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.

Health promoter loses 38 pounds of excess weight

Juana Flores

Juana Flores (foreground) displays water–her secret weapon in her recent successful battle to reclaim her health.

Palomas promotora (health promoter) Juana Flores took healthy living to heart in recent months. After years of attending trainings and also offering community education sessions, she decided to get serious about practicing what she was teaching. As a result, in the last five months, Juana has lost 38 pounds of excess weight and improved her general health measurably.

Last year, on October 1, Juana began a concerted effort to improve her personal health. Concerned with her elevated cholesterol scores, she believed that she could do better. She started a program of regular physical activity, including an hour of exercise each morning and each afternoon: walking, running, attending yoga and Zumba classes. She eliminated pork and red meat from her diet and focused on vegetables. Her secret weapon in the battle? She drank six liters of water each day.

This month, Juana’s doctor confirmed that her osteoporosis test showed a 25% improvement. And, her cholesterol is once again normal. In addition, she notes with a smile, by losing excess weight she’s dropped five dress sizes and actually enjoys wearing dresses again!

Juana’s husband, seeing her results, decided to join her self-improvement efforts two months ago and lose excess weight also. In those two short months, she says, he lowered his blood sugar significantly by walking and by drinking fruit and vegetable smoothies with supplements twice a day. He also eliminated white flour, cakes and pastries, cola and alcohol from his diet.

As Border Partners’ main gardening coordinator as well as president of the promotoras, Juana is always on the go and is full of ideas! Juana does so much good for the community. She has taught nutrition to Palomas families and children for the past two years with the support of HEAL grant funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. Board member Polly Edmunds calls Juana Flores “a mainstay of Border Partners’ progress in Palomas.”

Juana Flores: Palomas Health Force

But, only months ago, Juana complained of shortness of breath. She felt sluggish and tired all the time. Now, she says, she feels full of energy. And, Juana Flores is a prime example of energy, acclaims Border Partners’ Board member Helena Myers: “She’s a gifted organizer. And, watching her explain the necessity of healthy eating to school classes is impressive. Her talks energize children to fill their plates with extra salad made with vegetables from the gardens she helps grow. Juana explained, for example, how important a vegetable-rich diet is for diabetics, and two sisters, whose father is diabetic, went back for a second helping of salads that day.”

What’s Juana’s advice to someone who’d like to begin take control of their own health and lose excess weight like she did? She doesn’t hesitate:

“Fight for your health; fight for your life! It’s so important.”

She advocates a low-fat diet and awareness. Often, she thinks, people don’t realize the damage they’re doing to their own health, simply by not paying attention to daily choices and practices.

It’s great to see healthy living taking root in Palomas. Border Partners is proud to be part of the process.

Palomas Health Promoters Complete Training on Maternal Care and Childbirth

By Griselda Loya

The Promotoras (health promoters) recently completed a wonderful course, 36 hours in total, which trained us in methods that will equip us to serve as a “Childbirth Companion.” This training covered basic principles of promoting better maternal health, childbirth safety, and assistance and accompaniment.

This course was taught by Border Maternity Midwives-Borderlands Birth and Reproductive Health Service, health and birth workers, and Reproductive Justice Organizers.

During the course we learned many things, including:

  • technique demo

    Ruth Kauffman (sitting) watches as Mumu demonstrates an effective technique to make women more comfortable.

    massage techniques for the pregnant woman,

  • how to distinguish between common symptoms of normal discomfort during pregnancy and significant signs of risk,
  • typical feelings and emotions during and after delivery,
  • breastfeeding,
  • family planning,
  • sexually transmitted diseases,
  • myths and realities of pregnancy,
  • breastfeeding and newborn, and
  • how to support the physiological delivery and epidemic of caesarean section.

Maternal Health, Childbirth 

Now that we have this training, our goal is to support local families. We especially want to accompany our adolescent mothers through maternity. Our hope is to achieve more prenatal control from the outset, thus reducing maternal death during childbirth.

We are very happy and grateful to receive the opportunity to take this course and above all to have met people who dedicate their time to such valuable work.

Thanks to Borders Partners, Ruth Kauffman and her assistants: Mumu, Marisol, Lina, Carmen, Sandra, Estibalis, and Tania who made this opportunity for us possible.

certificates

The promotoras display their hard-earned certificates with pride, joy and flowers. Pictured (l-r): Ruendy Salinas, Griselda Loya, Aide Carreon, Juana Flores, and Victoria Ibarra.

EDITOR’s NOTE: As a follow up to their most recent training in maternal health and childbirth, the Palomas promotoras (health promoters) will convene two groups of women.

The first group they will assist is women who are presently pregnant. This group will focus on prenatal care, nutrition for the developing fetus and the new moms themselves. They will also teach them appropriate exercise and similar relevant topics.

Another group they will convene will be new moms. This group will focus on nutrition for both the new baby and mothers, breastfeeding, etc.

Certified Professional Midwife Ruth Kauffman (a former UNM labor and delivery nurse) has experience working with women’s health around the world. Since 2008, Ruth has worked with Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) as a nurse, midwife, project coordinator and medical team leader on 11 missions in eight different countries. In 2014, she returned to the US from two Ebola missions in Sierra Leone.

Palomas Promotoras’ Town 20 Mile Bike Race: “Pure, Happy Fun” and Healthy Exercise

 

children's bike race

Local children line up, anxiously awaiting the Mayor’s signal to begin their race on February 4.

by Helena Myers

Palomas awoke on Saturday, February 4 to weather perfect for a biking event: sunny and mild, with no wind. Perfect timing for a 20 mile bike race! The grand event was sponsored by the local governments of Ascensión and Palomas and by Border Partners’ promotoras (local health promoters). The day featured the adult 20 mile bike race. Two shorter bike races–for children and young teens—gave 70 youth their chance to participate.

The adult race began at Entronque, 20 miles south of Palomas at 9:20 AM and finished at the plaza. The children’s route circled several blocks of the village. Government officials gave money prizes to winners with the help of an anonymous donor.

Palomas mayor Ramon Rodriques signaled the start of one childrens’ race. One little girl and bike immediately fell. But the Mayor ran to her and lifted both her and her bike–and off she rode. A couple of village men on bikes led the way to keep the biker competitors on course.

Viki and Ramon

Karina (Viki) Gonzales–women’s 2nd place winner–and Ramon Preciado, men’s 1st place winner, both from Palomas, after the races.

During the younger race Border Partners’ staffer Juana Flores ran after the children to ensure that they stayed on course. Juana appeared to be even more excited than the children. A multitude of village spectators echoed this same mood as they cheered on the racers.

The first adult to finish the 20 miler was Ramon Preciado with a time of 1 hr. 6 min. 27 sec.  The second place winner was Ramon’s son, Alejandro Preciado with a time of 1 hr. 8 min. 1 sec. Third place winner was Ingeniero Palomares and taking first place on a mountain bike was Ruben Bailon.

In the women’s division, Ruth Hernandez from Acension earned first place with Karina V. Gonzales from Palomas taking second.

The promotoras served wedges of fresh oranges and bananas for the riders and provided many cups of juice at the finish line.

The 20 mile bike race event day was the best organized event ever in this border village, serving up pure, happy fun for the community participants and spectators.

juice at finish line

Juana Flores (right) serves juice at the finish line of the 20 mile bike race.

Solar water heater sparks interest and promise in Palomas

by Peter Edmunds

solar water heater

Reed Edmunds, builder, displays the new solar water heater being introduced in Palomas. He’s flanked by local Border Partners leaders Juana Lazoya and Juana Flores.

This month, Border Partners introduced a new solar powered water heater to Palomas. We resurrected the design from a solar design book that’s over 50 years old. However, old ideas may spark fresh promise in Palomas. In fact, we hope that our model will be a prototype for a locally produced type.

This water heater uses no propane gas and only a tiny amount of electricity. And, that small amount of electricity could be replaced with a motor that’s run with a small solar panel. Cost-effective, the production models will require just $75 to build. A propane powered water heater at the local hardware store costs over $300. At our demonstration in Palomas last week, I think we could have sold at least 5 of these new water heaters.

Water Heater’s Significance

Why a water heater? Today, December 18, it was 20 degrees this morning in Palomas. However, most people in Palomas do not have hot water heaters. Just think about taking a bath with cold water, in a cold house. Once, I was waiting for an employee in her living room while she gave her 8 year old son a bath. From the noise and the splashing coming from the bathroom it sounded like someone was wrestling an alligator. The boy emerged polished and dressed. The mom came into the living room looking like she had taken a bath with her clothes on.

Reed and Peter Edmunds built this prototype solar water heater. Now Border Partners is looking for a person to build and sell these water heaters. This could provide a great service to the townspeople and offer the chance for a prosperous livelihood at the same time.

Promotora posada pleased Palomas senior citizens

by Kara Naber

rumba line dance

Under festoons of colorful crepe paper, senior citizens danced in a rumba line at the Promotoras’ Posada for the town’s shut-ins.

Viky

Flanked by gifts for the seniors, Viky Ibarra, head of the Promotoras, addressed the group.

Border Partners’ Promotoras (Health Promoters) arrived early at the Palomas Community Center on December 15 to decorate the dining room and prepare for a posada (Christmas party) for local senior citizens.

With the help of Community Coordinator Juan Rascon (pictured above in red jacket), they transformed that drab room into a festive space. They criss-crossed multi-colored streamers and hung piñatas that the seniors themselves made. Next they laid out presents that included handmade scarves and small, home-made stuffed animals they’d crafted. 

While the Promotoras were decorating, volunteers were busy in the kitchen making hot fruited punch (with real fruit), champurrado (a traditional hot drink made with chocolate, spices and corn) and homemade tamales, without which no Mexican Christmas would be complete. 

guitar player

Live music and singing enlivened the celebration.

The seniors began arriving around 10:00. They sat and talked and laughed as others gradually wandered in. When a man in a cowboy hat arrived with a guitar and a small, black lamb on a rope, the party began in earnest. A little boy led the lamb outside and tied it to a tree. With a guitar accompanist, a man in a cowboy hat sang sad songs of loves lost. After their first number, the audience applauded and chanted “Otra! Otra!” (Another! Another!). 

Next, a DJ put on a song with a strong cumbia beat. The group sprang into a rumba line–snaking out the door, around the building and back in another door. Clearly, not all of these seniors had lost their sense of rhythm!

Then the action moved outside to play a traditional game of piñata. One young man stood on the roof holding an end of the rope holding the piñata while another held the other end standing in the bed of a pickup. This arrangement let them raise or lower the piñata to make the game more exciting. 

pinata

With assistance, seniors could all take a try at breaking the pinata.

Men and women took turns trying to hit the piñata with a stick while the crowd sang to cheer them on: “Dale, dale, dale. No pierdas el tino, porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino.” (Hit it, hit it, hit it! Don’t lose your aim, because if you do, you’ll lose the way.)

Finally, everyone sat down and relaxed with tamales and hot drinks. When all finished eating, they received gifts. Guests lingered and chatted until it was time to go home. 

This posada was part of the Promotoras’ most recent program, currently serving about 30 senior citizens in Palomas. Many have no family to care for them. Participants meet twice monthly at the Palomas Community Center and receive a hot lunch. The Promotoras also provide activities–crafts, games, music and educational programs.

We invite you to view the album of delightful photos on our Flickr account.

Lunch and program enriches life for Palomas seniors

cooks prepare for lunch

Preparing to serve lunch to the senior citizens of Palomas is a service of joy.

by Kara Naber

Earlier this year, Border Partners’ Board asked the Palomas Promotoras (Health Promoters) to propose a project that they felt was needed in their community. The Promotoras decided to provide activities for seniors, since many were living in isolation without caring family members. They submitted a proposal detailing potential activities, transportation, a timeline and budget. The Board and Palomas staff discussed their plan. 

guitar

Live music enlivens this gathering of the Palomas senior citizens in the community soup kitchen.

During the discussion, board member, Dr. Elizabeth Burr praised Border Partners:

I’ve been involved with several other programs,” she said, “but most come in with their own ideas of what needs to be done. Border Partners is the only one that asks the people what they want.”

After the discussion, the Board unanimously accepted the proposal. Within a few months, the program was up and running. 

Twice a month, 20 to 30 seniors come together at the Palomas Community Center to socialize and have a hot meal.  According to Juana Flores, 

All (seniors) are welcome, and everyone is treated equally.”

She said that the activities for each session vary and include games, exercise, music and dancing as well as lessons on health and nutrition. The Promotoras provide haircuts to those who want them and provide transportation to and from the Center for those who need it. 

A hot lunch is provided at every session. The meal is prepared by the Promotoras with help from local volunteers. Juana said,

We divide the work. Everyone helps.”

volunteer cooks

Volunteers prepare fresh tortillas for the senior lunch.

While we spoke, one of the volunteers made fresh tortillas, patting them between her hands and then handing them off to another lady who slapped them on a griddle. 

During my visit, the importance of the Palomas senior lunch program became clear.  According to Juan Rascon, the Border Partners’ senior program is the only one in town. “Nobody else is doing anything with the seniors here,” he said.  One of the participants, a spry man who introduced himself as Pedro, lives alone.  He lost part of a leg to diabetes and has no family members in town to care for him. “This is important because before, I couldn’t leave the house. Now I can come here and visit friends and have fun.”

As I was leaving, the Promotoras were preparing for the day’s activity, a game of Lotería, which is equivalent to Bingo.  While the participants waited for the game to begin, the promotoras laid out the prizes, a man strummed a guitar and sang, people chatted, laughed and applauded. 

Promotoras protect teens through classes in healthy sexuality

healthy sexuality classmates

Teens in Palomas pose with posters they created during class.

by Gricelda Loya, Palomas health promoters (promotoras)

On July 2, 2016, Juana Flores and I began presenting two workshops each week in healthy sexuality for adolescents of our community of Palomas. Topics include the prevention of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Right now, we have two groups of 13 adolescents each, both boys and girls–between 15 and 18 years of age.  All of the students are very interested in learning about these issues and participate actively in the classes.

Goal of Healthy Sexuality Classes

Our goal for these classes is that young people who attend the workshops will help us spread the importance of making their actions more responsible. For example, they need to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and from unwanted pregnancy, and use adequate contraception correctly.

With these classes we hope to reduce the number of pregnancies among adolescents in Palomas. This also will reduce the number of these children leaving school without graduating.

healthy sexuality class

Griselda (left) keeps class interactive and interesting as teens learn basic information and life skills.

Promotoras provide services to 200 at 2016 Health Fair

oral exam

Palomas residents received many health services free of charge at the 2016 Health Fair.

Our Promotoras (Health Promoters) 2016 Health Fair took place “front and center” in Palomas’ main plaza. Approximately 200 Palomas residents took advantage of a wide range of services given freely to people of all ages.

Promotoras provided tetanus vaccinations and glucose tests to fair participants. They also gave away 60 containers of Folic Acid and over 150 condoms. Local dentist, Dr. Karla of American Dental, provided free oral health examinations. Palomas firemen vaccinated 50 dogs for rabies. Staff from Prevemovil performed health evaluations. These evaluations identified 15 people at risk for nutritional and medical problems.

The 2016 Health Fair also highlighted the importance of good nutrition and exercise. The Promotoras prepared and served 200 nutritious vegetarian burritos. Local children enjoyed jumping on trampolines. They also participated in footraces and other physical activities.

Community Support

The Fairs also owes its success to the assistance that several groups and individuals gave the Promotoras.

  • The Binational Health Council (COBINA) covered the cost of materials and supplies for the Fair with their generous funding.
  • Scott Davies of Columbus donated a new shade shelter.
  • Peppers Supermarket contributed a significant 50% discount on all food served at the fair.
  • Needy local residents left the Fair carrying bags of pinto beans, thanks to a tremendous donation from Diaz Farms.

Despite some problems with the electrical service, the Promotoras successfully presented models of good nutrition and physical activity at the 2016 Health Fair. Their efforts promote positive changes in the health habits of the community.

 

New indoor gym opens to Palomas residents

gym

Kids beam as they pause to pose while enjoying their play at the new community gym facility in Palomas

Border Partners has orchestrated the opening of a public gym in Palomas. The gym has already opened for recreational use of the town’s residents.

Palomas boasts two large gyms, both of them are located at public schools. Until this summer, due to their locations, the two existing gyms were used only by school students, and only when school was in session. Outside of these two school gym facilities, there’s no other indoor recreational space in the town.  

gym sign

Handwritten sign welcomes all: “Gym is open to the general public Friday to Sunday from 7-9 PM. We look forward to you coming!”

One of the two existing gyms is located at an elementary school that was open to listen to our proposal. Border Partners offered to fence off the classroom section of the school, separating it from the gymnasium. This would make the school inaccessible from the gym. Thus separated, townspeople could use the gym facility without any possibility of infringing on the public school’s educational facilities.

School officials agreed, and we had the go-ahead to enact our plan. Now, when the gym is open, people are able to use the sports facility and cannot enter the school. This opens up, for the first time, a publicly-accessible indoor sports facility in Palomas.

The basketball hoops in the gymnasium needed repair and the school had no other equipment. So, Border Partners bought volleyballs and nets, basketballs, hula hoops and other sports equipment for children’s active games. We also restored the bathroom facilities. Now the gym is open for general use!

Once again, we acknowledge the HEAL grant from Paso del Norte Health Foundation and other generous donors who provide the funding that allows us to produce forward movement in Palomas. Making sports facilities available to the public encourages healthy activity that will counter medical concerns that are prevalent in Mexico, notably hypertension and diabetes.