Many Palomas lives improved last month–in multiple ways.

We’re improving lives in Palomas. No life is too small to overlook.

YES, it was another busy month in Palomas. Here’s what happened:

During July 2022, the Border Partners Promotoras

  • checked  blood pressure and glucose for 154 people who came to their office and for 11 adults in the Central Park,
  • arranged for a presentation to nine pregnant women about fetal development,
  • administered 75 COVID tests,
  • prepared and delivered 534 hot meals to 26 isolated seniors,
  • conducted 22 Zumba classes and
  • distributed food baskets to 20 needy families in each of three nearby communities (total 60 baskets),
  • organized and presented an art class to seven isolated seniors

All the staff organized another bike ride in July. Two people repaired eight bikes so the kids could ride along with the others. In all, 25 children and 8 adults participated.

Border Partners–and especially our staff–were recognized by two local schools: the Secundaria and the Ramon Espinoza Elementary School–for the exceptional support they provide.

What’s coming up?  

The Promotoras will be presenting our annual summer school during the first week of August. School starts again for the kids in Palomas about the middle of the month.  

In September, some new and notable activities: 

  • There will be an Open House at the Education Center to show off our new computer equipment which was purchased to honor the memory of Eddie Diaz from Deming. 
  • Peter Edmunds and Mike McCain will be working with students from the Middle School to make blocks to build houses out of recycled cardboard salvaged from the landfill. These blocks have exceptional insulating ability – much better than cement blocks which is the predominant material used in Palomas. The cardboard they’ll get from the landfill would normally be burned.  More on this later…

The border situation in our area: News from Desert Exposure

Our journalist friend Morgan Smith again researched this area of the border to learn about the migrant shelters’ situations. His findings are posted online at Desert Exposure’ website. Learn about our friend Ariana Saludares and the Colores United group in Deming. See the migrant shelter that Palomas operates.

Migrant Shelters on the Border
Taking a look at the human truth

It’s Thursday, April 28, and we’re at a migrant shelter in Deming (pop. 23,000), the first of three shelters we’ll visit today and tomorrow. What happens if Title 42 is lifted or if the Supreme Court allows President Biden to do away with the Remain in Mexico program initiated by President Trump? What will this do to the numbers of migrants coming to our border seeking asylum and what role will these shelters play?

The shelters we will visit on this trip – Deming; La Tierra de Oro in Palomas, Mexico just across the border from Columbus; and Respettrans across the international bridge in Juárez; plus La Casa del Migrante in Juárez; and Annunciation House in El Paso that I have visited before – these five contain part of the answer to this migration issue. They are largely volunteer-run, cost far less per migrant than the private shelters our government contracts with, and offer a level of humanity that doesn’t exist in the government-contracted facilities. In short, they are models for how to treat migrants.

Is that enough?        

We meet Ariana Saludares, the president and co-founder of Colores United, at a motel in Deming where she and several volunteers are putting together food packets for children. The majority of migrants staying there are women with small children; getting the proper nutrition to these children is critical. These migrants have all passed their “credible fear” test, are in the United States legally, and are awaiting transportation to family members or sponsors in the country.

Ariana is doing what she and other Deming volunteers did before Remain in Mexico went into effect in early 2019 – provide medical screening, housing and food and then organize transportation so that the migrants can travel to their family members or sponsors here. They are experts.

Arana’s goal is a stand-alone Colores United shelter but raising money for that is a challenge, especially given the confused signals from our government officials.

The next stop is the

La Tierra de Oro migrant shelter in Palomas. “Network of Shelters for Migrants”

(pop. 4,700), about 30 miles south of Deming and across the border from tiny Columbus. This is one of several shelters run by Padre Rosalio Sosa, head of the Iglesia Bautista Tierra de Oro in El Paso. Much of the support here comes from volunteers in Deming and Silver City. A key person is Sandra Magallanes who is a high energy genius at sorting out the problems of migrants.

Martín Garcia López, the manager, fled Michoacán with his wife 10 months ago. Cartel members ordered him to join them and when he refused, they put a bag over his head and beat him. “Ayudar o morir,” they told him “Help us or die.”

Why is his case taking so long?

We also met a young Russian woman there. Elena had taken an extended route through Istanbul, Amsterdam and Mexico City and hopes to get to Tucson. She calls Sandra Magallanes an “angel” and says she has never been around a kinder group of people.

The Friday morning visit begins in El Paso at the garage of professor Eva Moya, a faculty member at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is a vital part of a “supply chain” that begins in Placitas at the home of Cheryl and Jack Ferrell, the founders of a non-profit called Dignity Mission. About once a month, the Ferrells and their group of local volunteers take a huge load of food and clothing to El Paso and unload it in Moya’s garage. Moya and her volunteers then ferry these items – carload by carload – across the border to shelters in Juárez, mainly Respettrans and La Casa del Migrante.

Whenever I go, I take a load of items donated by friends here in Santa Fe and later a second load from Moya’s garage.

These loads consist of food, bathroom items like toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, clothing and shoes, bedding. In short, whatever Grecia Herrera, the director indicates she needs. She’s a nurse and works in a local hospital so the migrants – mostly women with small children – actually run the shelter which can house 200 or more per night.

While we were there we met a woman from El Salvador named Johanna Melendez who left her country last August with her two children, aged 13 and 6. They spent six months in a shelter in Chiapas, Mexico, finally got to Juárez and Respettrans two and a half weeks ago. Because she studied some English in school in El Salvador, she has started a language class for the kids in Respettrans. These kids have to know some English, she says. This is just one example of how the migrants themselves are reaching out to help others.

These shelters are models for decent and humane care and treatment and lower costs operations. However, these three, plus Annunciation House and La Casa del Migrante and the other volunteer or non-profit or church-related shelters, won’t be enough to handle the influx of migrants.

A couple of obvious suggestions. Speed up the process. First, when you have a woman with small children who, like Johanna Melendez has spent roughly 10 months traveling north you have to believe that she meets the “credible fear” test. Therefore, cases like this should be resolved quickly and easily.

Second, why not help these shelters expand? Provide some funding for people like Ariana Saludares at Colores United so that she can build the stand-alone shelter she has been dreaming about.

Third, have these highly dedicated and skilled volunteers function in some advisory or monitoring role in the larger government-sponsored shelters. They know the meaning of decent care.

Fourth, if either or both Title 42 or the Remain in Mexico remain in place, create a Mexico-U.S. taskforce to support the shelters on the Mexican side.

Given the corruption, violence, poverty and now climate change in countries like those in Central America as well as a new influx of migrants from Ukraine, the number of migrants seeking to enter the United States isn’t going to slow down. Therefore, let’s find ways to head off the political rhetoric and focus on making this a more humane process.

Morgan Smith has been writing about border issues for the last decade and can be reached at Morgan-smith@comcast.net

Our summer activity improves life: building, growing, assisting, teaching

Summer heat hasn’t slowed our activity to improve the quality of life in Palomas. Intensive activity continues to makes changes in many departments recently. 

Garden program growth

The Border Partner gardening staff

  • built a second greenhouse at the Ramon Espinoza Elementary School and
  • planted an outdoor summer garden between the community greenhouses.

In addition, they tended to their regular duties of weeding, planting, watering and picking veggies. These nutrient-rich crops feed food insecure residents of the border.

Promotoras promoting health

  • weighed and measured the 115 children who attend Ford Elementary School,
  • distributed donated eyeglasses,
  • attended a workshop to learn how to teach women habits that promote a healthy pregnancy,
  • delivered 25 personal hygiene baskets to older fathers in the community,
  • presented a class on nutrition to 23 fourth grade students at the Ramon Espinoza Elementary School,
  • checked blood pressure and glucose levels of 34 adults,
  • arranged for a presentation to ten new mothers about the importance of breastfeeding babies,
  • administered 19 COVID tests,
  • prepared and delivered 704 hot meals to isolated seniors,
  • conducted 22 Zumba classes and
  • repaired six bicycles in preparation for their monthly community Bike Ride which was attended by 38 children and 6 adults.

Augmenting Education

The Education Center received 84 visits in the last month. The majority of users are children ages 9-15. 

WHAT’S COMING UP?

During the first week of August, the Promotoras will once again organize our ANNUAL SUMMER SCHOOL for elementary kids. This event which we began in 2012 did not happen during COVID. We are so happy to once again be able to offer the kids in the community fun activities and a healthy lunch during their vacation from school.  This enrichment is vitally important this year to children whose lives and educations were seriously interrupted by the pandemic. 

First-ever: Border Partners Trivia Quiz

We’re stretching our creative muscles to make you think:
Test your knowledge of Border Partners work. The correct answers are found at the end of this post. (No fair peeking.) How well can you score on some BP basic info? Try it yourself and see.

1. Which of the following is NOT one of Border Partners’ primary activities?
a. Gardening
b. Distributing used clothing
c. Teaching nutrition classes
d. Making and delivering meals to isolated seniors
e Organizing sports activities
f. Offering computer classes for children and adults

2. In what year did Border Partners begin working with people in Palomas.
a. 2005
b. 2008
c. 2011
d. 2017

3. The name of the Mexican State where Palomas is located.
a. Morelos
b. Chiapas
c. Chihuahua
d. Sonora
e. Nyarit

4. A generous donation from the Diaz family from Deming will enable us to replace what important equipment?
a. The computers in our Education Center
b. The truck used for gardening projects
c. Our kitchen stove
d. The van used for delivering meals to seniors

5. What are some of the benefits of the Biochar we use in our gardens?
a. It sequesters carbon in the soil.
b. It makes the soil more able to retain moisture.
c. It permanently improves the soil.
d. All of the above.

6. How many community greenhouses does Border Partners currently operate?
a. One
b. Two
c. Three
d. Four
e. Five

7. Which is NOT one of the activities of our group of Promotoras?
a. Checking blood pressure
b. Teaching zumba classes
c. Preparing meals every weekday for twenty isolated seniors
d. Teaching healthy sexuality to teens
e. Giving COVID tests
f. Weeding our gardens
g. Distributing food to needy families
h. Checking blood glucose levels
i. Teaching nutrition classes

8. What do our supporters/Partners do for the people of Palomas?
a. CHANGE LIVES!
b. CREATE OPPORTUNITIES!
c. OFFER HOPE!
d. All of the above.

Answers: 1:b 2:b 3:c 4:a 5:d 6:c 7:f 8:d

Congratulations for completing the quiz! If you got 8 right, you are a FULL FLEDGED PARTNER. If you got any of them right, we appreciate your interest in our work! YOU are a supporter simply by reading our website or our e-newsletter. Your time and attention help us continue to do our best to create new options where there are few options.

Early summer action addresses both seasonal and unexpected developments

Jaqueline Reyes, a health educator from the District Health Office in Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, presented a workshop on tuberculosis to our Promotoras last month. Fortunately, this was simply for preparedness because there is no current issue with this health challenge in Palomas.

The weather is heating up now in Palomas, but Border Partners’ activities have not slowed down. Thanks to generous donors, our staff is busy with a variety of important activities. Here are some highlights of recent accomplishments:

May was a month to celebrate mothers in Palomas. The Promotoras had a luncheon to honor all the important work that mothers do to keep their families healthy.

The town has finally given permission for us to open the Education Center again. During May, 43 students, ages 9-15, came after school for help with their homework using the computers. Juan Lares, the Education Coordinator, assists the kids on the computers and plans computer activities for the younger children who have no homework.

Sports activities

  • Each weekday, 6-8 women participated in a zumba class in the BP center.
  • 72 kids participated in a soccer tournament organized by Ignacio Gomez for Border Partners.
  • Plus a weekly bike ride for any and all who care to participate.

    One of the weekly bike rides that Border Partners has sponsored for the Palomas community.

Health News

The new greenhouse that has drip irrigation is covered with shade cloth now and planted with tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower and green chile. Juan Lares, one of our gardeners, has installed a slightly different and simpler drip irrigation system in his home garden to see how that set-up works.  

Eighteen fourth graders at the Ford School learned how important it is for them to eat their veggies.

There was an outbreak of head lice in the schools in May. We distributed 56 bottles of shampoo donated by Barbara Gabioud to address this issue. Fortunately, that intervention successfully stopped the problem “in its tracks.”

In ongoing work, the Promotoras delivered 682 meals to isolated seniors in May and did 63 checks for glucose levels for diabetics.

What’s upcoming?

BP staff and volunteers are helping students at the Secundaria (Middle School) prepare to build papercrete blocks. Papercrete makes a highly-insulating building block using discarded paper and cardboard. These blocks can replace cement blocks in building houses. Anyone who goes inside the BP garden shed or the Education Center is amazed by how cool those buildings are even in very hot weather. We hope the students will be able to make enough blocks to build another small community building and that they may get interested in building something for their own families. Watch for more information on this project in the coming months.

 

 

 

The Making of a Border Partner

Sherry Reynolds (left) digs into the compost production. She “digs” Border Partners.

by Sherry Reynolds, Border Partners Board Member

I’m a wanderer. I wandered the southwest for years after my retirement, volunteering at federal and state recreation lands and a few NGOs. There was too much to see and to experience ever to repeat a volunteer gig. And I never did.

Until Border Partners.

The idea of having nothing to do was an anathema to me. So, when a government-shutdown made my upcoming assignment at a National Wildlife Refuge iffy, a friend told me about Border Partners.
Location: Great; I already was in southern NM.
Work: Many and varied projects; surely there’d be something I could do.
People: Friends of my friend, so probably ok.
And, heck, I needed to fill a couple of months, not make a lifetime commitment.

That was going-on 4 years ago, and I keep repeating and repeating and repeating the gig! (Were it not for my summer travels, I might have to stop characterizing myself as a wanderer.)

So, what could propel an inveterate wanderer off the road? To make a long-term commitment to a single organization? Border Partners: it could and it did—because it’s different:

  • No lip-service: when they say they want the projects to be sustainable, when they say border residents are capable of improving their own communities, they mean it and work to make it so.
  • No patriarchy: the word empowerment is front and center in their overarching goal to empower residents of border communities.
  • No complacency: lots of pride in the work that is done, but no smugness, no resting on laurels.

Today I am as excited about what Border Partners is doing as I was when I first met the members of their community on both sides of the border and learned of their myriad projects. My secret passion is the greenhouses where, in an area that has been called a “vegetable desert,” vegetables are grown in community-, school- and home-greenhouses; used in hot meals prepared for isolated seniors, used by schools for making lunches, and used in homes to provide healthful meals for families. It’s classic Border Partners: working on long-term and sustainable ways to improve eating habits and encouraging the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and changing an area that was a “vegetable desert” into an area of many vegetable gardeners and cooks.

While greenhouses are my secret passion, they link to and complement other Border Partner projects. The vegetables improve nutrition and when coupled with Border Partners programs to augment the area’s recreation facilities and exercise classes, overall health improvements result. Link again to mental health workshops and to classes for expectant and new mothers. And link yet again to blood pressure and glucose checks. The linkages go on and on as is necessary to improve overall general health and quality of life in the borderland.

Border Partners does so much, and has no shortage of ideas to do so much more. But funding can be a challenge. That is why, beyond the commitment of volunteer time, I have made Border Partners the primary recipient of my charitable donations.

Given all that Border Partners does, how could I not become a Border Partner?

Irrigation system set to drip in newest greenhouse

The drip irrigation system feeds water directly to the plants in the soil, allowing for better water usage, less evaporation and water loss, and ultimately improved vegetable production. This conserves natural resources and saves money.

Border Partners staff and volunteers completed our third community greenhouse this week. This one has a drip irrigation system – something we’ve wanted for a long time. The gardening staff rose to the occasion, putting in extra hours to get the greenhouse shell and the raised beds finished in time for the volunteers’ arrival. The volunteers brought supplies and a good plan for the installation.
Fortunately, the weather cooperated: no high winds or intense heat interfered with this construction job.

BIG THANKS are due to many:

  • the generous donors to our “SeedMoney Challenge” fundraising event of November 2021 who funded the materials.
  • Pete Nason, faithful supporter, for his solid knowledge of how drip irrigation systems function.
  • Samuel, our neighbor near the greenhouses who allowed Border Partners to site the greenhouse on his land.
  • Peter Edmunds for his research into the parts needed for the system and how to put them together successfully. And finally –
  • Juan Rascon, our Community Coordinator in Palomas, for master organization and to
  • Border Partners’ competent gardening staff: Joel Carreon, Juan Lares and Jose Luis Munoz for their hard work getting the greenhouse built.

What’s Next?

The gardeners plan to keep careful records of the water use. This will let them compare the new system compared with the traditional hose-watering used in the other two greenhouses. They’ll also track and compare production of vegetables in all the greenhouses to try to quantify the effect of the drip irrigation. From all we have learned, drip irrigation will use less water more efficiently. In our desert climate, it’s very important to conserve water.

Come and visit if you can to see the plants growing. And if you can’t, we’ll keep you posted about how it’s working.

Spring brings more than flowers to Palomas

Fresh greens in the greenhouse announce that spring is here. And we add our third community greenhouse this month.

With the beginning of Spring, everything is more open in Palomas. This is both welcome and a relief after two years of confinement and limited activities. New projects are sprouting up. Old ones are blossoming. Schools are open more hours. All the staff are very busy!

New Projects

  • Staff set up an exercise room at the Middle School with weights, stationary bikes and other exercise machines. It will be open to teens and adults.
  • Ten teenagers attended a workshop on healthy sexuality and methods of birth control.
  • All the kids at the two elementary schools in Palomas each got lunch one day per week – prepared and delivered by our staff. Because of government COVID regulations still in place, no one can cook at the schools. The Promotoras make peanut butter sandwiches at our office and deliver them along with fruit to each classroom. It looks like the restrictions may be lifted on April 25 which would allow cooks back in the school. Then we hope to resume our delivery of supplemental healthy food for the cooks to use in their menus – as we did pre-COVID.
  • We started using compostable plates for our senior meals on wheels program. This will divert Styrofoam from the landfill and help with making the compost we use on our gardens.
  • Joel Carreon, our Gardening Coordinator, gave a class for 10 people about how to successfully manage a home greenhouse.

Ongoing Projects Continue

  • Staff distributed 100 food baskets to benefit 496 people in three neighboring towns. They also gave clothing.
  • Each weekday the Promotoras deliver a hot meal to 25 isolated seniors.
  • The Border Partners Education Center is open regularly again 3-6 p.m. each weekday.
  • 46 people came to our office for blood pressure and/or glucose checks.
  • Ten people are regularly attending our daily zumba classes.
  • The greenhouses at the three schools and at our main site are literally sprouting all kinds of veggies.

This week staff will build a third greenhouse. Look for photos next month of installing our first real drip irrigation system. We’re hoping to save water and grow better vegetables.

 
March 2022

How asylum seekers relate to Border Partners–one volunteer’s perspective

People cross into El Paso from Juarez at the Paso Del Norte port of entry.

By Billie Greenwood

You probably don’t know me, but you know my work. I’ve been the Border Partners website manager almost since its beginning. I met Border Partners while volunteering in El Paso 15 winters ago. This winter I again helped process incoming immigrants in El Paso, folks seeking asylum in the US. 

Volunteering in El Paso is a different type of volunteering than writing and uploading photos for you. I was face-to-face with people I hear about on the news: 

  • Haitians, 
  • unaccompanied minors, 
  • Central American migrants, 
  • families who languished in Mexican shelters for months as they awaited the opportunity to enter the US.

Billie Greenwood, in her plain volunteer dwelling in El Paso

All of them would have preferred to be back home. Wherever “home” was for them. But, they felt forced to leave. Some were forced by violence, others by poverty. These lucky “few” I served in El Paso somehow eluded the man-made barriers that trap most in peril and force them to remain in Mexico.

Border Partners, on the other hand, helps people be able to stay at home in or near the Palomas border. When living conditions improve, people don’t have to leave. Migration is hard. It’s better to help people stay.

Through its history Border Partners has weathered seasons of violence in Mexico. It remained stable throughout political shifts and election changes. It works respectfully with all people and has earned respect in return.

I’m proud of what Border Partners does. Even better, I love how they listen to people’s needs and partner—never dictate—to improve lives. 

Whatever we can do to help people stay home is very important.

Diaz Donation to Improve Computer Center in Palomas

Internet access and computing technology advance opportunities for all border residents.

 

Edward Diaz, 1958-2019

Border Partners received wonderful news last week. New Mexico Chile Products and the Diaz Family donated $15,000 to honor their brother Edward who recently died. The money allow us to replace the computers and a printer at the Border Partners’ Education Center in Palomas with new equipment. Updated technology will better serve the needs of people in Palomas.

The Center will be re-named in honor of Mr. Diaz. In the future, it will be called the Eduardo Diaz Education Center.

The Silver City Rotary Club donated the computers that are currently used in the Education Center in 2013. Those devices will receive updates. Then, they’ll find a new home in school computer labs in Palomas.

This donation comes at a perfect time for Border Partners. Last month, the Municipal Government of Palomas gave us permission to open the Education Center again after being closed by COVID restrictions for two years.  Once again, we’ll be able to allow students to come to do their homework using the computers and the Internet. Our Border Partners staff can once again offer classes. From 3-6 p.m. each day anyone who needs to use a computer can come to the Center and use one there.

Juan Lares, the Education Center Coordinator, is currently teaching computer skills and use of the Internet to the Promotoras .

We’re profoundly grateful to the Diaz Family for their generous donation. It will to improve educational opportunity in Palomas. Muchas Gracias!