Border Partners Annual Report 2017

BP ANNUAL REPORT 2017

Border Partners is celebrating nine years working with the people of Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico. They live just across the border wall from New Mexico. Happily, in this annual report 2017, we can say that by working together with many generous supporters in the United States, lives there have improved considerably since 2008!

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 that last commitment!
A strong team of leaders in Palomas now take major responsibility for planning and executing projects.
Many local people are now convinced that it’s possible to improve life in their community. (This wasn’t true when we started!)
Thousands of adults and children in Palomas participate in Border Partners’ activities that promote health throughout the year.
And now, a very significant step: a group of Mexicans who work with Border Partners have applied for nonprofit tax status. With this designation, they’ll be able to raise money on their own in 2018.

What was NEW in 2017?

  • Began teaching nutrition classes for students at all six schools in Palomas.
  • Added lights to the Border Partners/Paso del Norte Sports Center–providing time for additional hours of play.
  • Opened a second indoor public recreation facility to the public after school and on weekends. This one has a weight room.
  • Built greenhouses at homes of six of the most successful gardeners.
  • Began daily aerobics and weekly yoga classes for the community.
  • Made significant progress on designing a low cost water filter for homes and schools to take out the excess lead, fluoride and arsenic in Palomas water.
  • Began growing earthworms and produced 20 cubic yards of biochar for garden soil.
  • Contributed equipment, furnishings and internet access to the new public high school.

PLUS, we continue the OTHER successful programs you’ve supported in the past:

Spring & Fall town health fairs ■ 6th Annual Summer School session
Computer classes at our Education Center ■ 60 home gardens
Monthly food supplements for school lunches ■ Free nutrition classes for families
Bicycle repair shop ■ Free monthly health screenings
Senior citizen programming ■ Classes about healthy sexuality for teens

This progress has been possible because Border Partners has a strong team of donors, foundations, volunteers, board members and – best of all – the empowered citizens of Palomas working together to transform Palomas!”

2017 annual report

Women and Inheritance Issues in Mexico, a Focus Group Report

inheritance law

A focus group in Palomas considered how Mexican inheritance law affects women’s empowerment.

Land and inheritance rights are a key factor in empowering rural women. In Mexico, the situation is unfair and unjust. Border Partners convened a focus group in Palomas this week to learn more about it. Input from this meeting went to a group in New York that’s preparing for the 2018 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The meeting, held March 11-23, will focus on challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality. The commission will emphasize the empowerment of rural women and girls.

One woman in the group immediately shared her own personal situation. She’s waited nine years for an inheritance. But she still hasn’t received title to the land she should inherit. She’s unable to meet all the legal requirements. The process is unnecessarily slow. Key figures (officials) change, thereby delaying, disrupting or derailing the process.

Contextual Problems Affect Inheritance Law

Our group didn’t really complain about the law itself. Instead, it expressed more concern with how the law was so arbitrarily applied. This manifested itself in two particular ways they specified:
The first difficulty is that women are treated differently than men by the courts. Mexican culture is predominantly a male-dominant, machismo culture. Men receive preferential treatment. Officials don’t apply the law equally across genders.

A second ongoing problem is that corruption is endemic. Specifically, the focus group agreed that often people seeking court action must unofficially pay something to officials to get action, even though they have the correct legal papers. This sort of bribe has a name in Spanish: a mordida, or “bite,” referring metaphorically to the wound of an animal bite.

Other Issues

Legal paperwork is processed in larger cities that are distant from from rural women. This sets up more handicaps. Rural women often can’t travel to those larger, distant cities. It’s expensive. This is a hurdle too high for many to surmount.

Inheritance laws also hurt women who’re not legally married to their partner who dies. Many Mexican couples are common law couples. Marriage is expensive. So couples don’t undertake it. Absence of laws recognizing the legitimacy of the common law commitment hurts many women.

Rural women often don’t have resources to hire an attorney to represent them. Therefore, their case becomes very difficult to win in court. Legal representation is expensive. And, it isn’t provided for those who can’t afford it.

The situation of indigenous women is no better than non indigenous. In some instances, groups may advocate for the rights of indigenous. In the case of such advocacy, an indigenous woman may have an advantage. If there’s no such advocacy present, an indigenous woman faces the same situation that all women face.

Health promoter leaders reflect on five years of progress

health promoter leaders

Two of the original health promoters, Juana Flores and Gricelda Loya, reflect on the changes they have seen in the town’s health and in themselves as a result of promotora training and work.

Promotoras (“health promoters or educators,” in English) play a very valuable role in health care promotion in Mexico. Palomas has had an active group of promotoras since 2012 when Border Partners organized a training to start a group.

Five years later, two of the original group, Juana Flores and Gricelda Loya, are health promoter leaders in the current group of five active promoters. We talked with them last week to assess the changes they see in the health of the community — and in themselves — since that first training.

Both women agreed that the health promoters have brought numerous programs  to people in Palomas that were not available to the people prior to 2012. The promotoras offer regular blood pressure and glucose screening, free yoga and exercise classes, healthy sexuality education for adolescents, and nutrition classes for families, pregnant moms, students and seniors. In addition, they organize sports tournaments for all ages at three new community venues made possible with funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Since the first training in 2012, they have taken hundreds of hours of training in diverse health-related areas such as:

  • nutrition,
  • first aid,
  • proper hygiene and correct hand washing methods,
  • diabetes foot care,
  • mental health and
  • healthy prenatal experience.

Palomas Health Advances

Gricelda said that she has noticed that in the last year, more people are asking for health classes and are more involved in discussion when they take them. People are asking more questions and wanting more information on the topics. She felt this was a big step forward.

Juana has been teaching an exercise class each weekday morning since Spring 2017. At a recent weigh-in, the group of 25 women had lost an average of two kilos each in three months!

Juana and Gricelda now have two sessions of a class on healthy sexuality for adolescents – the number of students asking for the class has grown so they added another class section. They invited two of the teenagers from that class to attend a recent training on “Six Steps to Health” with the promotoras. Those two teens now want to help the promotoras with nutrition classes for elementary students in Palomas.

Health Promoter Leaders Change, Too

When asked how this work has changed them personally, Juana responded, “Well first, I have lost 60 pounds since I began!” She went on the say, “My life has changed 360 degrees. I know so many more people now! Instead of spending all day alone in my house, I’m in the streets of the town all day!”

Griecelda says that she also knows many more people. “We are learning how to work with all types of people and know more about how to help people lead healthy lives.”

They both agreed: “It is a beautiful thing to be able to help your community.”

Construction begun: 10 new greenhouses for Palomas

greenhouse construction

Aide pauses to smile as she places a post to support her family greenhouse, one of 10 projected new greenhouses in Palomas to improve home gardening and local nutrition.

“I have high hopes that greenhouses are the best way to produce abundant crops of vegetables in our climate of extremes.”  Peter Edmunds, Border Partners’ General Manager,  is in a position to say this as he took a break from supervising the building of the first of ten, new greenhouses Border Partners is building this fall at homes of successful gardeners in Palomas.

He went on, “Once people have the skills for managing a greenhouse, they’ll get enough more production to make a big difference in their extended families’ nutrition!” 

Border Partners staff gardeners, Juana Flores and Juana Lozoya, chose gardeners to receive greenhouses who have been in their home gardening program for several years and shown that they can manage a smaller year round garden and get good production.  Most of them have also worked in the two large, year-round greenhouses that Border Partners has had for five years on a public site.

Funded as part of a grant to improve nutrition in Palomas from the Paso del Norte Foundation, each greenhouse will be 12’ by 15’ and covered by plastic in the cold months and shade cloth in the summer.  Vegetables will grow year round in raised beds filled with composted soil and a rainwater catchment system will provide a portion of the water needed.

New greenhouses: Assembly required

The greenhouses do not, however, arrive complete.  More than a little assembly is required and it’s good to have some help.  One of the requirements is that each person who receives a greenhouse must contribute 40 hours to building greenhouses for others after theirs is complete. 

An important goal of the project is to encourage people with skills to share them with their neighbors.

new greenhouses

One of ten new greenhouses under construction in Palomas, this foundation represents the teepee style building.

So, on an unusually warm fall day last week, several Border Partners staff members, along with gardeners who had received greenhouses already, were busy assembling a greenhouse for Aide Carreon.    After a pickup loaded with lumber, PVC pipe and tools, they got to work. 

“I like working as a team,” said Flores, “if only the men would follow the women’s instructions, it might go a lot better,” she said with a smile.

Within a few hours, the frame was completed and the crew was invited into Carreon’s home to enjoy a hot bowl of homemade pozole.  In a few months, she expects to enjoy the first harvest, and the benefits will extend beyond her immediate family. 

“Vegetables from the greenhouse will help me save money and improve my family’s diet,” said Carreon, “but it’s also a good example for my neighbors.”

Greenhouses are an important part of the effort to improve nutrition in Palomas.  Historically, due to the long distances involved, local stores have provided a limited variety of not-very-fresh produce at relatively high prices.  Home gardening was not viable due to the hard, alkaline soil common in the area and the seasonal temperature extremes.  As a result, many families rely on high fat, low nutrient diets contributing to the high incidence of health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

Fall 2017 Health Fair in Palomas

fall 2017 health fair

A Palomas mother brings her daugher to the Fall 2017 Health Fair in Palomas for a screening

The Promotoras (Health Promoters) in Palomas held their fall 2017 health fair on Saturday October 28. While the Promotoras work year around to provide medical screening services and education to local residents, this biannual event has proved to be a good way to bring awareness to health issues and recruit new clients by providing a fun and entertaining atmosphere.

An estimated 350 people attended Saturday’s event in the main plaza, which was vibrating with activity and color. The street was lined with booths selling craft items made from recycled materials, the health screening tent, burrito stand and a bounce house for children. Another attraction was a Matachines dance troupe from the San Judas Tadeo church in Juarez and a display of zumba dancing.

Fall 2017 Health Fair Improvements

This year, the Promotoras used a new system to encourage people to take advantage of their health screening services. After their screening, residents received a ticket they could exchange for a healthful vegetarian burrito stuffed with beans and fresh, multi-colored vegetables. With help from 15 students from the telebachillerato school, the Promotoras served 240 vegetarian burritos.

matachines

The matachines added a colorful, joyous dance to the Fall 2017 Health Fair in Palomas.

How Border Partners Makes a Difference in Puerto Palomas

staff

The Border Partners staff are forward-looking and keep their eyes on their goals.

Every day we are aware of how wonderful the staff we have in Palomas are!  Recently, Peter decided to ask them to write about what Border Partners means to them.  Their statements show the efficacy of our presence on the border. We appreciate our supporters who make that possible! With their help, life is improving for individuals and for the community.

Their responses illustrate concrete ways life has changed for the better for Palomas and its inhabitants:

Juana F: I personally benefitted from the Day One with Border Partners—both in health and economically.

Juana Flores

Health: Previously, I lived with depression and now, by working, I can keep my mind busy. Moreover, my children have had a chance to receive education, unlike me. But now I don’t feel so keenly that I am different from them.

Economically: Now I can support my children monetarily. I was able to build my little house, so I have a nice place for when my children come to visit me.

In my Palomas community: More families have changed their eating habits and eat more vegetables and live better. Through gardening they save some money for their families.

Griselda: Thanks to my employment with Border Partners, I have been able to support my children. And, I’m able to help my community by teaching good nutrition and promoting physical activity, among other things

Many people in Palomas have achieved goals due to the education opportunities and the projects that Border Partners has offered.

Juan R.: Border Partners gives me the opportunity to serve my community through my role as a Community Coordinator. I’m thankful to be part of something so great, working with an amazing group of people. And also I get to meet other outstanding individuals, such as the Board of Directors who give their valuable time and knowledge for the benefit of my community.

Juan Rascon

Border Partners’ projects have brought improvements for the elderly of Palomas. Important areas in the community–such as nutrition, gardening, physical activity, and health–are stronger due to the programs Border Partners sponsors. Border Partners also supports education.

Lunch supplement programs–such as the assistance given to Ford Elementary School students–are clearly visible and felt community-wide.

 

Adrian: Border Partners has made me a better person. I’ve learned how to help other people and feel good about it. Border Partners affected my family, too. Now my children have more public places to be physically active.

Juan: Border Partners has had an effect on me personally by helping me to improve myself and teach people in my community about their health and physical activity. My family has also improved because I have a source of employment.

The impact that Border Partners has had in Palomas is visible. Many townspeople are very grateful for the benefits they’ve received and for improvements in local health and education.

Juana LazoyaJuana: Personally, Border Partners has made an important impact: I changed my lifestyle and learned many things, especially regarding my health. Through Border Partners’ employment, I have a source of money to support my family and now I’m able to buy necessities that I could not afford before.

In my Palomas community in my career as a Border Partners project coordinator, I’ve learned skills to teach others about a healthy diet, how to live an active lifestyle, and many more important things.

 

Palomas 2017 Summer Activities

summer school 2017

Summer school was a highlight of many youth again this year.

Both kids and adults in Palomas had plenty of opportunity for fun and learning this past summer thanks to Border Partners’ creative and energetic staff.

Official shirt

Official shirt

A highlight for kids each summer is the annual summer school which this year had a new location and format. Seventy children were divided into five groups and rotated classes between the BP Education Center to learn computer skills, the greenhouses to try some gardening, the library to do art projects and learn English and then outside for some exercise. A healthy lunch completed the day.  All this was organized by our Promotoras with the help of Lee Lowder, a wonderful volunteer teacher who came for the second year this summer to help.

Summer school 2017

Friendship and fun–all part of the package.

All summer, there were tournaments and games for kids and adults at the BP Sports Center and at the public gym BP opened last year with the help of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PdNHF). For the first time, in August, the public was able to use the fields at the middle school and a new weight room also thanks to funds from the PdNHF.

Summer 2017: Well-rounded Activities 

Besides these opportunities for healthy exercise, BP staff organized several community bicycle events and began offering a regular morning exercise class which combines zumba, bench and cardio.

And there were opportunities to learn computer skills, too.  Gricelda Loya, our Education Center Director, organized and taught two classes–one on using Microsoft Office and another on Photoshop.

Hard work

Diligent work yields gains for the kids in Palomas.

Summer School Activities 2017

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Border Partners thanks supporters for Giving Grandly!

Give Grandly 2017

Mother and Child by Diane LeMarbe

Mother and Child by Diane LeMarbe

We want to thank all our supporters for their contributions to the Give Grandly! fundraising event on May 6. It was sponsored by the Grant County Community Foundation (GCCF) in partnership with the United Way.

We received 34 contributions that day, ranging from $1.00 to $3,000. The total for the day was $6,441.26. All in all, we count that as a big success!

We also want to give special thanks to artist Diana LeMarbe for donating her sculpture “Mother and Child” for the auction. All the proceeds from that sale will benefit local programming in Palomas.

We are grateful to you for making progress possible in the community of Palomas! Thanks.

Border Partners Annual Report 2016

 

ANNUAL REPORT 2016During 2016, thanks to generous support from numerous individuals and groups and the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, the people of Palomas, with Border Partners’ assistance, were able to make the following much needed improvements in their community.

  • Townspeople built a dirt bike track so teens have productive activity.
  • Volunteers created a bicycle repair shop. They’ve restored 250 bikes we brought to Palomas (so far!).
  • For the first time ever townspeople have and use an indoor public recreation facility.
  • Border Partner’s gardeners and volunteer parents built new school vegetable gardens at two Palomas elementary schools.
  • Promotoras are teaching teens–in classes the teens love to attend–the skills they need to stay healthy and REMAIN in school to graduate.

Annual Report 2016–Working together also accomplished:

  • Built a second greenhouse in the community garden,
  • Began growing earthworms and produced 20 cubic yards of biochar to enrich gardens,
  • Sponsored meal delivery to four handicapped senior citizens,
  • Constructed security doors and windows on the new high school, AND
  • Installed 6 revolutionary home furnaces that produce biochar and provide free heat.
  • Began offering a monthly health screening check at the local plaza one Saturday each month.

And YES, Border Partners continued our OTHER successful programs too:

  • Sponsored soccer, volleyball and basketball tournaments for all ages at the Border Partners’ Sports Center
  • Held Spring & Fall town Health Fairs with health screenings, free haircuts, diabetes foot checks, free healthy burritos, nutrition handouts.
  • Organized our fifth annual Summer School session for local children focused on the importance of eating healthy food and getting physical activity.
  • Offered a computer skills class for adults
  • Supported 70 home gardeners with technical assistance and supplies
  • Delivered a monthly food supplement of nutritious food (value $300) for the school lunches at one of the primary schools
  • Offered a series of  nutrition classes for 40 families
  • In collaboration with the local health clinic, sponsored several community walks and bike rides.