Paso del Norte Health Foundation To Fund Another Year of Healthy Eating in Palomas

nutrition class elementary school

Children in elementary school benefit from healthy nutrition education. This class enjoyed fruit for a treat.

Border Partners is pleased to announce that we’ve received approval for a second year of funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation under their Healthy Eating priority. This Healthy Eating grant will enable us to continue and extend the work we’ve accomplished to further nutrition education in Palomas.

Healthy Eating Grant

This child received her own serving of healthy foods.

During this past year, while using the healthy eating grant, our staff has delivered a comprehensive program of both nutrition and gardening classes to students of all ages in the schools in Palomas. The cooks for the schools’ food service programs also received training about how to include more healthy foods in the lunches they serve. And the teachers attended trainings to learn why it’s so very important to educate children about healthy eating habits.

Each of the five schools now has a year-round greenhouse filled with seasonal, healthy vegetables. The students of the schools plant the vegetables, and the school cooks can use them in lunches. In addition to our biannual community health fair, this grant enabled us to conduct a health fair at each school, targeting each program for their own special needs. We also participated in two health fairs for all the preschools in the area.

Looking to 2025

Now, thanks to continued support from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation – our partner for nearly a decade – we can expand our activities and offer Palomas students more opportunities to learn and grow. We are so grateful for the longstanding support from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation for the Healthy Eating grant.

Obesity, diabetes and hypertension are serious health concerns in Mexico. There is much work to do to prevent disease through healthy eating. Equipped with the Healthy Eating grant, we’re looking forward to working together to prepare students for a healthy future.

Give Grandly 2024: Your Donations Help Real People

Border Partners looks for diverse sources of money to support our programs in Palomas but more than half of our budget comes from generous individuals like you. Three of the programs paid for with donations from individuals serve vulnerable people in Palomas: the elderly, youth and needy families. All of the money we raise during the annual Give Grandly campaign for 2024 will go directly to help these people. We want you to meet who benefits from each of these programs.

Elderly can eat

Francisco Beltran receives his daily hot meal from the meals on wheels program.

Francisco Beltran is 78 years old and does not have his own home nor any family nearby. Some neighbors allow him to sleep at night in a room in their house. He has no way to fix food for himself. Francisco is grateful to receive a plate of hot, healthy food every weekday from Border Partners’ kitchen. Besides Francisco, our Senior Meals Program serves 32 other seniors. We served 6775 meals in 2023.

Youth grow 

Pedro Casillas, a 15 year old high school student, attended our after-school program this spring because he wanted to learn first aid. He wants to be able to help people who might get hurt. That class and four others this spring were Border Partners’ first effort at providing youth services besides sports tournaments. We hope it will be the beginning of addressing a major problem in Palomas. Increasing numbers of drug dealers roam the streets looking for kids with nothing to do. And there is not much for kids to do in Palomas besides school. There’s no regular organized sports, no clubs, few jobs for teens.

Our dream is to open a youth center, a place for kids to “hang out,” take a class that might lead to a job, or volunteer to help with a project. It will be staffed by adults who enjoy working with youth. We think it will make a big difference in the lives of youth in Palomas. Donations from individuals will make this dream a reality.

Struggling families receive help

Dora Perez and children

Dora Perez and her husband live with their six children. This food insecure family is a good example of those who benefit from our monthly food baskets. Neither of them have any steady work and have trouble making ends meet. She receives a food basket from Border Partners each month. It consists of a bag of potatoes, a bag of beans, a bag of rice, two packages of noodles, two cans of tomato puree, eggs, toilet paper, soap, and oil. She is grateful for this help “so I can give my children a meal and pay for my water and electricity.” Border Partners supplied a total of 938 food baskets in 2023. 

We can help people with real needs because generous donors contribute resources. Please consider a contribution to our GiveGrandly 2024 campaign: CONTRIBUTE HERE NOW.

Providing more and better access to healthy food in Palomas

Joel Carreón, Botanist-Garden Specialist, (left) employs a “hands-on” method to teach the elementary school children how to grow mushrooms.

Spring has sprung here in the Desert Southwest as it has in many places across the Northern Hemisphere. Our thoughts turn to plants and growing healthy food.

From the very beginnings of Border Partners in 2008, we’ve asked local people what they needed most in their community. Their answer is consistently: “more and better access to healthy food.” We’ve been working on that goal ever since 2008 – for almost 16 years now.

So, we want to focus our news on all the work Border Partners does each month–not only in the S pring–to achieve that goal.

March 2004 Food Focus

Just in March, 2024, alone:

Just one of 660 healthy meals we delivered last month!

● The promotoras (health educators) prepared and delivered 660 healthy meals to isolated seniors.

● The gardeners delivered a total of 100 pounds of green vegetables to various places in the community including all five schools for use in the school lunches and for children to take home. Some of these veggies were given out in the main plaza on Saturdays and at our office during the week. They were also used in the senior lunches and the nutrition classes.

● We also gave each of the schools a small cash supplement to purchase other healthy foods (like fruit) for their school lunches.

We’ve completed spring maintenance on our greenhouses. They’re bursting with healthy greens to share.

● Our nutrition teachers taught lessons each week to students at the middle school, the high school and a preschool. Each lesson gave information about healthy eating and included healthy food to sample. One lesson was about the importance of eating healthy fats (think avocado!) and to limit unhealthy fats (think butter!).

● Our gardeners taught our staff and elementary school students how to start growing mushrooms. Since they are a good source of protein, we would like to promote growing them as a healthy food source.

● They also taught middle schoolers about how to make compost to enrich the soil for growing vegetables.

● The gardeners accomplished spring greenhouse maintenance. They removed the plastic cover we use to keep the greenhouses warm in the winter from our three large community greenhouses. All of our smaller greenhouses at schools in Palomas and the three school greenhouses at small communities around Palomas also needed to be uncovered. Until next fall, they will only be covered with shade cloth to keep the plants cooler.

Project Manager Viky Ibarra named Outstanding Woman 2024 in Ascensión Municipality

Municipality President Ivón de la Hoya (l) presents Viky Ibarra (r) the award certificate “Outstanding Woman 2024.”

Border Partners Project Manager Viky Ibarra received a distinction of honor as “Outstanding Woman 2024.” It was awarded this month from the presidency of Ascensión by Ivón de la Hoya. Ascención is the capital of Ascensión Municipality, the municipality to which Puerto Palomas belongs. This honor celebrated International Women’s Day in Chihuahua, Mexico at the Ascensión Civic hall.

Viky’s outstanding social work in the community earned the outstanding recognition. The award highlights her service to the community and her activities to support older adults and more vulnerable people in the state.

Viky humbly states, “I am happy that they’ve given me this recognition.”

Border Partners General Manager Juan Rascon does not hold back, stating: “I am very proud of Viky, and she deserves to be recognized. Viky is founder and president of her community’s Lions Club and is also secretary and administrator of Puerto Palomas volunteer firefighters.”

Viky has been employed at Border Partners for 12 years. She worked eight years as a health promoter, and has served the last three years as the coordinator of the team of health promoters. As coordinator, she tracks expenses, makes the schedule, and files monthly reports. She also visits local schools to promote public health awareness and healthy eating. In addition, she serves Border Partners as Assistant General Manager.

Viky Ibarra lives with her partner David Casillas, Captain of volunteer firefighters. They have two children, Jennifer Lopez and Emmanuel Casillas. Her family, she says, are proud of her achievements and goals.

Women Leadership

Polly Edmunds, Border Partners founder, saw Viky’s leadership skills grow. She recalls Viky’s early days of employment “as a shy, quiet young woman.” But, Polly has seen Viky develop. She says that Viky has become “a self-confident, respected leader often initiating ideas for projects and suggesting solutions to difficult problems.”

As Viky looks to the future, she hopes to continue contributing more of herself, in her own words: “to my people and to be able to continue helping whomever needs it. She appreciates the support she feels from her Border Partners colleagues. She finds meaning in her work through contact with her community and in the opportunity to help and serve them.

We at Border Partners feel very fortunate to have Viky on our team.

Viky’s award as outstanding social worker joined awards to four other women of the Ascensión Municipality, each outstanding in a unique field:
• Sportsman: Hortensia Marín Luján, better known as Tencha
• Professional: Prof. Rosa de la Luz Carreon Rubio, teacher Rosy
• Businesswoman: Armida Herrera Simental
• Entrepreneur: Ramona Rubio Pérez, better known as Rosita.

The group of women honored by the presidency of the municipality of Ascensión.

Learning after school enriches teen lives

Fire hoses, ambulances, first aid training, basketball. Kids in Palomas are getting some new opportunities through an innovative offering of after-school classes this winter. Teens in Palomas don’t have opportunities to use their free time productively. There are no groups organizing classes. No teen center. No regular organized sports.

Unfortunately, there are drug gangs in town who try to influence teens after school. Border Partners has long worried about this. But, we have not had money or a plan to address it. In January, our Program Manager, Victoria Ibarra, decided to just go ahead and start some classes with a small budget. They’ve been a huge success.

Teen Classes Afterschool

The first classes are for groups of ten teens every day after school. The classes have covered a variety of areas:

  • Fire Fighting: The kids got to wear the heavy protective gear, haul out the hoses and practice shooting water and then roll the hoses up. They washed the fire truck yesterday.
  • Ambulance/Paramedics (first aid and using the equipment), CPR
  • Medical: Dr. Lina is giving workshops on contraceptive methods, anxiety and depression. They learned how to suture a wound, and they are making prevention posters.
  • Outdoor games. Girls and boys played basketball and soccer.
  • Drawing. A small group class with a local artist.

After seeing the success of this pilot project, everyone wants to figure out how Border Partners can do more programming for kids.

Enjoy these photos of kids having fun and learning!

 

Biochar stove project brings low-cost, low-carbon solutions to Palomas in the new year

Viky Ibarra (left) and Karina Gonzalez & Juan Rascon (right) share their family biochar furnaces with you.

Since launching our GoFundMe in October to support progress in Border Partners’ effort to build environmentally friendly, low-cost biochar stoves in Palomas, we’ve received a flurry of interest from supporters. Donations have been arriving both directly to us and via the GoFundMe, bringing the total to over $1,000 so far.

Donations to this project are especially appreciated as Palomas enters its winter heating season. It can stay chilly in the high desert, and energy costs are on the rise. We hope to provide more of these stoves in the homes of Palomas’ families who are struggling with costs of living. 

Asked about the benefit of the biochar stove that heats her home, Border Partners’ staffer Viky Ibarra remarked; “My family stays warm and also saves a lot of money. Instead of always having to buy gas, we can use the stove to heat our home.” Viky lives with her family of four in Palomas.

We hope to assist more homes like hers in the coming months. To learn more about the many benefits of the biochar project, see our Tech|Share site.

We are still a ways from meeting our goal to raise $50,000 and build 25 more stoves. If you are passionate about ecological solutions with added social benefit, consider donating to our campaign here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/heating-homes-saving-the-planet

 

Transforming from anger to love: One boy’s story

Limited family incomes handicap some children. But we can help. (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Helping meet the mental health needs of children and families has been an important initiative in recent years. The story of “Nelson” (not his real name) as told by our mental health specialist, Antonia Chayrez, illustrates the impact this can make in the life of a child and his family. Ultimately, this support ripples out to create a stronger Puerto Palomas.


“Nelson’s”* Story

So I began to see Nelson in counseling. When we first began to meet, he evaded me. He was telling lies. He couldn’t open up to express what was going on.

I clearly remember the turning point. I calmly and gently said to him: “I know that you are very sad, and I’d like you to tell me the reason.”

With that simple prompt, he began to talk. And cry. His mother had left him and the family, he told me. He missed her very much. He longed to see her again. Although he didn’t remember her very well, he told me some details about her and about his family situation.

When Nelson was just a few years old, he moved in with his father. His dad later remarried a different woman. Although they had a long-distance relationship, she would visit every weekend along with her daughter. Nelson is happy with dad’s wife and daughter, and I had the opportunity to meet her as well. 

I learned that Nelson had problems sleeping alone, preferring to sleep with his father. So, I gave him a teddy bear, and we made a deal that one night he would sleep with his dad and the next night with his teddy bear. Now, he happily reports that he no longer sleeps with his dad. Instead he sleeps every night with his teddy bear.

We’re hoping to find his mom, because Nelson still wants to see her. His dad and his wife also hope that Nelson’s mom will turn up, and he’ll be able to see her again. 

In our visits, Nelson is learning to manage his emotions in practical and simple ways. Nelson’s teacher reports that the aggressiveness, as well as the fights with classmates, have ceased.

I can assure you that there are many family situations like this. We have so many needs, not only from the school pupils but also from families. According to my statistics, only 25 to 30% of children have safe homes, where they feel loved and respected. Instead, 75 to 80%  of children live in situations that lack the assets they need to succeed.

Many of the families I serve are low-income and overburdened. These circumstances can often lead to situations of ignorance and neglect.

Antonia Chayrez, Promotora de Salud Mental / Mental Health Promoter

 by Antonia Chayrez

*Name is changed to protect confidentiality 


Antonia is a gift to Puerto Palomas and the families she works with. Seeing the positive impact she has on the community makes us count our blessings here at Border Partners. Life can be better for everyone when people care enough to share. With support, stressed and under-resourced families can succeed despite obstacles. 

Our future will be brighter as the healing continues.

How We’re Addressing Children’s Mental Health

When children don’t feel safe, it hurts them. We help them heal.

Drug cartels struggle for dominance throughout Mexico. Palomas is no exception. Over the 15 years that Border Partners has worked there, the amount of violence has varied but many people, of all ages, have been traumatized by kidnappings, abductions, and harassment. So far, in 2023, at least four young adults have “disappeared” from Palomas.

Children and young people are among those most affected by this horrendous situation and have been scarred by it. Palomas offers no opportunities for mental health services for the public. COVID school closures forced students to learn at home. That left leaving with no clear routes to instruction. They had no educational materials. And they enjoyed very little contact with others. So they didn’t have important opportunities to build social skills, values, and responsibility.

Although schools have now reopened, many difficulties remain. Many adults have no jobs. Salaries remain low for those lucky enough to have a job. And, now, increasing inflation makes families even more vulnerable.

All of this makes children feel unsafe.

Into this dire situation, Border Partners has stepped in to help provide much-needed mental health services.

Enter Antonia Chayrez

Last year, Border Partners was fortunate enough to hire Antonia Chayrez as a full-time family counselor. She’s worked diligently to help both students in school and community members.

Each month, she provides classes to over 550 students, aged 5 to 12 years old. Her varied workshops help children build important life skills. These include:

  • learning to recognize and manage their emotions,
  • building self-esteem,
  • understanding values
  • respecting self and others,
  • preventing bullying,
  • breaking bad habits, and
  • making healthy life-style choices.

She gives mental health screenings  to all the children. And, when people are in need, she can provide individual counseling to any student as well as their family.

Assessing children’s mental health improvement

According to teachers, the program is already having an impact. The social and mental health of students is improving. As students return to a predictable school environment, their situation normalizes. And healthy routine is positive. Added to that, they now have the opportunity to learn about the importance of all aspects of their being due to Antonia Cheyrez’s instruction and counseling.

It is our hope that by teaching young children to see the importance of mental health, accompanied by counseling services, students will develop healthy habits and feel empowered. They’ll learn to express their feelings and ask for help. When accessing mental health assistance is part of life in Palomas, it will eliminate any stigma related to accessing mental health services.

Finally, through these workshops, students will learn how to talk to one another, to listen, and to disagree respectfully. These steps forward will help the youngest generation see the importance of good mental and emotional health. It will improve their behavior at school. Their home lives will become productive as they pursue their goals.

In the end, we want the students in Palomas to develop resilience and live healthy and productive lives. We’re doing our best to make that happen.

New Lion’s Club in Palomas will collaborate in promoting health

With our support, the Juárez Chamizal Lions Club offered free eye exams and free eyeglass frames. In total, 1160 exams were conducted throughout the community, both among children and adults.

On October 29, Border Partners staff and founders attended the inauguration of Palomas’ new local chapter of the International Lions Club.  We’re especially proud that our head health promoter, Viky Ibarra, takes on the role of Chapter President. The International Lions Club is a non-profit organization with more than 1.4 million members worldwide.

Several other members of our staff, including General Manager Juan Rascon, also became new founding members of the local chapter. This ensures that the club has commitment from people across Palomas to begin its activities in the coming months. Working together will also help us further our common goals and more efficiently improve life for residents of Palomas.

The new Lion’s Club worked with the Juarez Chapter to provide new eyeglasses to students in need.

The international organization has several top project priorities. Their priorities coincide with our Border Partners’ mission. They include: 

  • environmental protection,
  • combating hunger, and
  • improving health.

The new Lions Club Chapter provides local actors through their membership with the resources they need to enact this vision. In addition, the local chapter will collaborate with other chapters across the region to coordinate actions to accomplish those goals.

 

New Lions Club Begins Work Immediately

Border Partners health promoter Viky Ibarra (right) is the president of the new Lions Club chapter in Palomas. Our General Manager, Juan Rascon (center), is a founding member.

Indeed, the Lions Club of Palomas has taken no time to start making a positive difference in the community. Since the local chapter inauguration last month, they have administered vision tests to children in local schools across Palomas. They’ve also provided free eyeglasses to local students diagnosed with poor vision . This contribution will surely be invaluable to students’ future educational success. We’re glad that our efforts to improve education intersect with those of the Lions Club.

More recently, Lions Club members were present to support Border Partners’ autumn health fair activities by distributing eye glasses to community members in need. Presently, we are working jointly to coordinate a large shipment of school supplies across the border.

Border Partners envisions a collaborative future with local actors such as the Lions Club striving to make a change. Congratulations to Juan, Viky, and everyone who made this possible!