Earth Day Health Fair 2018

health and earth Day

Vigorous exercise–with or without added weights–made faces explode with pure joy during the Earth Day Health Fair 2018.

by Samantha Apodaca

As we drove into Palomas on Saturday morning, April 21, for Earth Day Health Fair 2018 the main thoroughfare felt abnormally empty and sleepy. But, as we traveled a few blocks south, we heard music and turned towards it. There we were greeted by a park decorated with people talking, laughing and dancing.

free haircuts

Participants were treated to free haircuts at the Health Fair.

Children were weaving in and out of cones, jumping over hurdles, swinging hula-hoops, riding bikes – the obstacle course appeared to be a hit!

Up the street from where the kids played, a blue tent belted out upbeat Mexican songs. In front of that tent, a group of girls and women jumped and swayed. Juana, our exercise instructor, led them in beat. Some were wearing work-out garb, others wore traditional Tarahumara dress. But all were wearing belly dancing skirts Juana knew would excite them into participating.

Further up the street, a bouncy house balloon heaved and sagged. The kids inside were giggling and jumping high as they could, showing-off to their parents who stood and watched.

Freebees at Earth Day Health Fair 2018

health services crafts

Health services and crafts from recycled produces coexisted peacefully.

Earth Day Health Fair 2018.

Snacks can be healthy and earth-friendly, like the free treats at Earth Day Health Fair 2018.

Wrapping around the corner was a line of tents and tables. The first offered free haircuts. The second provided free health check-ups. The third tent gave free vegetable seeds to those waiting in line. And, the fourth handed out free healthful food. Each stand was lined with people awaiting their turn. Meanwhile they stayed entertained by all the activity surrounding them.

I walked among all the commotion, snapping photos in an attempt to capture the overwhelming feelings of liveliness and togetherness to share with you. This is also an important effort as donations from our followers support events such as this.

So please, continue your generosity and help to create more blissful days for the people of Palomas.
-Samantha


All photos from Earth Day Health Fair 2018 by Samantha Apodaca

Earth Day Health Fair 2018

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

Give Grandly 2018: Improve lives with resources that help

Give Grandly 2018

Join us on May 5, 2018 for Give Grandly 2018: 24 hours of giving to make our Border community stronger. Create a thriving community for all. Give Grandly 2018 brings the region together as one community. It’s a campaign to raise money and awareness for all local nonprofits during the 24-hour online giving challenge.

Your gift to us will:

  • Support family garden plots so kids can eat fresh home-grown vegetables
  • Continue health education and direct services by grassroots promotoras
  • Make sports opportunities available, keeping indoor gyms open
  • Keep kids on bikes that work because they’ve been repaired and maintained
  • And that’s just the beginning…

How to Give Grandly 2018

We need you to help us with four things:

  1. Mark Give Grandly! on your calendar for Saturday May 5 and bookmark this giving link: https://givegrandly.civicore.com/borderpartners 
  2.  Please make a donation to support us on May 5
  3.  Spread the word! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Follow the hashtags #GiveGrandly #GiveLocal to see the buzz.
  4.  Come down to the Silver City Farmers’ Market at 7th and Bullard Streets on opening day – May 5 from 8:30 am – 2:30 pm —  to meet us, other nonprofits, and learn about the great work we’re doing in this community

Give a little. Give a lot. Give Local. Give Grandly 2018!

Thank you for your support! Your interest in our work fuels our efforts. We rely on you to accomplish all we do.

My first meeting with Border Partners Mexican staff

Border Partners staff meal

Border Partners staff meal nourishes team spirit and accomplishment.

by Samantha Apodaca

We brought enchiladas, pie, and ideas to the table that Monday.

Being it was my first meeting, I watched and listened. I learned more of the inner-workings and interrelations of Border Partners and began to understand others’ roles and attributes. Integrating into the community that is Border Partners has been invigorating, in that there are new people to meet, new ideas to explore, and new knowledge to discover.

Juan Rascon sat between Peter Edmunds and me, translating between us and the promotoras. We talked about current projects, future projects, what we can do better – everyone was included and heard. Being apart of such a cohesive and cooperative group was inspiring. Capable, bright, determined people were sitting before me, all discussing how to better their community.

  • They laughed and joked about how spicy the food was,
  • they debated what seeds would best grow in the hot, dry Mexican climate,
  • they brainstormed how to get children more involved in community gardens.

Allowing for a time and space to discuss or vent, as Peter explained, was vital to keeping the energy alive in the organization.

After the First Meeting

first meeting border crossing line

After Samantha’s first Mexican staff meeting, she had a long line to cross back into the United States.

After having such wonderful afternoon, it seemed that Mexico didn’t want to see us go… a line several miles long was building as we approached the border. Peter and I saw that we were going to have to wait a few hours before getting home. BUT, we were crawling through the parade right on the main street of Palomas, making this the perfect opportunity to hop out of the car and take some photographs. Peter held down the fort while my camera led me through the streets.

All the sights, smells and sounds kept my intrigue sparked.

Every “hola” and bright smile made me enjoy and appreciate the long wait.

When we finally passed through the border, I looked in the rearview mirror, already longing for our next meeting…


All photos by Samantha that day are on our Border Partners Flickr account. 

SA’s First Mexican Staff Meeting

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

Meet Samantha Apodaca: Our new administrative assistant

Samantha Apodaca

Samantha Apodaca, photo taken in Thailand

Border Partners would like to introduce you to our new administrative assistant – Samantha Apodaca. As a recent university graduate, her studies included two semesters abroad, in two different areas of the world. Her extensive volunteer work includes assisting at an orphanage and a hospital for mentally disabled children and teaching English to Buddhist monks. As it happens, she lives just two blocks from our office in Deming and was looking for a job with a nonprofit organization. 

Samantha brings us computer skills, and her hobby is photography. She knows social media and has ideas for how we can improve. We feel very lucky to have her working here. And, we’ve asked Samantha to share her initial and ongoing impressions with us. Read on for her first installment and watch for more to come.


Samantha’s First Message

Hello! My name is Samantha and I am now working for Border Partners as the new Administrative Assistant. To introduce myself I want to tell you all a bit about my background and past, as well as my future goals and dreams.

I graduated from New Mexico State University in December of 2017 and received a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology with a minor in Journalism. Anthropology became my passion as soon as I attended my first introductory class and decided it was the career I wanted to pursue. That drive led me to study in both Italy and Thailand. I was rewarded with valuable experiences that brought international issues to my attention, specifically those concerning Thailand’s Indigenous peoples and systematic oppression.

Travelling allowed me to delve deeper into my own identity. I learned that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping others that face social injustices, poverty, and/or lack human rights.
When I learned of this position with Border Partners I felt the same excitement as when I left the US for adventures abroad. Their goal to ‘help others help themselves’ intrigued my inner Anthropologist, as it is crucial to never dominate a culture or society (even if it comes in means of aid) but rather to understand their needs and learn how to best contribute.

The outstanding work Border Partners does in Palomas is largely due to the wonderful and reliable Mexican staff. Learning of their stories, tribulations and accomplishments, intrigued the Journalist in me. Reporting what Border Partners does, who Border Partners helps, and why Border Partners continues to stay active in Palomas is crucial to supplying a better understanding of the needs of border communities.

Providing clean water, food for school lunches, nutritional education, home and community gardens, exercise classes, sports centers, playground equipment are just some examples of how Border Partners has changed lives… and that is something I want to be a part of. Don’t you?

Samantha

P.S. This is the first of many blog posts I will be sharing here on our website. Please leave comments! I would love to hear your feedback and/or personal experiences with Border Partners!

12 New Greenhouses Improve Health, Nutrition in Palomas

12 New Greenhouses

Ramona (left), veteran gardener, and Juana (right), Border Partners garden coordinator, review winter veggies almost ready to harvest.

While people in the northern US are still shoveling snow this month, families in Palomas, Chihuahua, MX are harvesting fresh lettuce for their dinner salads. Only a few years ago, diabetes was epidemic there and fresh vegetables not available. In response to residents’ requests to help them improve health, Border Partners introduced raised-bed, covered gardens in 2009. Gardeners have raised healthy vegetables year-round in this small border outpost ever since.

greenhouses veggies

Nutrition-packed, leafy green vegetables thrive in greenhouses during the cool winter climate of the high desert.

But since last fall, thanks to grant funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, production is blossoming! Twelve experienced gardeners now have home greenhouses (12’ x 15’) where they can increase their production. This month they’re harvesting celery, spinach, chard, kale, beets, cilantro, radishes and broccoli–in addition to that lettuce. These are all crops that thrive in cool weather. Since temperatures in this high desert town often fall into the 20’s overnight in January and February, these crops grow very well.

Peter Edmunds, Border Partners’ general manager explains:

“Greenhouses are about control. Throughout the year, the extremes of summer heat and winter cold are controlled. Greenhouse gardening, if done right, lets the gardener use every square foot of space–all year.”

Greenhouse Construction

greenhouse construction

Home gardeners worked together to help each other build the home greenhouses, using materials provided by a grant from Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Border Partners provided the materials for the greenhouses. But the gardeners constructed the greenhouses themselves, working together with our gardening staff. Each recipient agreed at the outset to contribute forty hours of labor to help build all the greenhouses. Twelve are now completed at family homes. These families not only eat the vegetables they grow themselves but generally they also share them with extended family and neighbors.

Two larger greenhouses will be built in March at elementary schools. Palomas school children will learn how to garden and will harvest vegetables to use for their own school lunch programs.

Next Priority: Rainwater Capture

In March, each gardener in the program will receive a rainwater catchment barrel and eave troughs to collect water from the roof of their home for watering the greenhouse. This promotes production since they’re gardening in the desert–where every drop of water is precious. And that highlights another advantage of greenhouse gardening: soil needs less water because it’s protected from direct sunlight.

Border Partners places strong emphasis on its gardening program because of the potential that better access to fresh vegetables has for making significant changes in community health.

Better Health through Biking: Supporting Bike Race Day 2018

70K winner

Edgar Loya Becerra winner of the 70K bike race is pictured with Palomas Mayor Ramon Rodriguez (left).

A favorite event for the village of Palomas, the second annual bike race–the Carrera Villista–drew bike teams from Juarez, Ascención and Nuevo Casas Grandes to join local Palomas residents in competition on Sunday, February 18. Border Partners’ promotoras supported both the civic event and the health of all competitors by distributing fruit and drinks supplied by Border Partners.

The town’s streets were lined with smiling well wishers who observed and rooted for their favorites. Border Partners promotoras provided fruit and drinks to the racers both along the 35K and 70K route between Entronque and Palomas and at the finish. Thirty-three racers participated in the 70 km race that routed from Palomas to Entronque and returned. Twenty-eight cyclists, including a woman from far away Denver, Colorado, competed in the 33 km race that started at Entronque and finished in Palomas. Border Partners’ Juana Flores distributed fruit and drinks midway between Entronque and Palomas.

Mayor Ramon Rodriguez and the entire village support this event. Reaching beyond residents of Palomas, the race also attracted a large group of approximately 40 bike enthusiast participants from Cuidad Juarez, the major metropolitan center two hours away. This year’s event prompted a visit from two medalists from Club Soles of Juarez: Zanya Aguirre Avila, National Champion and Gold medalist at Mexico City and 6-year-old Yaretzi Aguirre, National Silver medalist. 

children's race

And they’re off! Children pump hard as they race to the edge of town and back to the center of Palomas.

In addition to the two adult races, there was also a children’s bike race that featured twenty-five participants, including a group from Juarez. The children started at the government plaza in downtown Palomas, rode to end of village and returned to center. Two toddlers on striders ran along behind the older children: Sebastian Peres, a 2-year-old from Club Soles of Juarez, and Itzael Aguirre, 3 yrs old.

toddler competitors

Palomas Mayor Ramon Rodriguez (right) honored the two youngest competitors, aged two and three-years, at Carrera Villista.

Border Partners Annual Report 2017

BP ANNUAL REPORT 2017

Border Partners is celebrating nine years working with the people of Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico. They live just across the border wall from New Mexico. Happily, in this annual report 2017, we can say that by working together with many generous supporters in the United States, lives there have improved considerably since 2008!

Border Partners’ GOAL

Through the years, we haven’t wavered: We respond to the needs of the people in Palomas. When we share the resources they need to accomplish their goals, they can improve their own community. So we always:

  • Support projects that empower Mexican people to learn new skills, take responsibility and assume leadership.
  • Remember that “teaching a person to fish is better than giving them a fish.”
  • Prepare for the day when Mexicans will take over all aspects of this work.

Our ACHIEVEMENTS

We’re very proud that we’ve made significant progress toward that last commitment!
A strong team of leaders in Palomas now take major responsibility for planning and executing projects.
Many local people are now convinced that it’s possible to improve life in their community. (This wasn’t true when we started!)
Thousands of adults and children in Palomas participate in Border Partners’ activities that promote health throughout the year.
And now, a very significant step: a group of Mexicans who work with Border Partners have applied for nonprofit tax status. With this designation, they’ll be able to raise money on their own in 2018.

What was NEW in 2017?

  • Began teaching nutrition classes for students at all six schools in Palomas.
  • Added lights to the Border Partners/Paso del Norte Sports Center–providing time for additional hours of play.
  • Opened a second indoor public recreation facility to the public after school and on weekends. This one has a weight room.
  • Built greenhouses at homes of six of the most successful gardeners.
  • Began daily aerobics and weekly yoga classes for the community.
  • Made significant progress on designing a low cost water filter for homes and schools to take out the excess lead, fluoride and arsenic in Palomas water.
  • Began growing earthworms and produced 20 cubic yards of biochar for garden soil.
  • Contributed equipment, furnishings and internet access to the new public high school.

PLUS, we continue the OTHER successful programs you’ve supported in the past:

Spring & Fall town health fairs ■ 6th Annual Summer School session
Computer classes at our Education Center ■ 60 home gardens
Monthly food supplements for school lunches ■ Free nutrition classes for families
Bicycle repair shop ■ Free monthly health screenings
Senior citizen programming ■ Classes about healthy sexuality for teens

This progress has been possible because Border Partners has a strong team of donors, foundations, volunteers, board members and – best of all – the empowered citizens of Palomas working together to transform Palomas!”

2017 annual report

Women and Inheritance Issues in Mexico, a Focus Group Report

inheritance law

A focus group in Palomas considered how Mexican inheritance law affects women’s empowerment.

Land and inheritance rights are a key factor in empowering rural women. In Mexico, the situation is unfair and unjust. Border Partners convened a focus group in Palomas this week to learn more about it. Input from this meeting went to a group in New York that’s preparing for the 2018 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The meeting, held March 11-23, will focus on challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality. The commission will emphasize the empowerment of rural women and girls.

One woman in the group immediately shared her own personal situation. She’s waited nine years for an inheritance. But she still hasn’t received title to the land she should inherit. She’s unable to meet all the legal requirements. The process is unnecessarily slow. Key figures (officials) change, thereby delaying, disrupting or derailing the process.

Contextual Problems Affect Inheritance Law

Our group didn’t really complain about the law itself. Instead, it expressed more concern with how the law was so arbitrarily applied. This manifested itself in two particular ways they specified:
The first difficulty is that women are treated differently than men by the courts. Mexican culture is predominantly a male-dominant, machismo culture. Men receive preferential treatment. Officials don’t apply the law equally across genders.

A second ongoing problem is that corruption is endemic. Specifically, the focus group agreed that often people seeking court action must unofficially pay something to officials to get action, even though they have the correct legal papers. This sort of bribe has a name in Spanish: a mordida, or “bite,” referring metaphorically to the wound of an animal bite.

Other Issues

Legal paperwork is processed in larger cities that are distant from from rural women. This sets up more handicaps. Rural women often can’t travel to those larger, distant cities. It’s expensive. This is a hurdle too high for many to surmount.

Inheritance laws also hurt women who’re not legally married to their partner who dies. Many Mexican couples are common law couples. Marriage is expensive. So couples don’t undertake it. Absence of laws recognizing the legitimacy of the common law commitment hurts many women.

Rural women often don’t have resources to hire an attorney to represent them. Therefore, their case becomes very difficult to win in court. Legal representation is expensive. And, it isn’t provided for those who can’t afford it.

The situation of indigenous women is no better than non indigenous. In some instances, groups may advocate for the rights of indigenous. In the case of such advocacy, an indigenous woman may have an advantage. If there’s no such advocacy present, an indigenous woman faces the same situation that all women face.

Health promoter leaders reflect on five years of progress

health promoter leaders

Two of the original health promoters, Juana Flores and Gricelda Loya, reflect on the changes they have seen in the town’s health and in themselves as a result of promotora training and work.

Promotoras (“health promoters or educators,” in English) play a very valuable role in health care promotion in Mexico. Palomas has had an active group of promotoras since 2012 when Border Partners organized a training to start a group.

Five years later, two of the original group, Juana Flores and Gricelda Loya, are health promoter leaders in the current group of five active promoters. We talked with them last week to assess the changes they see in the health of the community — and in themselves — since that first training.

Both women agreed that the health promoters have brought numerous programs  to people in Palomas that were not available to the people prior to 2012. The promotoras offer regular blood pressure and glucose screening, free yoga and exercise classes, healthy sexuality education for adolescents, and nutrition classes for families, pregnant moms, students and seniors. In addition, they organize sports tournaments for all ages at three new community venues made possible with funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Since the first training in 2012, they have taken hundreds of hours of training in diverse health-related areas such as:

  • nutrition,
  • first aid,
  • proper hygiene and correct hand washing methods,
  • diabetes foot care,
  • mental health and
  • healthy prenatal experience.

Palomas Health Advances

Gricelda said that she has noticed that in the last year, more people are asking for health classes and are more involved in discussion when they take them. People are asking more questions and wanting more information on the topics. She felt this was a big step forward.

Juana has been teaching an exercise class each weekday morning since Spring 2017. At a recent weigh-in, the group of 25 women had lost an average of two kilos each in three months!

Juana and Gricelda now have two sessions of a class on healthy sexuality for adolescents – the number of students asking for the class has grown so they added another class section. They invited two of the teenagers from that class to attend a recent training on “Six Steps to Health” with the promotoras. Those two teens now want to help the promotoras with nutrition classes for elementary students in Palomas.

Health Promoter Leaders Change, Too

When asked how this work has changed them personally, Juana responded, “Well first, I have lost 60 pounds since I began!” She went on the say, “My life has changed 360 degrees. I know so many more people now! Instead of spending all day alone in my house, I’m in the streets of the town all day!”

Griecelda says that she also knows many more people. “We are learning how to work with all types of people and know more about how to help people lead healthy lives.”

They both agreed: “It is a beautiful thing to be able to help your community.”

Construction begun: 10 new greenhouses for Palomas

greenhouse construction

Aide pauses to smile as she places a post to support her family greenhouse, one of 10 projected new greenhouses in Palomas to improve home gardening and local nutrition.

“I have high hopes that greenhouses are the best way to produce abundant crops of vegetables in our climate of extremes.”  Peter Edmunds, Border Partners’ General Manager,  is in a position to say this as he took a break from supervising the building of the first of ten, new greenhouses Border Partners is building this fall at homes of successful gardeners in Palomas.

He went on, “Once people have the skills for managing a greenhouse, they’ll get enough more production to make a big difference in their extended families’ nutrition!” 

Border Partners staff gardeners, Juana Flores and Juana Lozoya, chose gardeners to receive greenhouses who have been in their home gardening program for several years and shown that they can manage a smaller year round garden and get good production.  Most of them have also worked in the two large, year-round greenhouses that Border Partners has had for five years on a public site.

Funded as part of a grant to improve nutrition in Palomas from the Paso del Norte Foundation, each greenhouse will be 12’ by 15’ and covered by plastic in the cold months and shade cloth in the summer.  Vegetables will grow year round in raised beds filled with composted soil and a rainwater catchment system will provide a portion of the water needed.

New greenhouses: Assembly required

The greenhouses do not, however, arrive complete.  More than a little assembly is required and it’s good to have some help.  One of the requirements is that each person who receives a greenhouse must contribute 40 hours to building greenhouses for others after theirs is complete. 

An important goal of the project is to encourage people with skills to share them with their neighbors.

new greenhouses

One of ten new greenhouses under construction in Palomas, this foundation represents the teepee style building.

So, on an unusually warm fall day last week, several Border Partners staff members, along with gardeners who had received greenhouses already, were busy assembling a greenhouse for Aide Carreon.    After a pickup loaded with lumber, PVC pipe and tools, they got to work. 

“I like working as a team,” said Flores, “if only the men would follow the women’s instructions, it might go a lot better,” she said with a smile.

Within a few hours, the frame was completed and the crew was invited into Carreon’s home to enjoy a hot bowl of homemade pozole.  In a few months, she expects to enjoy the first harvest, and the benefits will extend beyond her immediate family. 

“Vegetables from the greenhouse will help me save money and improve my family’s diet,” said Carreon, “but it’s also a good example for my neighbors.”

Greenhouses are an important part of the effort to improve nutrition in Palomas.  Historically, due to the long distances involved, local stores have provided a limited variety of not-very-fresh produce at relatively high prices.  Home gardening was not viable due to the hard, alkaline soil common in the area and the seasonal temperature extremes.  As a result, many families rely on high fat, low nutrient diets contributing to the high incidence of health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.