambulance and equipment to Mexico. We are also donating several hundred copies of The Vanilla Chef to be sold to tourists visiting Papantla. All of the proceeds will go to keeping the Red Cross unit viable. We're excited about bringing this project to fruition.