Another publication lauded our 10th anniversary: the website Camino Real Media–a New Mexico Spanish language site–celebrated our accomplishments of the past ten years. Author Kara Naber has been closely associated with Border Partners during that time.
Translated roughly from the original Spanish, the article reads:
“Cities on the border between countries anywhere in the world are often difficult places to live and Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, is no exception. Conditions for most residents are difficult, but in 2008, things were especially difficult. In that year, two residents of Deming, New Mexico, Polly and Peter Edmunds, saw their neighbors across the border struggling and wanted to help.
“We saw the need for people to have jobs in order to buy better food,” said Peter Edmunds. “As we spent more time at Palomas we met the people in the community. We realized how many health problems there were and the harsh situation in the schools. ”
The Edmunds started with two projects. Peter started directing workshops on the construction of solar cookers and how to use them. Polly started a sewing cooperative. With a few women and a handful of used sewing machines, they started making items to sell.
In 2010, Border Partners received official nonprofit status. With the help of local businesses, service organizations and volunteers on both sides of the border, the list of community improvements at Palomas has grown. The projects focus on the areas of education, health, economic development and sustainable technologies, all selected by the residents of Palomas.
“What I like most about Border Partners,” said Elizabeth Burr, a board member, is that they do not tell people what to do. They ask people what they want. ”
The salaried staff of Border Partners currently consists of six Promoters and a Community Coordinator. They work as a team to plan, organize and implement a wide variety of projects ranging from health fairs and community greenhouse gardens to zumba and nutrition classes. They also coordinate activities in the Sports and Educational Centers.
The Education Center, adjacent to the public library, was built by local youth who earned money while learning to develop skills. The Center now contains donated computers that are available for public use. Students use the Center to do their homework and volunteers from both sides of the border often offer computer and English classes. Edmunds estimates that they have provided around 300 computers for the public library and local schools, as well as for the Education Center.
The Sports Center opened its doors three years ago and is a place where people of all ages can play soccer, volleyball and basketball. Used bicycles are delivered to residents after they help repair them under the guidance of a local mechanic. A bicycle track gives children a place to have fun and races and summer attractions include the whole family. More than 200 local residents can now ride bicycles around the city while exercising and saving money. And hundreds of soccer balls and other sports equipment have been provided for the Sports Center and local schools.
While Border Partners has provided support over the past ten years, the ultimate goal was for the people of Palomas to work independently. For several years, the women of the sewing cooperative, now known as Palomas Oilcloth Designs, have been running the business on their own. They sell their products online and to provide income to their families.
The staff of Palomas is preparing for their next step towards independence. They have begun the process of establishing their own non-profit organization, a ‘Civil Association,’ and plan to continue the work that the Border Partners began to include other nearby cities.
When we asked Edmunds, if he could have imagined achieving so much ten years ago, he laughed and said: “No. We had no intention of doing all that, but you keep coming and you find a need and then you figure out how to do something about the need. Then you come back and there’s something else. ”