Border Partners’ original Palomas promoter: Key to our success

by Billie Greenwood

Marisol Guillen and Peter Edmunds

Marisol Guillen and Peter Edmunds rely on each other as they work to improve Palomas.

An original Palomas promoter of Border Partners operations, Marisol Guillen’s ongoing contribution plays a critical role in the agency’s success. The quintessential border citizen, Marisol was born in Mexico and educated in the United States.

Marisol’s bilingual skills, bridging communications across the US-Mexico border, are vital. Beyond language skills, her energy, enthusiasm and leadership can’t be overstated when accounting for Border Partners’ successful launch in Palomas.

Even before Border Partners existed, Marisol was volunteering and working with unflagging commitment to advance her town. Always enterprising, she served meals from a little restaurant she started and offered aerobics classes for her friends. She was one of the first woodworkers Border Partners trained to build solar cookers.

Always smiling, always positive, Marisol triumphed over the challenges of drug-related violence in her town and has found her niche.

As one of our original promoters, Marisol became involved in everything we did.

Now you’ll see Marisol arranging Border Partners events and activities with town officials and local schools. And she’s a trained, participating Promotora (health promoter). She teaches aerobics to the public for Border Partners, five times each week. Besides translating for Peter (and sometimes for visitors), Marisol works with Palomas students who volunteer to complete projects–like making blocks or painting park equipment, and she delivers donated equipment to schools.

Guillen helps student

Marisol Gullien assists a Ford School student as they construct a new raised-bed garden plot.

Marisol is great at connecting local people with Border Partners’ projects. Neighbors come to her for help, and she responds to the needs she encounters. During her “Christmas vacation,” we found her installing a door at the humble home of a single mom whose home was dangerously insecure and uncomfortably cold.

When Marisol learned that an elderly woman with advanced diabetes had no indoor bathroom, she advocated for her assistance and then personally helped build fiber cement blocks to add an indoor bathroom.

Leadership can be tricky in a small town, where it’s easy to “step on toes.” Perhaps leadership is even more difficult for a woman in Mexico, a culture characterized by machismo—male-orientation. But, if you ask Marisol about challenges she faces as a leader in Palomas, she doesn’t avert to anything like that.

Her main challenge is the same as many women face. As a single working mother, she struggles to balance responsibilities at work and at home raising her two children, Darlene, 11, and Nathan, 9. It’s not always easy to keep all her bases covered. But now, with experience as a working mom under her belt, Marisol feels more comfortable juggling the multiple roles she handles.

Guillen with daughter

While helping with construction at the Palomas library, Marisol enjoyed an unplanned meet-up with her daughter Darlene who was there to use the library’s services.

Peter Edmunds, Border Partners co-founder, relies directly and largely on Marisol as he interacts in Palomas. That’s a responsibility she takes very seriously.

“I’m always honest with Peter. That’s really important to me. I let him know what’s happening right away. I want him to be able to trust me.”

For his part, Peter speaks glowingly of Marisol: “A few weeks ago, some Palomas citizens approached Marisol, asking her to run for government office this fall. They recognize her talent for community organizing. If she ran, it would change everything for Border Partners, because I cannot visualize my work in Palomas without her. But, nevertheless, I have to say that she’d be a great city leader.”

In fact, it is difficult to imagine Border Partners accomplishments without Marisol’s original participation and now leadership in our operations. Her personal presence and her work advance the transformation of Palomas.

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