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.

Fall 2017 Health Fair in Palomas

fall 2017 health fair

A Palomas mother brings her daugher to the Fall 2017 Health Fair in Palomas for a screening

The Promotoras (Health Promoters) in Palomas held their fall 2017 health fair on Saturday October 28. While the Promotoras work year around to provide medical screening services and education to local residents, this biannual event has proved to be a good way to bring awareness to health issues and recruit new clients by providing a fun and entertaining atmosphere.

An estimated 350 people attended Saturday’s event in the main plaza, which was vibrating with activity and color. The street was lined with booths selling craft items made from recycled materials, the health screening tent, burrito stand and a bounce house for children. Another attraction was a Matachines dance troupe from the San Judas Tadeo church in Juarez and a display of zumba dancing.

Fall 2017 Health Fair Improvements

This year, the Promotoras used a new system to encourage people to take advantage of their health screening services. After their screening, residents received a ticket they could exchange for a healthful vegetarian burrito stuffed with beans and fresh, multi-colored vegetables. With help from 15 students from the telebachillerato school, the Promotoras served 240 vegetarian burritos.

matachines

The matachines added a colorful, joyous dance to the Fall 2017 Health Fair in Palomas.

Palomas 2017 Summer Activities

summer school 2017

Summer school was a highlight of many youth again this year.

Both kids and adults in Palomas had plenty of opportunity for fun and learning this past summer thanks to Border Partners’ creative and energetic staff.

Official shirt

Official shirt

A highlight for kids each summer is the annual summer school which this year had a new location and format. Seventy children were divided into five groups and rotated classes between the BP Education Center to learn computer skills, the greenhouses to try some gardening, the library to do art projects and learn English and then outside for some exercise. A healthy lunch completed the day.  All this was organized by our Promotoras with the help of Lee Lowder, a wonderful volunteer teacher who came for the second year this summer to help.

Summer school 2017

Friendship and fun–all part of the package.

All summer, there were tournaments and games for kids and adults at the BP Sports Center and at the public gym BP opened last year with the help of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PdNHF). For the first time, in August, the public was able to use the fields at the middle school and a new weight room also thanks to funds from the PdNHF.

Summer 2017: Well-rounded Activities 

Besides these opportunities for healthy exercise, BP staff organized several community bicycle events and began offering a regular morning exercise class which combines zumba, bench and cardio.

And there were opportunities to learn computer skills, too.  Gricelda Loya, our Education Center Director, organized and taught two classes–one on using Microsoft Office and another on Photoshop.

Hard work

Diligent work yields gains for the kids in Palomas.

Summer School Activities 2017

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Border Partners thanks supporters for Giving Grandly!

Give Grandly 2017

Mother and Child by Diane LeMarbe

Mother and Child by Diane LeMarbe

We want to thank all our supporters for their contributions to the Give Grandly! fundraising event on May 6. It was sponsored by the Grant County Community Foundation (GCCF) in partnership with the United Way.

We received 34 contributions that day, ranging from $1.00 to $3,000. The total for the day was $6,441.26. All in all, we count that as a big success!

We also want to give special thanks to artist Diana LeMarbe for donating her sculpture “Mother and Child” for the auction. All the proceeds from that sale will benefit local programming in Palomas.

We are grateful to you for making progress possible in the community of Palomas! Thanks.

Give Grandly! 2017 Builds the Border with Supporter Help

Give Grandly 2017

Donate to Border Partners on May 6, 2017 and your contribution will automatically double.

Border Partners will participate in Give Grandly-Give Local, an annual, nationwide fundraising event that focuses donations to local non-profits on a single giving day. Grant County Community Foundation (GCCF) spearheads the day, part of their mission to support local nonprofits.

A very generous supporter, who wishes to remain anonymous, has pledged to match the first $3000 in contributions made to Border Partners. This allows our donors to double their contributions by giving on May 6, the event day. Give donations online at BorderPartners.org or at givegrandly.org on May 6 so that your contribution will be doubled.

This year, GCCF has again partnered with United Way. The groups will hold a nonprofit fair on 7th Street, next to the Silver City (NM) Farmers’ Market on Saturday, May 6, from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. Border Partners will manage a table at the fair.  We’ll be onsite to highlight our work, receive donations, and answer questions. Musical entertainment and free food goodies will boost the energy to give.

Special Silent Auction Item

During the nonprofit street fair, Border Partners will display the statue Mother and Child by Diana LeMarbe which is on the silent auction block. Money received from the proceeds of the auction will support programming in Puerto Palomas, improving public health and well-being. Bids will be accepted until 12:00 PM at the nonprofit fair table. The winner of the auction will be announced at 2 PM.

Anyone can donate online beginning from 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on May 6. Contributors can also use a new mobile texting app for donating via smart phones and tablets. In addition, donors can also make their tax-deductible donations to Border Partners via available computers onsite at the nonprofit fair in Silver City. Freeport, United Way, and James Edd Hughs Edward Jones are providing matching funds which further increases the donation that Border Partners will receive.

New Mexico has participated in Give Grandly since 2014. This event raised over $250,000 for area nonprofits over the past three years. GCCF does not take a percentage, so all the money goes directly to designated nonprofits.

Join us May 6 and: Give a little. Give a lot. Give local. Give Grandly! Help us make history again.

Earth Day 2017 in Palomas: A multi-faceted, meaningful celebration

Earth Day 2017 banner

Colorful flags decorated the Earth Day 2017 event, created by area school children.

On Saturday April 22 Border Partners’ staff planned, organized and hosted an Earth Day 2017 celebration in Palomas, Mexico. It was a perfect opportunity to show off many local projects that benefit the community and planet earth!  

earth day 2017

Earth Day 2017 marketplace sold plants, seeds, and lots of garden produce, among other items.

There were activities for the whole family!

The promotoras were busy serving free vegetarian burritos filled with fresh vegetables from local gardens. 

Nearby, gardening coordinator Juana Lozoya was selling bags of freshly-picked parsley, celery and chard that were grown in the community greenhouses she oversees.

Kids and adults brought their bicycles to be repaired.

There were also health screenings and haircuts, zumba and games for kids!

Posters made by local school students decorated the area!

Earth Day 2017–Special Features

In honor of Earth Day, Border Partners’ volunteers converted the golf cart used by staff to visit home gardens to solar power! Juana Flores, who often drives it, reported, “It works better than it ever did!” She was giving rides to demonstrate.

Students from two Palomas high schools used the event as an opportunity to showcase solar appliances they made with help from Border Partners staff using recycled materials. These included two solar box cookers, a water purifier and a solar water heater.  

Solar Cooker Prototype

Earth Day 2017

Daniel Maya demonstrated his prototype of a parabolic solar cooker during the Earth Day event.

Students from the prepatoria (high school) were demonstrating a parabolic solar cooker made from an old satellite dish and lined with glass pieces. Project leader, Daniel Maya said, “You can cook a pot of beans in about two hours and you save two hours of gas.” Maya said that the model on display was a prototype and they plan to make a larger version to be used at the school.

The event drew a steady crowd. People from both sides of the border enjoyed the music, ate healthful food and admired colorful, locally-made craft items. Many items were made with recycled materials: soda pop pull-tabs crocheted together became colorful handbags and old jeans were transformed into aprons.  It was a fun and educational day for all!

Enjoy the colors and the activity of the day in our Flickr album:

[FGAL id=2396]

New borderlands water research cites Border Partners

Water research

Emilie Schur (3rd from left) and the Palomas health promotoras worked together last summer to promote health water usage in Palomas.

Without water, life can’t survive. Emilie Schur, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, spent three weeks with

Emilie Schur

Emilie Schur

us in Palomas in the Summer of 2016 and additional weeks in Columbus, NM doing water research. Her goal was to learn how the border affects people’s access to safe drinking water. Now, her findings are complete. What did she learn about water security and how to improve access to water?

Water security—that means having an adequate supply of reliable, affordable, good quality water for a healthy life. Emilie’s research on water security studied the situation in Columbus and Palomas, where our border community shares a common underground water (aquifer) source. The Mimbres Basin Aquifer is large enough to serve us, but it’s contaminated by arsenic and fluoride.

Water research: Case Study

Her research showed that each local water utility adopted a distinct approach to dealing with that contamination. The different approaches developed due to their differing financial and social resources. They also reflect the various national and bi-national water policies that govern the two municipalities.

 HOUSEHOLD WATER (IN)SECURITY WITHIN A TRANSBOUNDARY AQUIFER BASIN: A COMPARATIVE STUDY IN THE US-MEXICO BORDERLANDS Executive Summary of Research Findings

Click to review the executive summary of Schur’s research

Through the years, household water security improved in both places, at least regarding water access and reliability. But, centralized water filtration technology made water harder for residents to afford in Columbus. Meanwhile, decentralized water filtration technology only partially solved the water supply contamination problem in Palomas. Thus, even though the technology improved in both places, households still remain unevenly exposed to water contamination. Emilie’s research raises concerns about issues of water equity that leaders need to consider.

One of the most significant challenges facing water policymakers, providers and users is: how to equitably provide access to clean, reliable, and affordable drinking water in communities reliant on contaminated groundwater.

Emilie’s research found two important supports to address this concern:

  1. Funding from NAFTA’s environmental side agreements

Although infrastructure improvements alone aren’t enough, she says that’s still a significant aspect of water security. It needs to be coupled with initiatives that build local capacities and promote environmental awareness about water quality concerns.

  1. Community networks

Awarding more grants to local initiatives and NGOs, like Border Partners, can improve water security, Emilie asserts.

Emilie Schur

Emilie Schur puts spotlight on water equity issues.

Her research uncovered that the Palomas promotoras were very effective at educating the households on the harmful practice of boiling tap water, which actually concentrates heavy minerals. Our local health promoters encouraged households to use water from the water purifying stations for cooking.

In Columbus, Emilie found local NGOs working to build community spaces to bridge the divide between historically marginalized Hispanic residents and Anglos.

Even with small grants, local networks could work in partnership with water utilities to address residents’ concerns about water rate changes. And, translating educational material into Spanish would help it reach a broader audience.

Border Partners, with the help of staff at NM State University, has developed a low cost, water filter suitable for home use that is in the final stage of testing. It will provide a family with safe drinking and cooking water from their tap for 6 to 12 months (depending upon volume of use) and will cost only about $30.00.

We’re proud that Emilie’s research highlights the contributions that Border Partners and other groups like us make. We’re proud of the work our promotoras are accomplishing within the Palomas community. And, we’re pleased that we were able to facilitate Emilie’s research last summer. Her borderlands research reflects her desire to create for a better future for all living beings.

Emilie’s research was made possible through research grants and fellowships from the NOAA affiliated Climate Assessment for the Southwest, The Tinker Foundation, the University of Arizona Institute of the Environment, the University of Arizona Graduate and Professional Student Council, the University of Arizona Peace Corps Coverdell Fellowship, and the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers.

Alex Mueller Leads Yoga Classes in Palomas

downward dog pose

Palomas residents gain strength practicing the downward dog yoga pose.

by Helena Myers

yoga class

Enthusiastic participants of a typical yoga class in Palomas.

About 2 months ago, I asked the Palomas health promoters if they would be interested in yoga classes. Of course, the answer was “yes.”  And, they agreed that the class could involve more participants than just our small Border Partners’ staff.

Alex Mueller is a yoga master who lives in Columbus, NM. He contributes his talent and dedication to yoga classes there. Now, however, he is also going once a week to Palomas. He leads classes for Border Partners’ staff as well as other interested drop ins from the community. Juan Rascon, our translator, also participates in the class and translates for Alex.

Yoga’s health benefits

One evening a week in Palomas Alex gives classes to another citizen group. We all thank Alex for sharing his gift. Yoga keeps our bodies supple and stronger. This class series is helping people of all ages in these two border communities.

stretch

Instructor Alex Mueller, translator Juan Rascon, and Juana Flores take to the mats in Palomas, building better health.