Origins in 2008
Border Partners (BP) was organized in November, 2008 in response to the poverty in Luna County, NM and in Palomas, Chihuahua, MX across the border. The region has a high unemployment rate and the jobs that exist are low-paying. Utilities in Mexico are very expensive. “Drug wars” brought violence to the Mexican side of the border for months during the preceding year and many young people were killed. Others, while grieving for lost friends and relatives, saw their jobs disappear as families with money left town.
Border Partners founders, Peter and Polly Edmunds and Helena Myers–all of Luna County, New Mexico–wanted to initiate action to improve lives of the people in the area. Meeting with a group of Palomas families, they learned that the most urgent needs in the community were lack of jobs and poor health care services. They formed a group to encourage the development of businesses by providing education and resources to individuals and small groups. The workers would manage these businesses themselves. The goal was to provide good work with decent wages. In addition, they wanted to teach people about healthy lifestyles and promote the use of sustainable technologies–such as solar power, water re-use, home gardens, and more to save people money, use less water and improve health.
The first two activities were research into very low-cost, solar cooking units and the development of a sewn product that could be made at home by women in Palomas. Border Partners developed their own solar oven model and began holding workshops to train people to build and use cookers. This led to the development of health workshops that promoted dental hygiene and nutrition.
Also in the fall of 2008, BP volunteers began working with two women in Palomas who were part of a cooperative there, knew how to sew and needed more income to support their families. Oilcloth products were popular in the USA and these women hoped they could potentially earn income by sewing unique, well-crafted products made of oilcloth.
Moving Ahead in 2009
- Formed board with members from MX and US. Wrote bylaws.
- Incorporated as a nonprofit organization May 2009
- Palomas Oilcloth Designs formed by seven women from Palomas with support of Border Partners.
- Installed first dry toilet.
- Applied for tax exempt status in September.
- Published website.
- First fundraising letter.
New Development in 2010
- Received 501(c)(3) tax exempt status May 2010 effective May 2009
- Gave eight solar cookers to families and three to schools. Solar cooking group formed.
- First meeting of home gardeners in February. Six families install covered, raised bed gardens.
- Built prototype solar hot water heater.
- Exercise classes began in March.
- First agency brochure printed in April.
- Computer and internet service to Palomas Oilcloth Designs (POD)
- Grant from Tom and Carol Aageson allows POD to have a coordinator.
- Billie Greenwood became BP webmaster.
- Two woodworking shops set up.
2011–A Year of Continued Growth
- Built small greenhouse out of papercrete blocks at Juana Lozoya’s
- Built play equipment and volleyball courts at the Pancho Villa and South parks
- Started a school breakfast program which fizzled but morphed into providing supplementary fruits and vegetables for lunch program at Ford School.
- POD finances separated from BPs. Sales grow.
- Started paying stipends to a community coordinator and a gardening promoter.
- Delivered used climber from MacDonalds in Deming to Palomas.
- 18 families now manage raised bed, year-round gardens.
- Donate 16 used computers to Palomas (10 go to the public library)
- Submitted grant to the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission (BECC)
- Started composting manure to provide good soil for gardens.
- Printed Spanish version of brochure.
- Built addition to the library out of papercrete blocks with ferro-cement roof (Education Center) including a beautiful mural on the front wall.
- Received grant from BECC for rainwater and graywater systems and flood control at the funeral building. Hired Juana Flores to coordinate.
- Built graywater reuse systems at 26 homes.
- Applied to Silver City Rotary for computers for the Education Center.
- First promotora training in June.
- Helped 40 families start and maintain year round gardens.
- Offered three free exercise classes per week.
- Began bringing used computers from UNICOR to Palomas.
- First summer school for two weeks in July.
- POD landed some major orders and continues to become independent.
2013–Highlights of Accomplishment
- Computer labs at two elementary schools, the Secundaria and the Prepa.
- 25 winter gardens operate.
- Built demonstration garden behind the funeral building.
- Promotoras received training, sponsored community bike rides and a cleanup campaign and had two health fairs. They opened an office.
- Earth Day event with demonstrations from Prepa students projects.
- Second summer school.
- Received Rotary International grant to buy computer equipment for Education Center.
- Began using bio-char in garden soil.
- Starting transporting donated bicycles to Palomas.
- Held an advisory meeting with community supporters in November.
- Decided that the board of directors would be composed of all members from the USA.
- Developed a low cost water filter with the help of an NMSU student.
- 50-60 year round gardeners
- Made stoves to produce bio-char.
- Six promotoras received training, maintained hours at their office, held two health fairs, and organized the third annual summer school.
- Hired Gricelda Loya to coordinate children’s reading grant.
- Hired Juan Rascon as Community Coordinator.
- Built 12×40 foot greenhouse near the demonstration garden.
- Gardeners helped start gardens in Entronque, south of Palomas.
2015-Review of Progress
- Received grant from the Paso del Norte Foundation: Healthy Eating Active Living initiative.
- Built climbing wall at the South Park.
- Local promoter Gricelda conducted a basic computer skills class: 40 sessions for 12 participants.
- Fourth consecutive year of sponsoring a summer school, organized by the promotoras.
- 75 gardeners are active in Palomas
- Demonstration garden reconfigured and enlarged. Drip irrigation hose installed. Vegetables raised feed the town’s hungry at the Comedor. Greenhouse veggies supplement school lunches at Ford School.
- Built soccer/volleyball court.
- Promotoras held two health fairs, conducted a class for Centro Salud and maintained their office hours.
- Average of 285 visits/month to the Education Center.
2016-Forward to Sustainability
- Board of Directors begins work on Strategic Plan to assure Border Partners continues into the future.
- Second year of grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation focused on health eating and exercise.
- Built dirt bike track for youth.
- Opened first community gymnasium.
- Sponsored numerous soccer tournaments for all ages at the Sports Center.
- Promotoras teach nutrition classes for 40 families.
- Along with volunteer parents, built school garden at primary school and teach nutrition classes there.
- Fifth year of two week summer school for elementary students focusing on healthy eating and the importance of physical activity.
- Home gardens and greenhouses continue.
- Two promotoras develop and conduct a class for teens on responsible sexuality.
2017: From our 2017 Annual Report
● 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.
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 continued the successful programs started 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
2018: Ten Years Working in Palomas!
Here’s what’s changed since 2008!
- School children, families, pregnant mothers and seniors now take nutrition classes offered by Border Partners in Palomas. There were no nutrition classes in 2008.
- Children and adults play soccer, volleyball and basketball every week at the Border Partners/Paso del Norte Sports Center. In 2008, there was no soccer field in town.
- Two well-equipped, school gymnasiums are now open to the public after school and on weekends. These gyms were formerly only open during school hours.
- Five schools now have gardens on-site where students grow nutritious vegetables for their lunches. No school in Palomas had a garden in 2008.
- A group of well-trained health educators offer health checks, community walks and daily aerobics classes. There was no group of health educators before 2012.
- More than 150 families have or have had home gardens. Two community greenhouses provide space for programs to grow vegetables. In 2008, very few people grew vegetables because of poor soil conditions and lack of equipment.
- Students and teachers in schools now have access to computers and the internet. Border Partners has installed and maintains 225 computers in schools.
- The public has access to 25 computers and technology classes at Border Partners’ Education Center. Palomas had no public computer access until this center opened.
- Teens now have access to classes on healthy sexuality. There were no classes until our health educators started doing them regularly in 2016.
- Since 2016, 30 isolated seniors attend an exercise class with a healthy lunch, haircuts and health screenings provided by Border Partners’ health educators.
2019 Beginning a new decade
- Began fifth year of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Lifestyle) Grant!
- Expanded donation of healthy foods to TWO schools! Now, more than 300 students eat more protein, fruits and vegetables every day for lunch.
- Began a new program, serving 15 isolated seniors and disabled residents a daily, nutritious lunch.
- Hosted two Health Fairs! The first was paired with a Sports fair, where children and adults participated in soccer, basketball, and volleyball tournaments. The fairs also offered free healthy burritos, health screenings, hair cuts, Zumba exercise classes, art projects, and youth activities.
- 80 Palomas youth attended Border Partners’ 8th annual summer school and learned art, sports, reading, health, gardening, crafts, and English.
- Our Promotoras began traveling to the surrounding towns and villages to train locals in health and gardening.
- Promotoras continued their health outreach in schools by teaching workshops about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity.
- Twice a month, hosted local seniors to share healthy meals and activities.
- Our hardworking staff built ten more greenhouses for Palomas families and schools!
2020 Adjusting for a pandemic
The major activity of all staff this year was to respond to the critical need seniors and families have for food during the pandemic when work is so scarce.
- Prepared and delivered more than 4011 healthy, hot meals to twenty isolated seniors every weekday.
- Prepared and distributed 491 food baskets to needy families in Palomas and surrounding colonias.
- Refurbished a new, more centrally located Border Partners Center, a building adequate for office and classroom space for all staff.
Because of virus restrictions, we modified our usual activities so we could provide:
- Free health screenings. The Promotoras provided 1,600 of these vital blood pressure and glucose checks at their office or out in the community between January and October.
- Support to home gardeners including 30 who have greenhouses and 60 with raised bed gardens.
- Healthy food for the community raised in two large greenhouses.
- Free zumba exercise classes. Although restrictions disallowed classes from April-September, the Promotoras led 200 one-hour, outdoor, distanced classes in 2020.