Cross-cultural learnings celebrate the Day of the Dead in Palomas

Lucia Hernández Huerta and Jorge Ayala Zúñiga, costumed students from the Palomas High School explained the meaning of the altar and the decor that commemorates the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos in Mexico.

Cross-cultural exchanges are an important component of the blessing that is Border Partners. We experienced this blessing again recently when the Border Partners’ Palomas staff invited our Board of Directors to a wonderful celebration of the Day of the Dead last Friday. Upon entering the office in Palomas, the group was charmed with authentic music, a lovely altar–typical of others all over Mexico–and people in costumes depicting well-dressed skeletons.

Costumed students from the Palomas high school provided an explanation for the elements of this unique Mexican celebration. Standing alongside an altar they constructed for the Day of the Dead, they explained that families make altars to remember – joyfully – and to honor their loved ones who have died.

The altars usually consist of three levels. These levels represent heaven, earth and the world in between. Laid on the altar are a variety of common items which represent the dead:

  • candles (to light the way to the altar),
  • yellow marigolds (to guide the spirits with their scent),
  • salt (to prevent the body from breaking down on it’s journey),
  • photos of the deceased and
  • some of their favorite foods or objects.

After the presentation by the high school students, we enjoyed “pan de muerto”, a special sweet bread made all across Mexico for this special celebration.

The Board of Directors was grateful for the effort many made to celebrate this day and provide a unique learning opportunity. 

Happy Day of the Dead to all! Feliz Dia de los Muertos.

Enjoy these images from the celebration! Click on any image to enlarge it for a better view and more information.

Visiting journalist praises Border Partners’ work

Border Partners staff and leaders received praise from journalist Morgan Smith after his recent visit to observe their activities.

We hosted journalist Morgan Smith on his September visit to the US Mexico border. With pride, we point you to his column reporting on what he saw and learned. It’s entitled “Humanitarians quietly making a difference on the border” which appeared in the El Paso Times. His section on our work in Palomas is excerpted from the article (below).

Making a Difference on the Border

On Monday morning, Labor Day, we walk across the border at Palomas for the highlight of our tour, which is a visit with Border Partners. The nonprofit was organized in November 2008 and plays a dominant role in Palomas and the surrounding area with a huge array of programs including:

  • Training “promotoras” who can provide basic medical care, particularly for pregnant women
  • Health fairs and exercise classes
  • Providing masks and school supplies for students
  • A home garden program
  • The installation of computers in schools and computer classes
  • Delivering hot meals to isolated seniors and the disabled.

We meet Juan Rascón, their Palomas representative, and Melissa Reyes, the general manager, as they and their staff are loading three trucks for a delivery of food to three tiny towns to the south: El Modelo, El Entronque and Victoria.

Twice a month they make the trip, bringing 100 containers loaded with basics like potatoes, beans, noodles, eggs, flour, instant milk, toilet paper, cans of barley for soup and hand wipes. This time they also have school supplies and T-shirts for the kids.

Our truck goes to El Entronque where a line of recipients has formed, all wearing masks. It’s an emotional moment as Border Partners fills in for a government that is absent.

There are powerful humanitarian forces along the border, including the volunteers who are helping Pedro in Hatch recover from his fall, the young teacher who runs the Tarahumara school, Dulce and Viri at Vision in Action, and Melissa and Juan and their leadership at Border Partners.

They may not make the headlines, but they do make an enormous difference in the lives of those who live along the border.

Ups and Downs in Palomas: October 2021

by Polly Thomson Edmunds
Co-Founder of Border Partners

 

Border Partners focuses on improving lives in Puerto Palomas and its border area.

I visited Palomas yesterday for the first time in months. It was such a pleasure to be back! The staff impressed me because they seemed very well-organized and friendly. I saw the new Border Partners office for the first time. It’s centrally located and boasts great space for all the work that’s accomplished there.

During the morning, the staff gave out boxes of food to 100 families whom school personnel suggested as in need of food. I was very proud to be part of Border Partners!

Viki Ibara & son

But, at the same time, I wished that we could have included more food in the boxes. There were no fresh vegetables this time because the gardens had none ready to pick and there’s not enough money to purchase them in Palomas. Each box contained:

  • dry beans,
  • two packages of a rice mix fortified with dried soy,
  • potatoes,
  • dried milk,
  • eggs,
  • white flour,
  • two packages of ramen noodles,
  • a roll of toilet paper and
  • some bleach.

Fortunately, now’s the time to plant in our Palomas gardens. The summer weather has cooled. Beginning now and continuing through the winter is an excellent growing season for cool weather crops like spinach, carrots, broccoli and chard.

Reconnecting: Engaged Co-Workers

Promotora Maria prepared the daily meal for 25 shut in elderly Palomas residents.

I was very happy to see my old friend, Viky Ibarra, and to meet her son, Manuel. Viky was one of our first promotoras. She continues her work now as the coordinator of the group. She’s excited about all she is learning in her new role. When you ask her what she likes best, she responds: “Being able to help my community!”

Viky toured me through the office where the promotoras check blood pressure and glucose levels several times a week.

Throughout the morning, Maria, one of the new promotoras, was cooking the daily meal for 25 seniors in the kitchen at the area of the room. She made chicken flautas, potatoes and a salad with lettuce, tomatoes and avocado. It made a beautiful plate!

Ricardo came by to introduce himself to the Border Partners’ staff. He’s the new principal of the Ramon Espinoza Primary School and is hoping that Border Partners can help with some food for their students. I learned that vaccines are now available to children 12-17 in Palomas.

I went home exhilarated by the energy of our staff to keep all the programs they provide going!

Monthly food distributions benefit needy

A physically challenged elder returned home with his food basket using his walker to help him safely get the supplies there.

People were already lined up when we arrived in each of three small towns around Palomas yesterday for our monthly food distribution. By the time we left Entronque, the last stop, we had given out 101 baskets filled with food which would feed 362 adults and children who are having trouble right now making ends meet.

The baskets contained rice, beans, flour, milk, potatoes and fresh vegetables from Border Partners’ gardens! The people are very grateful. One of the recipients – a woman with six children – wrote us a note to thank us:

Thanks from the heart

I am very grateful for the help that you have given me. This last year I had high expenses due to my cancer treatments. I sell used clothing, do cleaning and make bread to sell. My older daughters work part time, but are full time students and money is really stretched. BP and the foods baskets have been a blessing to us. We truly appreciate all of you!”

Already in 2021, Border Partners has given 1,430 food baskets to families and seniors in Palomas and the surrounding communities (Modelo, Entoronque and Victoria). Many individuals and groups have assisted with this effort.

  • Paso del Norte Health Foundation,
  • the UU Fellowship in Silver City, and
  • many individuals have given us money to buy food.

 

  • Churches in Colorado and
  • Colores United in Deming (NM) have given us filled boxes.

 

  • Grocery stores in Palomas give us a discount.
  • Diaz Farms in Deming gives us dry beans.

The families are very grateful. We truly appreciate all of you.

Finally! School starts again in Palomas!

As of September 6, schools in Palomas and the surrounding areas have resumed from their termination of live sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The kids are so excited to be back in school again. About 1,000 children and their teachers returned last week to the two preschools, two elementary schools, one middle school and two high schools (one public and one private) in the town of Palomas after 18 months closed due to COVID-19. In addition, the 700 children who attend schools in Columbus and Deming, NM in the United States started back earlier in August.

Now Border Partners can again assist the schools to provide a healthy experience for the children too. School officials asked Border Partners for masks for children who did not have them. We could provide those needed masks thanks to a donation from the Unitarian Universalist Church in Silver City, NM. We are also purchasing notebooks, pencils and other school supplies for children who need them. The boy in the photo at the top of this post proudly displays his new school suppllies.

Our Supportive Services to Schools

In addition, the Border Partners’ Promotoras will return to a full time schedule with health and nutrition workshops rotating among the schools in Palomas and the Colonias. Our computer staff will be visiting the schools in the next weeks to check the computers in the school labs to make sure they are working well.

Although we are not yet able to resume providing supplemental, healthy foods for school lunch programs because of COVID-19 restrictions. However, we hope that providing supplemental food will be possible soon. And, our gardeners are looking forward to getting back to planting and growing vegetables again with students.

Promotoras expand work with pregnant women and new moms

The Director of the Children’s Medical Office in Casas Grandes answers questions of the new and expectant mothers in the Border Partners’ office. Information and gifts (on the table on the right) enriched the workshop.

In early August, the Border Partners Promotoras took an online training about nursing and newborn care. Vicky Ibarra, a current promotora, is also the mother of a newborn right now. So, with the assistance of her child, the women could practice their care techniques with a real newborn.

Moms and babies benefitted from the August 24 training in Palomas for expectant and new mothers.

Following up on that training, on Tuesday, August 24th, four trainers from the Children’s Medical Office in Casas Grandes came to Palomas to conduct a workshop in our Border Partners’ office with six pregnant women and three mothers of newborns.  The training team included the Director, a child psychologist, a nutritionist and a nurse.

Neonatal skills workshop

This team of experts taught these new mothers about the importance of breastfeeding and about key milestones in early child development (mental and physical).  They provided the pregnant woman and new mothers who participated in the workshop with important tips for starting their babies/toddlers out with a healthy diet. In addition to the value of beginning nutrition with breast milk, they learned about the importance of including abundant vegetables and fruits in a child’s diet from an early age.

The child psychologist explained to the women the important connection between the mother and baby that actually begins before birth, in the womb.

Before the next meeting, the nutritionist will prepare each pregnant mom a nutrition plan based on her own health needs.

There were gifts, too! Each participant took home prenatal vitamins, folic acid, some diapers and wipes, and information brochures. The pregnant moms also received a portable crib. These were provided by the Parents as Teachers project in Deming, NM). 

In another happy exchange, one of the participating moms shared that she did not have a car seat for her baby. In response, one of the promotoras gave her a beautiful pink car seat that her daughter had outgrown. 

Everyone is looking forward to another, follow-up training in September. 

Border Partners hires new staff

In the last several months, Border Partners’ staff team in Palomas welcomed two new Health Promoters. Both new staff members bring exceptional experience and energy to share with the community.  

​​Maria de los Angeles Sustaita Rodriguez

​​Maria de los Angeles Sustaita Rodriguez is a trained paramedic. In addition to working as a Border Partners’ Health Promoter, she also works with the volunteer fire department in Palomas.  She is 41 years old, is married and has two children who are 12 and 9 years old.  Maria says: “My father taught me that, if we know we can help people in our path, we should always do it.  I see that we are all the same. Social and economic position should not make a difference.” We welcome Maria!

Lesley Silva Rios

Lesley Silva Rios graduated from nursing school last year and is 24 years old.  She is married and has two daughters  who are 3 and 6 years old. Lesley has wanted to be a nurse since she was a little girl. Becoming a nurse gives her the opportunity she wanted to be able to help people. She especially likes working with the seniors because she “enjoys their company.”  We welcome Lesley!

Best Wishes to Juana Flores

Best wishes to Juana Flores…Gracias

Along with these “hellos” our staff had to say good-bye to Juana Flores, who had worked with Border Partners since 2014.  Most recently, she coordinated our gardening program. But over the years she has been a Health Promoter, zumba instructor, nutrition educator and all around “cheerleader” for Border Partners.  We will miss Juana! We wish her good luck in whatever the future brings.

Palomas Senior Citizens Concentrate on Identifying, Managing Emotions

Jacqueline García Castillo involved participants in a workshop aimed to help isolated senior citizens identify and manage emotions.

In July, with COVID cases decreasing in Palomas, the Health Promoters planned a special workshop for 15 senior citizens in Palomas that they have identified as

Melissa Reyes (L) and Jaqueline García Castillo

isolated. This was the first group meeting that they were able to conduct in this year 2021. Throughout the past year of COVID restrictions, life was particularly difficult for these isolated seniors. To complicate their lives further, many of them have physical limitations, too. Throughout this period of time, the Promoters were able to continue to deliver a hot meal to each senior on each week day. But, they could not hold group meetings due to fears of spreading the COVID virus.

Jaqueline García Castillo came from Casas Grandes, Chihuahua to present a workshop for the group on managing their emotions. The goal was to help these isolated seniors identify and differentiate pleasant and unpleasant emotions and understand how to live with them. Jacqueline’s degrees equipped her very well for the presentation. A practicing psychologist, she has a Masters degree in Psychomotor Skills and Bachelors degree in Psychology.

Positive Response

The seniors responded enthusiastically to the content they learned as well as to Jaqueline’s kind and approachable demeanor. They asked for another session that would help them to manage their loneliness and to feel more self-sufficient. We’ve also invited Jacqueline to return this month for 20 minute individual sessions with these designated seniors.

The Health Promoters are looking for a few people to volunteer to participate in a new Adopt-a-Senior program. If you might be interested, contact Melissa Reyes, Border Partners General Manager, for more details. Email her to inquire.

COVID-19 Vaccine slowly protects Palomas residents; Promotoras give assistance

Lines of people awaiting their COVID-19 vaccinations are long. This one stretches so far that you can’t see the people at the front of the line.

The COVID vaccine is slowly making its way to people in Palomas. It is required for adults to receive the vaccine. Mexican government workers have been slowly vaccinating people by age groups starting with those over 60 in May. In June, there was a vaccination event for Palomas residents 40-50 years old.

One of the promotoras hands a younger adult a breakfast burrito. Nutrition softens the wait for the COVID-19 vaccination.

workers began vaccinating Palomas residents 40-50 years old. This group received their first vaccination on June 5. Typically the second vaccination round occurs 28 days later.

Health officials and Palomas residents receive assistance from Border Partners’ Promotoras for these public vaccination efforts. The line awaiting the vaccine is long for many Palomas residents. The desert is hot. Promotoras delivered water and burritos to people presenting for vaccinations. These edible, portable items were welcome. Due to the promotoras‘ good planning, the food and drink was easy for the vaccine candidates to consume as they waited in the summer heat for their turn.

We’re pleased to continue to partner with health officials to combat the pandemic. This effort matches our mission perfectly. And, it’s potentially a life-saving effort for a community that has very limited health care options.

Great news from GiveGrandly 2021

Hip! Hip! Hooray and BIG THANKS to the 84 people who gave to Border Partners during the Give Grandly fundraiser! This is a record number for us for this event and we are so grateful for each donation!

We give special thanks to:
** Scott Davies. He matched all the donations;
** the Grant County Community Foundation. They gave us another $500 match and did enormous work making the fundraiser run smoothly; and to
** The entire crew of Give Grandly Coalition volunteers from 58 different nonprofits for organizing the event – especially to Andrea Warner, the Chair.

Most of all, we want to thank our donors who gave a total of $26,000 this year – also a record! This comes at a time when there are critical needs in Palomas. There are still many cases of COVID and jobs are scarce so more families even than usual are struggling to make ends meet. They are grateful for your help.

Lastly, we want to welcome and offer special thanks to the folks who gave to Border Partners for the first time – 42 of you joined our group of supporters! Thank you for trusting Border Partners with your money. We’ll keep posting updates on activities that your generosity fuels!