Border Partners’ Annual Report 2020

Border Partners is celebrating twelve years working with the people of Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico. By working together with many generous supporters in the United States, lives there have improved considerably since 2008. But this year was unusual due to the pandemic. In this Report 2020, we outline our response: HEAL 7 Annual Report 2020 Final (PDF)

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 these commitments.
● 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.

What was new in 2020?

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.
Since March, 2020, our health promotoras have prepared and delivered more than 4011 healthy, hot meals to twenty isolated seniors every weekday.
They have also prepared and distributed 491 food baskets to needy families in Palomas and the surrounding towns.

Other changes in 2020

We welcomed a new General Manager – Melissa Reyes.
The staff refurbished a new, more centrally located Border Partners Center. Finally, we operate from a building that is big enough to provide office and classroom space for our entire staff.
The Education/Computer Center will remain near the town library.

Because of virus restrictions, we were not able to continue all our usual activities. However, our creative team in Palomas continued the successful programs below, despite the virus, making necessary modifications to make sure everyone was safe.

  • 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.
  • Supporting home gardeners including 30 who have greenhouses and 60 with raised bed gardens.
  • Raising healthy food for the community in two large greenhouses.
  • Offering free zumba exercise classes. Despite the fact that restrictions kept them from having classes from April-September, the promotoras led 200 one-hour, outdoor, distanced classes in 2020.

This progress has been possible because Border Partners has a strong team of donors, foundations, volunteers, board members. We rely primarily and most importantly on the empowered citizens of Palomas working together to transform their community.

Updates from Palomas, January 2021 edition

People in need received food baskets in January. We distributed 80 baskets.

Brrrr! Believe it or not, it has been really cold here on the southern border. Most nights in January the low temperatures dipped into the teens. Houses in Palomas do not have adequate insulation or heating for such cold temperatures. At this time of year, our health promoters distribute blankets and warm clothing to those in need.

With his hot meal, this senior received a beautiful gray, hand-knit scarf.

This month, they are doing a special drive to get warm clothing to the seniors who are in the meals on wheels program. When the promoters deliver food, they also drop off donated mittens, gloves, sweaters and now handknit scarves, too.

These scarves arrived from an anonymous donor as a wonderful surprise! And, they arrived just at the right time. We’re so grateful. Each beautiful, warm scarf represents an investment of personal time and the sharing of a honed craft. The seniors appreciate them.

Keeping Seniors Warm in January

Wearing a coat indoors while sitting under a blanket is normal in Palomas in the winter. Most buildings don’t have a furnace. This senior now has warm shoes which will really help him retain body heat.

We received another exceptional donation this month as well. Gale Margerum who had an upholstery shop in Silver City, sadly, died last month. Her sister, Diana Ingalls Lebya, called to ask if Border Partners could use her sewing machines and extra fabric and supplies. We filled a truck and trailer, and that equipment and material will go to happy sewers in Palomas, including members of Palomas OIlcloth Designs, in the next week.

In conjunction with this, Coyote Phoenix gave $1,000 in Gale’s memory. We’re grateful for this memorial and will use it carefully.

Promotora Team Grows

Also in January, a new promotora, Maria Sustaita, joined our current group of three health promoters. Maria is a town paramedic who volunteers her time for the ambulance. Maria is very welcome on our health promoter team, and her skills will be used well.

Finally, Border Partners assembled and distributed a total of 80 food baskets to families in Palomas during the month of January. Nourishment is a cornerstone to health and vitality.

It was a busy month on many fronts.


CORRECTION. Edited February 13, 2021: Names of donor Diana Ingalls Lebya and her sister Gale Margerum were corrected. We regret our error in publishing their names incorrectly.

Water Irrigation Systems Enhance Greenhouse Production

greenhouse irrigation system

New irrigation system in the greenhouse automatically waters the garden beds. Note the gray pipe encircling the greenhouse from above the beds.

A new water irrigation system is up-and-running now in our largest Border Partners greenhouse. For the first installation, we chose the greenhouse located on the site of the Education Center. Our garden program coordinator Juanita first researched the proposed set up. After doing a cost analysis, Border Partners committed to the project.

Already, the installed irrigation system has accelerated crop growth on the most recent plantings. All the growth you can see in these January photos are new plants. In December, we harvested and distributed the last round of crops. That was a component of the Food Basket distribution event. There’s significant new growth this month. Automated watering makes that happen. 

Greenhouse Irrigation as Investment 

Another advantage of this system is its connection to the rainwater collection tank on the site. This collection tank allows us to capture untreated rain water. The water is unmetered by the local municipal system. Thus, at no cost to us, we’re able to water the crops when collected rainwater is available.

We are pleased that we’re finding new ways to be more efficient with our crops, especially now during the pandemic. The garden program is a great resource for healthy, fresh green vegetables. This irrigation upgrade was well worth its portion of the $400 total project expense. Donations from supporters will fund this improvement.

We’ll continue to construct water irrigation systems in our remaining community greenhouses. In the arid desert environment, water is life. Water, coupled with fertile soil, is pivotal for the production of healthy fresh food. We’re pleased and proud of our new method to boost crop production.

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Hear the sound of running water as the new irrigation system drips from the elevated pipe onto the thirsty garden beds below.

Great effort to celebrate Christmas 2020 in Palomas!

by Melissa Reyes, General Manager

Images from Christmas 2020 distribution event in Palomas, produced by Border Partners.

Border Partners started brainstorming ideas for Christmas 2020, to help the Palomas community, especially during this holiday time of the year. We realized that we needed to give Palomas the opportunity to join us. In that way we could all work together. The Promotoras wrote a personalized email to local businesses. In it, we presented our goals and plans for families in extreme need, especially during the holidays.

The amount of help that we collected from the local businesses, food baskets from the community, clothing, jackets, toys and volunteer service, really left us filled with joy and speechless. Words cannot express how much gratitude we feel for the local people that stepped up, during this time of crisis. People from the community, dropped off pre-made food baskets, prior to the event. These groups donated generous amount of money, food and essential clothing:

    • “La Frontera”
    • La Ferretería
    • “El Tornillo”
    • Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City
    • Memos Supermarket
    • Súper Vazquez
    • Mexican Sushi Restaurant
    • El Ballezano (clothing store)
    • El Arroyito

We purchased 150 food baskets at Super Vazquez. They’ve partnered with us in past projects allowing us to purchase local food at a discounted price. We also were able to purchase small goody bags for each child (400) and gave out donated clothes, shampoo, soap, face masks (350), blankets, sweaters/jackets and shoes. We gave out vegetables from our green houses to promote healthy living.

Every family that registered received a ticket for a raffle entry. We gave raffile gifts to 15 families. This raffle also included two tickets for a $50 voucher to be spent in Super Vazquez grocery store. It also included: Pots and Pans set, knife set, space heater, pillows and dinnerware set.

This was a 4 day long event. We’re still dealing with COVID restrictions and regulations, but we really wanted each family that came in through our door to feel special and welcomed. Each family had 10 minutes to meet with us, pick what they needed, and leave with a food basket.

Before the event started we knew that word of mouth plays a major role in Palomas. However, we didn’t want to turn anyone away. And, I’m glad to say that we didn’t have to! We were able to give anyone else that came to the door a food basket! Instead of giving away just 150, we gave out 185. In all, 661 benefited from this effort. This for sure was a small milestone for Border Partners. Our food multiplied! And, thanks to the community residents that had dropped off food, we were able to help anyone that asked and was referred to the event.

All the energy, hard work and effort that was went into this event was rewarded. Thanks to all our donors that made it possible and also to the staff who arrived early and left late to ensure each family had a nice experience!

We are so very grateful!

In this difficult time for so many, we’re still finding a multitude of reasons to give thanks. We’ve seen immense goodness in people. We’re especially grateful to:

  • all our supporters for their amazing response to our fall fundraising drive;
  • the Paso del Norte Foundation for extra funding to respond to the need for supplementary food in Palomas;
  • the Unitarian Universalist Church in Silver City for donations to the food drive;
  • our Mexican staff who have stepped up and changed their duties with energy and grace;
  • Scott Davies, a faithful supporter, for matching all the donations to the Fall Appeal;
  • Victor and Yolanda Hesch, Barbara Lemmon, Elizabeth Burr and Barbara Gabioud who give every single month, year after year, to support whatever Border Partners is doing;
  • and to businesses and local residents in Palomas who have opened their hearts to share with families in their community through our Christmas Appeal.

During November, our staff distributed 120 food baskets to people in Palomas and the surrounding communities. They’re getting ready for an even larger distribution in December. There have been cold nights here in the desert lately. So, along with food, they are giving donated warm coats, sweaters and blankets to those in need.

One supporter’s kind words:

I am so amazed at Border Partners’ ability to change from your normal work in Palomas so that you can respond to different needs during this pandemic.”

Distribution Helps 262 People Survive

distribution in progress

Juana Flores records the distribution of a food basket to a single mom on November 16. 2020.

We wish we had better news about the COVID-19 situation in Palomas. But, as in many other places in the world, it hasn’t improved. More than ever, Border Partners feels called to serve the population. Many families are facing financial hardship due to COVID.

This Monday, we distributed 60 food baskets to local families. Over 262 people in total benefited from this one distribution. Some of the beneficiaries were unemployed families, others were seniors, and others were single mothers.

Kudos to Our Sponsors

Without the sponsorship of Sherry Reynolds, a volunteer and faithful donor, and the Hispanic Adventist Church of Greeley, CO this wouldn’t have happened. The kind donations they sent us went a very long way.

That was due, in part, to Super Vazquez grocery store in Palomas. The store managers generously gave us a 10% discount. As a result, they stretched our donations. And, because their grocery prices are more economical, we saved almost 25% overall. We love extend those donations to help more people!

Safety Measures

Neatly arrayed, 60 food baskets await distribution to COVID-plagued community members.

To prevent the spread of COVID, we used safe social distant guidelines. Also, we strongly enforced a mask policy at the distribution site. In addition, hand sanitizer was readily available. The time schedule for the distribution pick-up in the Promotoras’ office was spaced through the day. Because of this planning, we avoided having large groups of people in the Promotoras office at any given time.

You may be interested to know that the food basket contained. The items were:

· Tomato
· Zucchini
· Potatoes
· Jalapeños
· Oatmeal
· Eggs
· Flour
· Cooking oil
· Milk
· Sugar
· Antibacterial Soap for Multi-use

Rescuing an elder from cold winter winds: Border Partners Improving Lives

Our gardening assistant Humberto poses proudly before the tightly sealed new home that staff constructed for Francisco, complete with floor, door and seal against the weather to trap and use solar heat.

Francisco exits his former blue-tarp covered “dwelling”–no door, no roof, no floor–unprotected from the harsh desert climate.

The bitter sting of cold weather is now returning to the Chihuahuan Desert. And, with its arrival, our Border Partners’ staffers were deeply concerned about Francisco, one of the seniors they assist with food. Homeless, he lived in a makeshift shed composed of only a few walls and a flapping tarp. It was open to the winter elements, had no roof and a dirt “floor.”

When the first snow dusted Palomas a week ago, our staff knew that they had to find Francisco a warmer place to sleep. Death by hypothermia could otherwise be his fate.

Using What They Had

Our team members in Palomas aren’t house builders. But, they’ve built many greenhouses in the last three years. With those skills–and some leftover materials from previous greenhouse constructions–they literally built Francisco a warm room. Unlike his former tarp-formed dwelling, the new construction has a door, a floor, a roof and is closed to the exterior. It changed his life–potentially saved his life–all for a budget of $65. 

Francisco’s new home harnesses the power of solar heat. Melissa Reyes, Border Partners’ General Manager, reports that “the clear plastic allows for the room to get heat during the day from the sun. And, during the night, that heat stays in.”

Francisco was incredibly grateful. And, the staff was also really happy. They felt relieved and satisfied to give this homeless man a warmer place to sleep at night. 

Coronavirus Update from Palomas

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

News of the virus is not good this week from Palomas. Numbers of new cases rise each week, as is similar to the situation all along the border. Numbers of new cases are rising both on the Mexico and the U.S. sides of the border.

 
Last week, Border Partners heard that there were about 40 active cases in Palomas. It hit our organization directly: one of our staffers and her four children contracted coronavirus. There are most likely many more cases but the government isn’t releasing numbers. The town does not have testing equipment or any way to do contact tracing.
 
Palomas has always been a bad place to get sick because there is no hospital there.  The closest one is in Deming, NM, but that is only available to those who have a passport.
 
Our staff have had to cancel zumba classes, the senior citizens meeting that gathers single elderly for socialization, and a health fair. This is because no meetings of five or more attendees are allowed now. 
 
Despite all this, garden activities are continuing and staff members are cooking and delivering meals five days a week to seniors.  Needy families continue coming to the Border Partners’ office to pick up boxes of food as they need them.
  
In hard times like these, we’re more grateful than ever for your support. Indeed! It’s what keeps us going!

Good News: Projects Starting Again!

Because the numbers of COVID cases have stayed low in Palomas for the last several weeks, the government is allowing Palomas businesses to open with reduced capacity.  Border Partners is starting to resume classes, too–with safety precautions in place.  

zoomba

Zumba classes have resumed in Palomas, providing free exercise in Palomas to combat disease.

Zumba classes are happening again every weekday evening outdors in the Border Partners’ Sports Center. There is also an indoor Zumba class every day with a limit of ten people, spaced throughout the facility. The Promotoras will also resume their senior workshop and lunch this week.

The schools in Palomas remain closed. So, because of that we’re unable to resume our projects and activities for children there now.

60 families receive food baskets

The Border Partners Palomas staff organized another food distribution last week!  A very generous donation funded the outreach. Peppers’ Supermarket in Deming, NM again granted us a 50% discount, effectively doubling the amount of groceries we were able to distribute in Palomas.

food distribution MX

Food baskets ready for distribution to families in greatest need in Palomas.

worker

Palomas Staffer Juanita Flores hustles through the give-away site.

Give-away stations of specific provisions facilitated an efficient distribution. In addition to groceries, we also gave away notebooks, pencils and t-shirts.

COVID-19 protocols governed the project. We maintained social distance and wore masks. One door served as the designated entrance and a different door for exit, so foot traffic moved through the hall in a single direction.

Border Partners’ General Manager Melissa Reyes remarked with satisfaction afterwards:

The event was well organized by staff. Our staff, along with volunteers, did a great job in finding needy families. Everyone worked well together to smoothly carry out the distribution project event.” 

135 New fruit trees in the border community!

truck

Juan Rascon, Melissa Reyes and Juana Flores helped transport fruit saplings from Casas Grandes north to the border community of Puerto Palomas.

Fruit trees have so many benefits! Yes, they

  • look lovely when they bloom.
  • provide nutritious fruit to harvest each year, and
  • provide much needed shade in the desert.

2020 Fruit Trees Report

Each year since 2017, Border Partners has purchased fruit tree saplings to plant around the community. Late in August, Juana Flores, our garden coordinator and Melissa Reyes, General Manager, drove to Casas Grandes, Chihuahua to pick up 135 trees for this year’s planting.

Border Partners publicized that these young trees were available to the community. Now, local families have planted all the newly-purchased pear, peach, plum and pomegranate trees  in their yards.

Fruit tree recipient

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Each family received detailed instructions about how to plant and care for the fledgling trees. This helps ensure that the fruit trees will bear well in the future.

fruit trees illustration

Newly purchased fruit trees will add 135 to the number of saplings Border Partners has brought to Palomas over the years. This tree is already producing abundantly.