Day long meeting begins to forge strategic plan for Border Partners’ future

strategic plan

Members of the Border Partners Board of Directors and Staff Members conducted a day-long meeting to formulate a strategic plan for the organization’s future.

Border Partners will remember October 26, 2016 as a momentous day in our history! Six members of the board of directors spent the entire day meeting with staff to begin forging a strategic plan. Our goal: to transfer more responsibility and authority to the Mexican people who’re so important to the organization. This day took us one important step closer to our goal of ensuring the continuation and sustainability of Border Partners into the future.

From the beginning, it’s always been our goal that Mexicans would eventually manage as much of the project as possible. Indeed, the Mexicans have gradually taken more leadership in planning and implementation of projects. But, until now, there was no formal plan in place to guide this transfer. And in certain areas, like finance, the Mexican leaders in Border Partners haven’t participated to the same extent.

Board President, Paul Dulin, planned the framework for our October 26 discussions and led led the meeting. We began reviewing Border Partners’ established vision, mission statements, and core principles.

During the following hour, the group gradually realized how united we all are in our hopes for the future. We participated in an exercise to determine our individual and then group feelings about the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and then identified external opportunities and barriers.

Strong, dedicated team formulates strategic plan

“It was gratifying to see that almost everyone in the group listed something related to our being a “strong, dedicated team” as what they felt was Border Partners greatest strength,” said Polly Edmunds after the meeting.

There was more breadth and variety in the other areas. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Weaknesses: difficulty saying “no” to people in need; difficulty getting people to volunteer; need for more money; problems with communication.
  • Opportunities: knowledgeable people willing to provide training; HEAL grant funding; talented people in Palomas who should be involved; land donated for a cooperative farmers market.
  • Barriers: politics; bureaucracy in the two countries; lack of money; no bathroom in the Education Center; lack of support from current local mayor.

Participants agreed that it is time for the team in Palomas to apply for nonprofit status so that they can raise money in Mexico. They formed a committee to investigate how to do this. Another committee will investigate establishing a new financial tracking system which will involve input from people on both sides of the border.

After a long day, everyone agreed that we had made a substantial start on a ”roadmap to the future” for Border Partners. Reflecting on the day, Palomas leader Juana Flores stated gratefully:

Thank you for the meeting and for your efforts day after day to stand up and fight for the people of Palomas.”

Promotora group trained to combat disease, promote wellness in Palomas

promotoras focus on Mexico's health crisis

Health promoters, called Promotoras, focus on addressing Mexico’s health crisis during recent training in Palomas

Hypertension and diabetes are epidemic in Mexico. Seventeen million people ages 20-69 are diagnosed with hypertension.  Fourteen million adults have high cholesterol or triglycerides and six million more have diabetes 2. All of these diseases are related to being overweight! All of them can be prevented by making different personal choices.

These stunning facts opened the second training sponsored by Border Partners of a group of Promotoras (Health Educators) on August 27-29 in Palomas. Mexico’s health status underlines the importance of equipping citizens to meet epidemic needs. Three days of training last month launched these new trainees with:

  • a basic understanding of hypertension and diabetes,
  • skills empowering the new promotoras to assess disease risk factors, and
  • updated recommendations from professionals on disease prevention and control.

The trainees were active learners, using a “hands-on” approach and valuing their opportunity to learn the use of genuine medical instruments to measure blood pressure and blood sugar.

promotora measures blood sugar

Mayela takes Josefina’s glucose during the promotora training, using an authentic medical glucometer.

The promotoras also learned the Five Steps Program, an effort in Mexico to raise public awareness of the steps individuals can take to improve their own health and avoid hypertension and diabetes. The Five Steps/Cinco Pasos are:

  1. Move!  Get more exercise:  30 minutes per day for adults, 60 minutes per day for children.
  2. Drink water!  5-10 glasses each day. Dehydration plays a big part in the development of chronic disease.
  3. Eat vegetables and fruits!
  4. Maintain good emotional health!
  5. Share information with others!

The promotoras are now equipped with several strategies for lowering the numbers of people with chronic health problems in their community. The training emphasized utilizing education campaigns, screening events, exercise classes, and support groups as grassroots efforts that will address these health needs.

The promotora group received their initial training in June. Border Partners is pleased to be part of the process of advancing health through community action.

Promotora training group and trainers, August 2012

Promotora training group and trainers, August 2012

Top 4 Needs in Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico

A Special Report by Polly Edmunds, Border Partners co-founder

Itʼs always difficult to know where to start when I am asked what the top needs are in Palomas. I wish I could take you on a tour of this Mexican border town, and you would see for yourself as we drive along the dusty, rutted streets: the empty factories, run-down housing, poorly equipped schools and parks.

But I think you would also be impressed with the calibre of people you would meet. Despite difficult living conditions and generally low levels of education, so many people in Pto. Palomas are energetic and hopeful for their communityʼs future.

Need #1 More income

After working closely with people living in the community for four years, I can say with confidence that their most important need is for more income. By some estimates, unemployment in Pto. Palomas is at 80%, but most people do find some way to make a little money. They have garage sales, wash cars for tourists or sell cookies to a local grocery. Right now there is work in the fields
paying about $10 for a nine hour day. Border Partners is always looking for opportunities for people to earn money. This is our greatest challenge.

Palomas Oilcloth Designs: Creater and customer meet

Palomas Oilcloth Designs: Creator and customer meet

Accomplishments and Hopes

  • We’ve helped seven women start their own cooperative business, making products out of Mexican oilcloth. They now run this business themselves, needing assistance only for sales in the USA.
  • Border Partners employs three Mexican citizens who work in their community promoting our programs year round. We hire several more for special projects.

Need #2 Programs to improve health

On our tour, the second need would not be as visible. Because of chronic low income and lack of good, affordable fruits and vegetables in the stores, there are many health problems associated with poor nutrition: high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory illness. Many people are overweight. The parks do not have good play equipment nor are there programs for children to get good outdoor
exercise.

In addition, there is only one public clinic in this community of about 5,000 and no private doctors. The closest hospital is in Deming, NM, and most people cannot cross the U.S. border to access it. The closest hospital in Mexico is 1.5 hours away.

home garden

Introducing cold frame gardens to Palomas provides improved nutrition, even during the winter months.

Accomplishments and Hopes

  • Border Partners has helped 35 families start year-round home gardens so they can grow their own, organic vegetables for their families. Our promoters offer free materials, seeds and technical assistance. We would like to expand this program and eventually start a farmers market.
  • Border Partners sponsors three free aerobics classes every week.  We hope to soon build adult exercise stations in one of the municipal parks.
  • Border Partners has made improvements at two city parks, adding playground equipment, volleyball courts, basketball hoops.  We hope to build a dirt bike track and climbing wall which would provide more recreation for teens. There is very little for them to do in town.
  • Border Partners provides about $150 worth of canned fruits and vegetables,cheese and eggs to each of three elementary schools each month. This supplements the dried foods they get from the government and improves the quality of nutrition the children receive at school.
  • In June, 2012, we sponsored a training for community health educators. There is a great need for health education for all ages. The teen pregnancy rate is high. Child abuse rate is higher in Pto. Palomas than in other parts of Mexico.

Need #3 Education

Many people in the community have not completed more than the 6th grade. Many families can’t afford the costs of education.

Accomplishments and Hopes

  • Border Partners has upgraded the computers at the public library so that now they have 12 computers connected to the internet. Some of the main users are high school students because the Prepatoria (high school) in Pto. Palomas does not have internet. We hope to build an community education classroom with state of the art equipment so it can offer distance learning college classes as well as basic literacy, math, computer skills. 
  • In August 2012, Border Partners will set up a computer lab for each of the three elementary schools. They will be able to use learning software provided by the Mexican government. We would like to add more computers to each lab. For now, we only have six for each school.

Need #4 Better Housing

Palomas dwelling

Many family homes in Palomas are substandard.

Many of the homes are in poor condition, unfinished and/or very small. Most are constructed of cement blocks which provide poor insulation. Thus, homes are hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Accomplishments and Hopes

  • Border Partners collects used and donated building materials and helps people fix their homes.
  • We are supporting a group of women who want to repair their homes by teaching them to make papercrete blocks (made of cement and recycled paper which makes them highly insulating and lighter than pure cement blocks). The women can use these blocks to repair and expand their homes as well as to sell so that they have money to buy other construction materials they need to upgrade their family’s homes.

The needs are clear to us. The people of Palomas are ready to work toward a better future. We invite you to join with us as we build a better U.S.-Mexico border community together.

“People say, ‘What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time. We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment.”  – Dorothy Day

Unexpected lessons: How poverty slows accomplishment

by Polly Edmunds. co-founder Border Partners

Palomas Mexico home

Rudolfo's humble Palomas home

Because we choose “to stand with” rather than “to do for” those who face the daily challenge of poverty, we are learning how poverty can negatively affect accomplishment and goal achievement. Again this spring, Rudolfo taught us this.

Rudolfo is a local master at traditional adobe block production, so my husband Peter asked him to help with an experimental project in Palomas. He agreed to try using some ground up paper in the traditional adobe brick to add better insulation and to try using the “cast in place” process to speed laying the brick and strengthen the construction results.

The two had some encouraging initial success. So Rudolfo then decided to start building a small, improved house on his property using the improved brick and methods as a means of continuing the experiment.

This adobe brick production requires a particular type of dirt that is high in clay content. Since a load costs $40, Peter gave Rudolfo money to purchase what he needed, the week before Easter.

Rudolfo and Peter

Rudolfo and Peter construct alternative adobe brick.

But the delivery man couldn’t bring the special dirt because his truck was broken, and his mechanic wasn’t working during Holy Week. So that stalled the experiment. Projects don’t always honor our time lines, and that’s often particularly true in Mexico.

But a week later, after enough time passed to repair the truck, there still was no load of gravel in place. When Peter inquired, Rudolfo apologized:

“While I was waiting for the truck to be fixed, we needed food. Since I had the $40, I used that money to buy food. And then we also got our water bill, and I had to pay that right away so the city wouldn’t turn off our water. But next week I’ll go work in the fields and earn $40, so we can order the dirt.”

Things take longer than you expect at times–for reasons that are surprising to people who live in “the land of plenty.” Rudolfo, by sharing his economic challenges, increased our understanding and empathy.

When we partner across the border line, we all have lessons to learn.

Ten elementary classrooms in Palomas will receive their first computer

Andrew Slade of UNICOR (left) presents ten computers for education to Border Partners co-director Peter Edmunds at an Earth Day event in Silver City, NM.

Border Partners co-director Peter Edmunds at an Earth Day event in Silver City, NM.

Ten computers are ready for delivery to Palomas elementary school classrooms that presently have no computer at all.  This big step forward for education is the result of a donation Border Partners received on April 21 at the Earth Day recycling event in Silver City, New Mexico.

Bill Charland, Border Partners’ board member, arranged this donation with Andrew Slade from UNICOR. This government agency operates a recycling program that collects unwanted computers, evaluating them to determine whether they can be refurbished or broken down into component parts for reprocessing.  Some of this work is carried out by federal prisoners.

Border Partners’ goal is to put at least one computer in each of the town’s 35 elementary classrooms during 2012. We are very grateful to Andrew Slade and UNICOR for helping us toward meeting this goal with their generous contributions.

Border Partners assists air quality assessment of Palomas, Mexico border region

installation of air quality monitors

Edgar Mendoza installs an air quality monitor in Palomas.

Our U.S.-Mexico border region of Chihuahua-New Mexico is now bejeweled with six new air quality monitors.  Border Partners is currently participating in a study of border air quality conducted by New Mexico State University, funded through a research grant administrated by NMSU Professor David DuBois.

The devices are located on electric poles 10 feet above the ground and will remain in Palomas for the duration of the study. The monitors’ automatic timer collects dust and other air pollutants at 24 hour intervals. Those filters are then collected and replaced every other day, a total of 16 times. Border Partners will service the monitors: collecting and replacing the filters, then delivering them to the researchers.

Palomas residents Marisol Guillen (a Border Partners promoter) and Edgar Mendoza assisted with the installation of the air quality monitors and will continue to help with the project’s data collection. Air quality is also being monitored on the U.S. side of the borderline in Columbus, NM.

The information that this study yields will help researchers assess the air quality of the border. Because border crossing traffic is funneled into our area, more air particulates could be concentrated here, too. Several of the Palomas monitors are located in the stockyards area to assess the impact of livestock manure on air quality.

collecting scientific data on air quality

Marisol Guillen dons gloves to collect scientific data on air quality.

The quality of the air we breathe directly affects our health. Participating in this project will help us better understand our border’s environment and the special needs we may have as a result of our area’s international role.