Ten Years of Accomplishment in Palomas

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. ”

READ THIS ARTICLE IN THE ORIGINAL SPANISH HERE

Border Partners: Promoting change for 10 years

health fair tent

Juan Rascon, Border Partners staffer, consults with a local health promoter at a health fair event that opens opportunities for local residents.

Border Partners marks its tenth anniversary this month by carrying on business as usual–quietly supporting positive progress on the U.S.-Mexico border. When negative publicity surrounds media treatment of the border, in some ways we’ve created an alternative, positive reality.

Engagement of US supporters, individual and corporate, has allowed the residents of Puerto Palomas to determine their path forward to a better life right where they are. Not only do the people of Palomas choose the path by determining the activities, they do most of the project implementation, as well.

The Deming Headlight marked our anniversary with an article reflecting this new reality that Border Partners has ushered in over the last ten years:

DEMING – Sometimes we see people in need but have no idea what to do. Ten years ago, Polly and Peter Edmunds of Deming saw their neighbors struggling across the border in Palomas, Mexico, and they stepped in to help. This month, Border Partners, the non-profit foundation they established in 2008, is marking its 10th anniversary.

Taking action was natural for the Edmunds. Originally from Minnesota, the couple had retired to Deming in 2005 after spending decades promoting civil rights and helping those less fortunate.

“We saw a need for people to have jobs so they could buy better food,” Peter Edmunds said, “As we spent more time in Palomas and got to know people in the community, we realized how many health problems there were and how stark the situation was in the schools.”

In 2010, Border Partners received 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Each year since then, a variety of projects selected by Palomas residents has been completed. The projects focus on the areas of education, health, economic development and sustainable technologies.

READ their article to learn MORE ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENED AT THE DEMING HEADLIGHT

 

2018 Border Partners’ 10th Summer Working with the People of Palomas

graduation

Juan Rason and Juana Flores (3rd and 4th from left, respectively) awarding Border School graduates.

In July, Border Partners staff were honored at the sixth grade graduation at the Ignacio Zaragoza School. This is the school where your donations have helped support school gardens growing nutritious vegetables and nutrition classes for students! Thanks to our HEAL grant, we have also been able to add new sports equipment to their gym. Our lead staff, Juan and Juana, were the guests of honor joining teachers and principals onstage.

summer school recognition

Student proudly displays his Summer School Completion recognition award.

Our annual summer school began soon after that with sports, manners, art and music classes for local students. Besides that our crew worked hard building more greenhouses and gardens, teaching zumba classes and organizing sports activities – including several soccer tournaments.

As for the fall, this is the fourth year of the Healthy Eating Active Living grant we receive from the Paso del Norte Foundation. In the next few months expect to see more gardens, greenhouses, health workshops and sports activities!

In addition to these blog posts, you can keep up with our activities by following our social media:

Instagram: @border_partners
Facebook: @BorderPartners
Twitter: @BorderPartners

graduation dedication

Border Partners joyfully accepted recognition from Ford Primary School in Palomas when the dedicated this year’s graduation ceremony to us.

Collaboration with Border Partners Provides 107 Bicycles for Palomas Community

bike donation

This is what 107 bicycles look like. But what you can’t see in this photo is the improvement they will make in the community of Palomas by creating options for healthy activity.

Border Partners was pleased to bring 107 bikes to Palomas this month, through the generous donation of The Bike Works, a community-supported nonprofit bike shop in Silver City, NM. The shipment duty and the supplies to repair and refurbish the bikes was funded by a HEAL (Healthy Eating and Active Living) grant we received from the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation.

Many of these bicycles are already in ride able condition. For the others that need repair and refurbishment, we’re starting a bike restoration program in partnership with the local high school in Palomas. The plan is that students there will restore two bikes. One restored bike will go out for the Border Partners community in Palomas and the other bike they repair they will keep for their own use.

Our Border Partners staff and their families are already excited about the addition of these bikes. Many Palomas youngsters who are already bikers have grown and are outgrowing their present bicycles. This influx of bicycles will supply them with new, bigger bikes so they can continue their biking enthusiasm. 

We currently have about 100 donated tires on hand. All the bikes need desert tubes and slime sealant, materials that the HEAL grant will fund.

12 New Greenhouses Improve Health, Nutrition in Palomas

12 New Greenhouses

Ramona (left), veteran gardener, and Juana (right), Border Partners garden coordinator, review winter veggies almost ready to harvest.

While people in the northern US are still shoveling snow this month, families in Palomas, Chihuahua, MX are harvesting fresh lettuce for their dinner salads. Only a few years ago, diabetes was epidemic there and fresh vegetables not available. In response to residents’ requests to help them improve health, Border Partners introduced raised-bed, covered gardens in 2009. Gardeners have raised healthy vegetables year-round in this small border outpost ever since.

greenhouses veggies

Nutrition-packed, leafy green vegetables thrive in greenhouses during the cool winter climate of the high desert.

But since last fall, thanks to grant funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, production is blossoming! Twelve experienced gardeners now have home greenhouses (12’ x 15’) where they can increase their production. This month they’re harvesting celery, spinach, chard, kale, beets, cilantro, radishes and broccoli–in addition to that lettuce. These are all crops that thrive in cool weather. Since temperatures in this high desert town often fall into the 20’s overnight in January and February, these crops grow very well.

Peter Edmunds, Border Partners’ general manager explains:

“Greenhouses are about control. Throughout the year, the extremes of summer heat and winter cold are controlled. Greenhouse gardening, if done right, lets the gardener use every square foot of space–all year.”

Greenhouse Construction

greenhouse construction

Home gardeners worked together to help each other build the home greenhouses, using materials provided by a grant from Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Border Partners provided the materials for the greenhouses. But the gardeners constructed the greenhouses themselves, working together with our gardening staff. Each recipient agreed at the outset to contribute forty hours of labor to help build all the greenhouses. Twelve are now completed at family homes. These families not only eat the vegetables they grow themselves but generally they also share them with extended family and neighbors.

Two larger greenhouses will be built in March at elementary schools. Palomas school children will learn how to garden and will harvest vegetables to use for their own school lunch programs.

Next Priority: Rainwater Capture

In March, each gardener in the program will receive a rainwater catchment barrel and eave troughs to collect water from the roof of their home for watering the greenhouse. This promotes production since they’re gardening in the desert–where every drop of water is precious. And that highlights another advantage of greenhouse gardening: soil needs less water because it’s protected from direct sunlight.

Border Partners places strong emphasis on its gardening program because of the potential that better access to fresh vegetables has for making significant changes in community health.

Better Health through Biking: Supporting Bike Race Day 2018

70K winner

Edgar Loya Becerra winner of the 70K bike race is pictured with Palomas Mayor Ramon Rodriguez (left).

A favorite event for the village of Palomas, the second annual bike race–the Carrera Villista–drew bike teams from Juarez, Ascención and Nuevo Casas Grandes to join local Palomas residents in competition on Sunday, February 18. Border Partners’ promotoras supported both the civic event and the health of all competitors by distributing fruit and drinks supplied by Border Partners.

The town’s streets were lined with smiling well wishers who observed and rooted for their favorites. Border Partners promotoras provided fruit and drinks to the racers both along the 35K and 70K route between Entronque and Palomas and at the finish. Thirty-three racers participated in the 70 km race that routed from Palomas to Entronque and returned. Twenty-eight cyclists, including a woman from far away Denver, Colorado, competed in the 33 km race that started at Entronque and finished in Palomas. Border Partners’ Juana Flores distributed fruit and drinks midway between Entronque and Palomas.

Mayor Ramon Rodriguez and the entire village support this event. Reaching beyond residents of Palomas, the race also attracted a large group of approximately 40 bike enthusiast participants from Cuidad Juarez, the major metropolitan center two hours away. This year’s event prompted a visit from two medalists from Club Soles of Juarez: Zanya Aguirre Avila, National Champion and Gold medalist at Mexico City and 6-year-old Yaretzi Aguirre, National Silver medalist. 

children's race

And they’re off! Children pump hard as they race to the edge of town and back to the center of Palomas.

In addition to the two adult races, there was also a children’s bike race that featured twenty-five participants, including a group from Juarez. The children started at the government plaza in downtown Palomas, rode to end of village and returned to center. Two toddlers on striders ran along behind the older children: Sebastian Peres, a 2-year-old from Club Soles of Juarez, and Itzael Aguirre, 3 yrs old.

toddler competitors

Palomas Mayor Ramon Rodriguez (right) honored the two youngest competitors, aged two and three-years, at Carrera Villista.

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

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.