Business plan seminar attracts adult learners in Puerto Palomas

business plan seminar

Border Partners volunteer Juan Velasco [standing] engages adult learners in the process of writing a business plan during the first class of his seminar in Puerto Palomas.

by Suzanne Dulle

Residents from Puerto Palomas took another step toward fostering economic development and sustainability in their own community on Saturday, February 7 by attending the first of five sessions of a seminar entitled, “Developing a Business Plan.”

Eleven enthusiastic adult learners gathered in the new Education Center to listen to Border Partners volunteer Juan Velasco launch his much anticipated class. All the participants are currently running their own small businesses or are aspiring to begin their own “empresas” in Palomas.

Business plan seminar scope

The class will also include presentations from local professionals to ensure that participants not only learn good business practices from the US point of view, but are also updated on Mexican laws that regulate businesses in their own country.

Velasco, a native of Bolivia, has over 25 years experience in managing his own business, and spent 10 years assisting small businesses and teaching business development seminars in Santa Fe, NM.

Border celebration of International Women’s Day featured Palomas Oilcloth Designs

arte sin fronterasThe artisans of Palomas Oilcloth Designs participated in a celebration of International Women’s Day in Las Cruces, New Mexico earlier this month. The event entitled “Arte Sin Fronteras” featured artists who work in community-based projects that alleviate poverty and violence and help people improve their lives and communities. Seven women participate in the sewing cooperative which was initiated through the instrumentation of Border Partners.

Art is a powerful means of free expression and collective healing as well as a tool for basic economic support. Palomas Oilcloth Designs was founded when Puerto Palomas was suffering from the violent effects of Mexico’s drug war, at a time when northern Chihuahua was under siege.

“We are proud that our beautiful tote bags, aprons and tablecloths are sold in many stores in the United States and at our online store at,” the women said in a statement that accompanied the March 8 sale.

The cooperative’s oilcloth products were sold to the public in Las Cruces at the event. All proceeds directly supported the women who communicate with customers, prepare orders for shipping and manage their production and business finances.

The Arte Sin Fronteras exhibit was sponsored by a coalition of Las Cruces-based organizations that support peace and healing in Mexico.


Palomas garden program now generates funds through local sales

fresh produce

Gardening coordinator Juana Flores shows the packaged produce which is ready for sale.

Border Partners’ gardening program now sells locally grown produce, marking another step forward for the citizens of Puerto Palomas. Our local producers and gardening promoters now offer fresh produce weekly at Palomas stores and restaurants.

The program began last month and sold offerings including a variety of lettuces, spinach, chard, cilantro and parsley. The Pink Store, the large downtown tourist restaurant and vendor of Mexican artisania, placed the first major order for the garden produce, using the very fresh products for a large party they hosted. Since then, Memo’s Grocery and interested individuals have been returning customers.

Vending local produce allows the gardening program to raise funding that will supply seeds, equipment and support to local gardening families. This will support sustainable programming and help the gardening program expand to involve new families that want to participate.

Local leaders of the gardening program–Juana Flores, Juana Lozoya and Helena Myers–prepare harvest, prepare and package the produce for sale.

Because locally produced, organic produce provides improved nutrition and reduces risk of health challenges associated with chemicals sometimes used in commercial production of produce, these sales offer a healthy alternative food source to the border community.

According to Helena Myers, the gardens are currently being re-planted to grow spring crops. As soon as the new crop is ready to harvest, sales will resume.

“Possibilities are expanding,” she remarked.

Public meeting considers Mexican non-profit status for Border Partners

By Suzanne Dulle

Border Partners’ stated purpose of creating new possibilities and self-confidence among community members in the small border town of Puerto Palomas appeared in an exciting new way at a meeting at the public library on January 17. Twenty-one individuals accepted the community-wide invitation circulated by Border Partners to come together:

  • to discuss current projects,
  • to assess their effectiveness and possible need for changes and
  • to discuss future activities.

Juan Velasco, an active Border Partners supporter and volunteer, facilitated the meeting, along with Border Partners founder Peter Edmunds. As a native Spanish speaker from Bolivia, “el Boliviano,” as Juan is called, stimulated honest and enthusiastic discussion among the Mexican attendees.

Community Meeting 1-17-14

Twenty-one Palomas residents responded to Border Partners’ open invitation to review and to discuss activities in Puerto Palomas.

The group was unanimous in expressing their gratitude to Border Partners’ US- based founders, Peter and Polly Edmunds, as well as the many volunteers who have dedicated years of work and service to their community.

As the meeting turned toward the “what next” agenda items, the excitement in the room became palpable. A new level of possibilities began to grow. How could current programs become more sustainable on the Mexican side of the border and what additional help could they themselves provide to allow for their own hopes and dreams for a better future to become a reality?

The idea of creating an asociación civil, a Mexican not-for-profit organization, was met with
enthusiastic support. Such an organization would qualify for funds and grants from the Mexican government and industries. This revenue could supplement the funding and support already provided by the US-side of Border Partners.


The ensuing “we can do this” discussions considered a new Health Center, a Senior Citizens Center, perhaps even a bank! The community garden program could perhaps expand. With a nod of approval from Peter, Juan responded to the group’s request for more training with the commitment that he and Peter would provide small business development courses in the near future.

The ideas seemed to tumble one upon the other as the meeting came to an energetic close. The group set a meeting date for March 17 to formalize their preliminary discussions.

To see the sense of empowerment that permeated the attendees was most rewarding. Truly, this was a red-letter day for Border Partners!

Suzanne Dulle, resident of New Mexico, is a member of the Board of Directors for Border Partners and is also a regular volunteer for the organization.

Top 4 Needs in Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico

A Special Report by Polly Edmunds, Border Partners co-founder

Itʼs always difficult to know where to start when I am asked what the top needs are in Palomas. I wish I could take you on a tour of this Mexican border town, and you would see for yourself as we drive along the dusty, rutted streets: the empty factories, run-down housing, poorly equipped schools and parks.

But I think you would also be impressed with the calibre of people you would meet. Despite difficult living conditions and generally low levels of education, so many people in Pto. Palomas are energetic and hopeful for their communityʼs future.

Need #1 More income

After working closely with people living in the community for four years, I can say with confidence that their most important need is for more income. By some estimates, unemployment in Pto. Palomas is at 80%, but most people do find some way to make a little money. They have garage sales, wash cars for tourists or sell cookies to a local grocery. Right now there is work in the fields
paying about $10 for a nine hour day. Border Partners is always looking for opportunities for people to earn money. This is our greatest challenge.

Palomas Oilcloth Designs: Creater and customer meet

Palomas Oilcloth Designs: Creator and customer meet

Accomplishments and Hopes

  • We’ve helped seven women start their own cooperative business, making products out of Mexican oilcloth. They now run this business themselves, needing assistance only for sales in the USA.
  • Border Partners employs three Mexican citizens who work in their community promoting our programs year round. We hire several more for special projects.

Need #2 Programs to improve health

On our tour, the second need would not be as visible. Because of chronic low income and lack of good, affordable fruits and vegetables in the stores, there are many health problems associated with poor nutrition: high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory illness. Many people are overweight. The parks do not have good play equipment nor are there programs for children to get good outdoor

In addition, there is only one public clinic in this community of about 5,000 and no private doctors. The closest hospital is in Deming, NM, and most people cannot cross the U.S. border to access it. The closest hospital in Mexico is 1.5 hours away.

home garden

Introducing cold frame gardens to Palomas provides improved nutrition, even during the winter months.

Accomplishments and Hopes

  • Border Partners has helped 35 families start year-round home gardens so they can grow their own, organic vegetables for their families. Our promoters offer free materials, seeds and technical assistance. We would like to expand this program and eventually start a farmers market.
  • Border Partners sponsors three free aerobics classes every week.  We hope to soon build adult exercise stations in one of the municipal parks.
  • Border Partners has made improvements at two city parks, adding playground equipment, volleyball courts, basketball hoops.  We hope to build a dirt bike track and climbing wall which would provide more recreation for teens. There is very little for them to do in town.
  • Border Partners provides about $150 worth of canned fruits and vegetables,cheese and eggs to each of three elementary schools each month. This supplements the dried foods they get from the government and improves the quality of nutrition the children receive at school.
  • In June, 2012, we sponsored a training for community health educators. There is a great need for health education for all ages. The teen pregnancy rate is high. Child abuse rate is higher in Pto. Palomas than in other parts of Mexico.

Need #3 Education

Many people in the community have not completed more than the 6th grade. Many families can’t afford the costs of education.

Accomplishments and Hopes

  • Border Partners has upgraded the computers at the public library so that now they have 12 computers connected to the internet. Some of the main users are high school students because the Prepatoria (high school) in Pto. Palomas does not have internet. We hope to build an community education classroom with state of the art equipment so it can offer distance learning college classes as well as basic literacy, math, computer skills. 
  • In August 2012, Border Partners will set up a computer lab for each of the three elementary schools. They will be able to use learning software provided by the Mexican government. We would like to add more computers to each lab. For now, we only have six for each school.

Need #4 Better Housing

Palomas dwelling

Many family homes in Palomas are substandard.

Many of the homes are in poor condition, unfinished and/or very small. Most are constructed of cement blocks which provide poor insulation. Thus, homes are hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Accomplishments and Hopes

  • Border Partners collects used and donated building materials and helps people fix their homes.
  • We are supporting a group of women who want to repair their homes by teaching them to make papercrete blocks (made of cement and recycled paper which makes them highly insulating and lighter than pure cement blocks). The women can use these blocks to repair and expand their homes as well as to sell so that they have money to buy other construction materials they need to upgrade their family’s homes.

The needs are clear to us. The people of Palomas are ready to work toward a better future. We invite you to join with us as we build a better U.S.-Mexico border community together.

“People say, ‘What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time. We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment.”  – Dorothy Day

Some news from Palomas Oilcloth Designs

The women who formed the sewing cooperative, Palomas Oilcloth Designs, are surging forward, changing and adapting. We’d like to share some of their recent news.  Most importantly, just three years after they began learning to sew oilcloth aprons under the wing of Border Partners, they now manage all their own design, production, purchasing, and accounting.  They do not even have a loan from Border Partners anymore!  Sales are good and the only assistance they receive from volunteers in the  US is with marketing and their online store.

Palomas Oilcloth Designs group

New postcard for Palomas Oilcloth Designs reflects a membership change in the group.

Membership change
A founding member of the cooperative, Juana Lozoya, accepted a position with Border Partners as the garden promoter in Palomas. In order to fulfill her new responsibilities, Juana withdrew from the cooperative. Bere Chavez, who is the daughter of Martha Chavez, a member of the group, moved into the cooperative not only as the newest member but also the first member of the business who was not present from the start. She has assumed her new duties perfectly, learning the skills and functioning very well with a group that’s been working well together from the start. Welcome, Bere!

New postcard
A new member…and increased sales…have required a renewal and replenishing of the Palomas Oilcloth Designs postcards. The postcards and tags add value to the oilcloth products, making a nice touch when they’re given as a gift. Graphic designer Patti Kremer volunteers her time and skills to assist the coop. By the way, new member Bere (who you learned about above) is on the left in the front row of the latest postcard edition. You may recognize her from our website header because she is pictured there with her baby daughter.

Cinco de Mayo invitation
Businessman Jeff Hawley invited Palomas Oilcloth Designs to participate in a special Cinco de Mayo event at his store, The Raven’s Nest Boutique, in Silver City, NM.  A representative was available to take special orders for oilcloth tablecloths, totes, floor mats, placemats, handbags and to share about the business. The Raven’s Nest served refreshments.

Hawley told the press:
“As a retailer I am proud to carry their goods and to know that I am helping people support their families, like all of the gallery/shop owners here — not a big conglomerate, but those making a living doing what they love. That is what small business is about!”

Organization assistance!
POD aprons scored a mention on a professional organizer’s blog. Jeri’s Organizing and Decluttering News featured the pocketed aprons on her April post because “an apron can be a helpful organizing aid, making sure you have essential tools close at hand.” Jeri, who has seven years of experience as a professional organizer, told us:

“I love being able to use my blog to help organizations such as yours – and serve my readers at the same time.”

New Etsy offerings
The women’s online store now features two new items in response to customer requests. The colorful and durable oilcloth tablecloths have arrived just in time for summer picnics and barbecues. They’re great for the patio, the deck and the park. And, just in time for Father’s Day, the women have made some really fun aprons for MEN (or adventurous women!) in animal print designs. Do check them out on Etsy!

Facebook page discount

Show your support for the women workers of Palomas Oilcloth Designs by “Liking” their Facebook page. In appreciation, they’ll give you a 15% discount on items you order through their Esty application on that page. It’s a great deal on wonderful products you can feel good about purchasing.

Fostering business in Palomas: Welcome, El Boton Loco!

Smiles greet you at El Boton Loco

Marea's beaming smile greets shoppers at El Boton Loco, newest business in Palomas, Mexico.

When local artisans decided to launch a downtown business to sell their crafts in Palomas, we at Border Partners were happy to provide them some support. Peter Edmunds found building materials to create a “back room” for the women to use for an office and workspace and some donated pink paint to freshen the appearance of the storefront. The store is neat, clean and filled with cheerful sunshine.

storefront for El Boton Loco

Pink paint trim came courtesy of Border Partners, who found some mis-matched paint to freshen the exterior.

The store, called El Boton Loco [Crazy Button] is up-and-running now, selling not only handmade crafts but also crafting supplies for other do-it-yourselfers. It’s located on the east side of the main street of Palomas on the south end of town.

Border Partners is also actively recruiting the donation of a used golf cart to transport U.S. tourist/customers up and down the main street of Palomas. That will increase the flow of  purchasers to this and other businesses. Do contact us if you have any leads on a potential golf cart donation.

Fostering economic development, one of Border Partners’ key missions, is also one of its most challenging goals. We congratulate these women-workers who are leading the way, equipped with their ambition and hard work…and supported by Border Partners.