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

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.