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.

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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.