Summarizing a Year’s Impact: 2022 Annual Report

When each day is full, a year can be hard to quantify. But, each year, we add up the accomplishments Border Partners rightfully claims in Palomas. Each class, each meal, each crop–they all benefit the community, as one-by-one, each individual benefits.

2022 Annual Report

The numbers tell a story of many good works done well. But behind the numbers are the untold stories of many people in need who received comfort, nutrition, skills and acceptance. 

We are only able to accomplish what others gift to us. In sharing this post, and in sharing these numbers, we humbly thank all the people and groups who have trusted us to use their generosity wisely and well. Click the image to enlarge. Alternatively, download the pdf to see it at full size. 

2022 Annual Report

2022 Annual Report

With Grateful Hearts

We’re grateful for all the good work accomplished in Palomas in 2022. But, we’re not resting. We’re looking forward. There’s much to do. This week, we’re prioritizing with our staff on-the-ground in Palomas to determine what needs we can fulfill in 2023. 

With your help, more work will be done. And Palomas will come out ahead in 2023. Thanks.

Border Partners Selects New General Manager

Juan Rascon, New General Manager for Border Partners

by Polly Edmunds

Border Partners’ Board of Directors announced that Juan Rascon, a long time staff member, advanced to and assumed the duties of General Manager on December 1. For the first time in the agency’s history, the General Manager resides in Palomas.

Juan grew up in Palomas but lived in the U.S. for many years as an adult. Soon after he returned in 2013 to help care for his mother who was ill, he began employment with Border Partners. When Melissa Reyes was hired as General Manager in March 2020, Juan rose to become the agency’s Assistant Manager. Melissa moved to Florida in March 2022. However, she continued as General Manager until the end of October this year.

In a recent interview, Juan said, “I am very excited about my new position as General Manager and looking forward to working closely with our staff in Palomas and the Board to achieve the best possible results for all of our projects.”

The Board considered various options to fill the General Manager leadership vacancy. However, they quickly determined that Juan was the best candidate for the position. One long term goal of the agency’s Board of Directors was to promote one of the staff in Palomas to the position of General Manager. This selection concretely demonstrates their commitment to building leadership from the local community. The Board is delighted to find in Juan is the skills, talents and abilities needed to carry their mission forward.

Border Partners’ staff (left to right): Jose Luis Munoz, Vicky Ibarra, Joel Carreon, Melissa Gonzales Reyes,
Carla Chavez, Maria Sustaita, Juan Rascon, and Juan Lares.

 

Time to Talk Helps Children in Palomas

Students who were feeling sad received a hug from their classmates, a response to the invitation of Antonia Chayrez (who is inside the children’s circle).

Border Partners sponsors a new program in Palomas that’s available to children now thanks to the generosity of our supporters. This post will introduce you to this important health initiative.

Palomas can be a very difficult place to live. There may not always be enough to eat on the table or heat in the house.  Children may not understand why their parents are worried. And for almost two years, they were not able to attend school and see their friends.

Border Partners and these children are very fortunate to have Antonia Chayrez, a certified family counselor, on our staff. She can meet with children at the two primary schools in Palomas.  Currently, she meets regularly with fifth and sixth grade classes to talk with them about understanding their emotions and using appropriate ways to express them.

Mental Health

Antonia takes time to speak to the children individually. This helps her assess their situations.

Antonia believes that mental health is a state of mental well-being. Mental health allows human beings to face moments of stress in life. And it allows them to develop their abilities to the fullest as well as to learn properly. It’s both a fundamental human right and an essential element for personal development. It’s especially important for children to have the tools early to maintain their mental health, she asserts.

She introduces a topic like anger, sadness, loneliness or frustration to the children by displaying faces that show a corresponding emotional expression. Next, she invites children to choose one face and tell her when they have felt that emotion. Then she talks to children individually about why they think they felt that way in the situation. Through these conversations, she is getting a better sense of the children’s mental and emotional health.  

She hopes to continue these meetings with the children so that she can help them recognize that emotions are a normal part of life.  Learning ways to manage and express emotions appropriately is a key to having a happy, productive life.

Antonia Chayrez leads the classroom to promote mental health of the Palomas students.

 

Proposed water tanks promise many benefits

water project challenge

Current water tank doesn’t hold the rain water we can harvest.

Water is a precious commodity in the desert. So, we conserve it carefully in our gardens. Right now our garden has only one 700 gallon tank (shown above) to collect rainwater from the roof of an adjacent building. One inch of rain on that 90’ by 40’ roof would collect 2,244 gallons— if we had the holding tank capacity to store it.

The average rainfall in Palomas is about 10 inches per year. Most rain comes in the summer. When it does rain, we’d like to maximize the amount of water we can collect and store.

If we don’t have rainwater, we have to use town water. That’s not a good option. Municipal water is high in salts, arsenic and nitrates. And we have to pay for it. For those reasons, we prefer to water our gardens with rainwater.

Proposed New Tanks

We’d like to build two new, bigger storage tanks. Each proposed tank is 8 feet in diameter and could hold 3,000 gallons of water. Our current tank fills up fast when it rains. And, it has no overflow system. But, each of the proposed new tanks would have an overflow system that could send any excess water through underground pipes. They would serve two of our greenhouses as well as water fruit trees on the property.

We propose tanks built of latex cement. This is a more sustainable material than either cement or plastic. It strengthens our commitment to sustainable technology techniques.

With this new capacity for storage, we could collect almost half of the water we use in our gardens in a year.

Seed Money Challenge

We have an opportunity to raise the money for this project through an exciting program called the Seed Money Challenge. Another 501(c)3—or nonprofit—organization named SeedMoney, offers this program. Their mission is to help “healthy and environmentally-friendly public food gardens across the US and around the world to start up and thrive.” They ask for our supporters to donate to demonstrate that the need is authentic. Thankfully, one generous Border Partners donor will first match whatever contributions we receive for the new tanks. With that sum, we can compete to receive up to $1,000 in awards from the Seed Money Challenge.
If you might help with this effort to improve our gardening program and save water, visit our Seed Money Challenge Donation Page here:
https://donate.seedmoney.org/7929/border-partners-food-for-the-hungry-garden

And thank you so much for your support of Border Partners’ efforts to help families in Palomas eat more healthy vegetables and make our gardens more sustainable.

Combined Sustainable Energy/Health Fair Sparks Interest, Generates Action

There was lots of good ENERGY and information at the Sustainable Energy/Health Fair in Palomas last Saturday. Some energy came from the sun. But most of it definitely came from the kids who helped make the sustainable energy displays. Working with teams at their schools, the Palomas students prepared demonstrations about several different topics related to climate change. All the topics were ones that Border Partners is currently using in Palomas. The students set their exhibits up at Palomas’s Central Park alongside our health displays.

Student Achievement on Display

High school students’ achievements were on display at the Energy/Health Fair in downtown Palomas.

These students, from the College Preparatory High School, made demonstrations about

  • how the air in the global atmosphere is heating up,
  • the water filter BP developed,
  • how to make compost to enrich garden soil and
  • how to make highly insulating building blocks using recycled paper.

The blender bike creates a smoothie without needing electricity.

The suspended, blue, covered pot (left, center) contains broccoli that the students explained was being slowly cooked by the sun’s rays.

One unique exhibit that covered both the topics of the combined Energy/Health Fair was a special stationary bike. A blender retrofit onto this custom bicycle model. Thus, as someone pedaled, they could make a healthy fruit smoothie at the same time–without using electricity. The blender was pedal-powered by the cyclist.

Other students, who attend the Technical High School, explained how solar cookers can cook food without gas or electricity and
the advantages of using a dry toilet (Hint: It saves water).

These students were also challenging people attending the fair to check their heart rates before and after riding an exercise bike.

Peter Edmunds, from Border Partners, worked with the students and their School Principals to organize all the demonstrations in the Energy Fair.

The Energy Fair coincided with the semi-annual Health Fair organized by the Border Partners’ Promotoras.

Health Fair Traditions Continue

Palomas resident clutches her bag of “take home” greens from the greenhouse.

Veggies and garden seeds were free to take home. Donations were welcome.

For the HEALTH FAIR, the Promotoras offered free healthy burritos featuring fresh vegetables from the BP gardens with beans and cheese. There were also bags of mixed greens to take home and also seeds to take along and plant.

In addition, the Health/Energy Fair provided free haircuts and flu shots for attendees.

 

Slide Show of photos from the Energy/Health Fair on Flickr: Sustainable Energy And Health Fair 10/22

Education Center Officially Reopens in Palomas

Israel Lozano Magdaleno, the Principal of the Ford Primary School, explored one of the drawing programs that the new computers offer.

There was excitement in the air at the Border Partners’ Education Center Grand Re-Opening on October 8. And there was very good reason to be excited! Not only was the Education Center re-opening officially after being closed because of COVID for more than two years, there were 20 brand new computers, with internet, ready for people from the community to use.

The new computers were a gift from the Diaz family and their business, New Mexico Chile Products. The donation honors their brother, Eddy, who died recently. Art Holguin said this about his brother-in-law: “Eddie was a religious, caring individual who put God and faith first in his life. He did not care for titles, awards or special recognition and, as I am writing this, he’s telling me to stop talking about him and explain why this computer lab is so important.”

Juan Lares, the Director of the Education Center, spoke about the wide range of opportunities that await the visitor to the Center. Students will be able to do research for school projects. Others will be able to access online, post-secondary classes from schools not located in Palomas. People without the internet in their homes will be able to communicate with friends outside the village. Some will take classes that will be offered on a variety of topics ranging from introductory to more advanced levels.

The Mayor of the Village of Palomas, Josè Adame Sanchez, and many representatives from local schools and the public library attended the event. They were eager to learn about the opportunities that the Center will offer their students.

Presidente seccional Josè Adame Sanchez, Palomas mayor, and Gloria Alicia Aguilar Banda  paused for our camera during their visit to the re-opening of the Education Center.

We are so very grateful to the Diaz family for their generous donation. These computers will offer high quality learning experiences for Palomas children and adults for many years to come.

Israel Lozano Magdaleno, the Principal of the Ford Primary School, was interested in one of the drawing programs that the new computers include.

Enjoy other images from the day in this slideshow (photo credit: Polly Edmunds). Click through to Flickr to see names and captions.

ed center opening Oct 2022

Something for Everyone: Programming spans many needs

The people of Palomas dig right into many ways to improve life in their community with your support. Here are teens cleaning the area around the Education Center, allowing access for cars to the site.

Four workshops on four important topics for four different age groups: Border Partners’ staff managed a busy September schedule in Palomas.

  • Some of the elders who attended the recent workshop on senior health issues.

    Sixth Graders (18) at the Ford School focused on how to build strong self-esteem.

  • High School Students (15) learned about Sexually Transmitted Diseases and–most importantly–how to prevent them.
  • Pregnant Women (8) discussed the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy. The health of Palomas’ future children will improve with this preparation for births.
  • Seniors (8) talked with each other about difficulties with insomnia and learned some ways to deal with it.

Everyday Tasks Continue

In addition to the special workshops, all our normal work continues. The gardeners distributed loads of veggies. Chard, celery and cilantro produced abundantly.

The Promotoras conducted 98 glucose tests for people in danger of having diabetes. They also administered 22 COVID tests. And, they prepared and delivered 698 meals to isolated seniors.

Sports events continued, too:

  • Every month, the BP Bike Event attracts more riders.
  • Our daily, morning Zumba class consistently attracts 8-12 women.
  • This summer’s youth soccer season concluded with a Championship Tournament. Four teams participated and 100 people came to watch the exciting games.

And besides all that, staff and 10 volunteer students from the Prepa High School cleaned and repainted the Education Center in preparation for the Grand Re-Opening which will take place on Saturday, October 4 at 4 p.m.

Regular attendees of Zumba classes celebrate birthdays of the group. They form community with each other.

Upcoming Special Event

We invite you to the Health Fair and Sustainable Energy Expo in Palomas on Saturday, October 29 from 9am-3pm.

Enjoy delicious, healthy burritos! Take advantage of immediate health checks! Receive a haircut! Border Partners will offer all these services at no cost to attendees.
In addition, view low cost, sustainable energy innovations, including:

  • solar cookers,
  • a pedal powered blender
  • a solar water heater
  • a bio-char stove
  • papercrete building blocks, and
  • a waterless toilet.

We’ve put all of this technology to work in Palomas. Come and see these sustainable energy techniques and technology in action. Expect to see even more and enjoy more opportunities at the Health Fair and Sustainable Energy Expo.

Biochar: An ancient idea with new possibilities

Peter Edmunds & Bill Knauss

Bill Knauss (right) discusses concern regarding climate change and the hopeful impact of biochar on the planet with Peter Edmunds, co-founder of Border Partners. (file photo)

by Peter Edmunds

For thousands of years, farmers have known that charcoal improved their crop’s productivity. Now people across the globe are discovering that this same product — renamed “biochar” — may hold answers to our climate crisis.

Since 2014, Border Partners (BP) has manufactured biochar from pecan shells. We use special stoves for this process that also provide heat for chilly Palomas homes in the winter months. Our gardens benefit from biochar as a soil amendment. Biochar improves the soil’s ability to absorb and retain both water and nutrients from compost and from fertilizer.

Biochar in Palomas

Our special biochar stoves, designed by Bill Knauss and built by Adrian Acuna–two border locals, will heat 13 family homes in Palomas. Residents of homes with biochar stoves don’t need to purchase propane or wood as a fuel source. Pecan shells heat their homes economically, improving the homeowners’ financial situation. These shells are a plentiful local byproduct from the area’s pecan orchards.

Border Partners loans the biochar stoves to homeowners who agree to use them according to our instructions. The homeowners also agree to work two hours per week helping BP staff with stove maintenance work. These tasks include:

  • unloading and storing the pecan shells arriving from area orchards,
  • delivering pecan shells to homes that have stoves,
  • picking up the biochar product from the homes at the end of the burn process,
  • delivering the biochar to our compost site at the stockyards, and
  • preparing the biochar/manure compost piles.

Biochar’s Positive Impact

The stoves improve their home environments by acting as furnaces. They help family finances by eliminating the need to purchase fuel. In addition, the positive impact of these stoves on our changing climate is significant for both climate improvement and crop production.

Carbon dioxide warms the planet, creating climate change. What’s that got to do with biochar? It makes a direct impact. Each of our stoves produces about one ton of biochar per heating season. That ton of biochar, when added to the soil, absorbs and permanently secures the equivalent of four tons of carbon dioxide into the earth. With 13 operational stoves, Border Partners can remove and sequester 52 tons of carbon dioxide every year.

Our biochar, an unassuming looking product, has an impressive global impact when it’s used as a soil amendment.

The increased production in our gardens as a result of adding biochar is also measurable. It varies between 25 and 35% improvement in production. This is not only a magnificent increase in annual crop production. It also creates significant change because it’s a permanent soil improvement.

Border Partners gardens and greenhouses can use about three tons of biochar per year. Some of the biochar we produce will go to the university in Juarez to extend their research. We’ll give the remainder to local farmers to permanently improve the productivity of their fields.

Eventually, we’ll sell our “carbon credits” on one of the carbon exchange markets. With the income from that sale, we can purchase and install more special biochar stoves in Palomas.

The biochar stove project makes a significant impact on the growing capacity of the local farms and gardens. It helps families warm their homes at low cost and without using non-renewable resources. In addition, Border Partners is doing its part to mitigate the effects of climate change on the planet. We’re working to improve lives on a global level by helping locally in Palomas.

Progress in Palomas: Three Important Areas

We think these teen volunteers are pretty cool for all the hours they contributed to improve their community.

Summer heat didn’t slow our work. Border Partners moved forward in three important ways recently: the Promotora action, ongoing and special summer activities, and a new teen program.

Building Promotora Team

Finding qualified personnel is critical to accomplishing good work. This can be more difficult in rural areas like Palomas. So, we were excited to welcome a new promotora to the team. Carla Chavez, who has training as a nurse, joined our Promotora group and is learning how to perform their multiple tasks.

Promotoras’ August Checklist

And, just last month, these Promotoras accomplished so much. They:

  • checked blood pressure and glucose for 78 people and administered tests for COVID to 15 others at their office,
  • prepared and delivered 175 hot Meals on Wheels for 26 isolated seniors,
  • conducted 23 Zumba classes,
  • organized and presented a five day “Summer School” for 48 children with classes focused on health, nutrition and physical activities. One of these classes, for instance, taught the children how to manage their strong emotions.

Ongoing Projects and Some New Ones

Meanwhile, we kept working in our typical routine and added other special summer events to enrich lives in Palomas:

  • Garden staff tended the community greenhouses – harvesting and distributing impressive quantities of zucchini, chard, celery and spinach. This produce fed kids at lunches during the summer school. And, homebound senior citizens feasted on fresh, healthy veggies in meals the Promotoras delivered to them.
  • We organized weekly summer soccer family tournaments. Typically around 38 children and 40 adults participate on Saturday and Sunday evenings from 5-8 p.m.
  • We also sponsored and conducted a community bike ride for 28 children and 18 adults.
  • To promote learning, we opened the Education Center each weekday afternoon. During August, 37 children came to use the internet there for their chool work and other learning projects.

Border Partners’ Teen Volunteers

Teen volunteers helped with the summer school and Meals on Wheels, contributing 86 hours this month. This post features photos of volunteers Cassandra Maldonado, Arely Corona, Giovani Lovato, Brandon Chavez, Jennifer Ibarra, Ruben Bailon, and Jaqueline Gonzales Vanessa Leyva.

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time, Border Partners welcomed eight student volunteers who together contributed 86 hours to help with Summer School and preparing Meals on Wheels for seniors. We’re so grateful for their help. And, we’re pleased to provide them mentoring and work experience that they can build on going forward.

We’re proud of all these accomplishments and are happy to anticipate new things happening soon. We’re always aware that so many help us make a better life possible in Palomas.

Palomas children learned and grew during August summer activity week

A week of summer enrichment activities engaged 47 students in Palomas this month.

This month, 47 children enjoyed an engaging week of summer activities in Palomas. They learned new skills, got some healthy exercise and ate a nutritious meal each day. This week-long summer highlight resulted from the ingenuity of our staff and the generosity of the Gila Friends Community and the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Each day, the children participated in seven classes. These enriching topics included mental health, nature, computer, first aid, arts and crafts, nutrition and sports.

Our staff produced three classes as brand new offerings: 

  • In the mental health class, Cecy, the instructor, focused on having children learn to recognize their emotions and practice some simple ways to release negative ones.
  • The nature class focused on learning about how plants grow and how different vegetables benefit the human body.
  • In the computer class, children actually opened up a computer, broke it apart, and put it back together again. As a result, they could understand better how a computer works.

The morning of learning ended with a nutritious lunch for the children.  As an example, one of the lunches was empanadas made from soy granules and vegetables from Border Partners’ garden along with a drink made from fresh fruit.

As children prepare to resume a school year, many are concerned about losses in learning due to COVID disruptions in the past two school years. These disruptions have been particularly difficult for impoverished families who lack the technology and resources to supplement the children’s education. A week of enriching instruction and structured activities will boost the students’ school readiness and help them begin a school year well. We’re grateful to all our supporters for providing this important opportunity for the children.