The people of Palomas, Mexico will transform their town

Political sign reads: We will transform Palomas.

Political campaign sign reads: "We will transform Palomas."

By Polly Edmunds, Cofounder of Border Partners

Last week I finally took a photo of a political campaign billboard on the street in Palomas that caught my eye last year. It reads: Transformaremos Palomas (We will transform Palomas). I believe that Palomas citizens will transform their town and that the contributions of many caring and committed activists will make those changes happen.

That very day I met several such people.

We spoke for the first time that afternoon with the new Acting Director of Escuela Ignacio Zaragoza: Prof. Mefiboset Trejo Tirado. Border Partners is providing a food supplement to augment the meager food supplies  they receive from the government to feed their school children.  He was grateful that, because of our food donations, many of the children would eat at least one good meal during the day.

The children in this school suffer many challenges. A significant number of their mothers have worked as prostitutes. Many of the children may have been affected by alcohol use during pregnancy, so they have additional behavior and learning problems. Prof. Tirado told me that Palomas has more incidents of child abuse than do other parts of Mexico. (To address this social issue, this week the school will sponsor a program about child abuse for the children, with special speakers and videos. This example of compassionate concern for the children’s well-being will affect coming generations.

Librarian meets with Border Partners

Polly Edmunds (left) learns of upcoming opportunities at the Palomas public library from librarian Benita Saenz.

At the town library, we met with another energetic person working for change in Palomas.  Benita Saenz, the librarian and Border Partners board member, told us that she’ll co-lead classes with a Palomas psychologist for parents at the Secundaria (Middle School) on parenting topics such as instilling values in children, sex education and bullying.  I have not heard of another parenting class offered in Palomas.

The library is also offering, for the first time, a free literacy class: two weeks for three hours each afternoon. If it meets a need, they will extend the classes, providing an opportunity for adults to learn to read and write—opening new doors to them and augmenting their own dignity. Educational empowerment will transform Palomas.

Earlier in the week, Benita submitted a grant proposal to the Mexican Environmental Agency seeking funds for a group of women she has formed to start a business building papercrete blocks (with the help of Border Partners).  These funds will help them start a business where they can make money in order to fix their houses that are badly in need of repair.  Of course, they can also use the blocks they make for some of their repairs! If successful, this grant will effect much positive change.

cold frame garden in Palomas

Gardening promoter Juana Lazoya reveals fresh greens growing in one of many new cold frame garden plots in Palomas.

And Juana Lazoya, Border Partners’ Palomas gardening promoter is “greening” the town. We toured not only her own extensive vegetable garden, orchard and greenhouse but also several other vegetable gardens at family homes in Palomas that are now producing bountifully with her support. Juana is making change happen right this minute as she empowers families to grow healthy food by reviving and implementing forgotten agricultural practices.

We the people can make a difference. Our collective power is transformative.

Never doubt it:  the people of Palomas will transform their town.

It is already happening.

 

“Mission Accomplished” as Palomas boasts a library playground climber

New playground climber at Palomas library delights children and keeps them healthy.

“Assembly Required”

A new playground climber resides next to the public library in Palomas, Mexico. It crowns the efforts of a long and sometimes complex process–a process that involved literally dozens of volunteers to accomplish.

Last year Border Partners founders Peter and Polly Edmunds stumbled upon a U.S. playground climber that was destined for the landfill. Due to building construction, the climber was scheduled to be demolished. They had to ask: Could they have it for Palomas?

The answer was “yes”–if they could deconstruct and remove it before the bulldozers arrived. Volunteers from Deming, who responded on the spur of the moment, were critical in figuring out  how to get it apart.  Lacking a caterpillar to get the high piece off, someone invented a rope system to get it down.

Storing and transporting all the pieces across the border was another step in the process. Finding a place to store them in Palomas–they got that done, too.

But the final piece–reconstructing the structure–well, that was the real challenge. It involved a devoted crew and even a caterpillar to assemble the behemoth! It was like a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle, composed of rather weighty pieces.

The fruit of all this now stands proudly aside the Palomas library, where each day literally dozens of school children come to read, to use computers, to socialize in a safe environment…and now they can also recreate.

Making life better for Palomas tweens and teens

by Peter Edmunds, Border Partners cofounder and board member

some Palomas secondaria students

Palomas students will have a secure place to eat now.

I’m forming the impression that the Mexican government’s vision of running a school system is at best rather strange. They build the buildings and pay the teachers (poorly, at that). But then they contribute little else.  And certainly they don’t provide much money for supplies (like paper) or any other learning necessities. Nevertheless, a visit to the secundaria (middle school), Technica 25, in Palomas always inspires and informs me.

Better yet, Border Partners was able to provide them some little helps recently:

  • For $30 each we added RAM to about half of the school’s computers, and
  • for $4.60 each we’re ordering bulbs for their overhead projectors. Again: The government provided the machines, but the school has no budget for projector repairs. And the bulbs aren’t even sold in Mexico. Now that the projectors will function again, the Silver City schools are giving us eight more overhead projectors to pass along to the secondaria.

I saved the best help for last …… the new school lunch room!

This formerly one-walled structure was once a garage for the school’s collection of dead buses. But the 40′ by 60’ building has three new walls now as well as a repaired and insulated roof. New windows will be installed soon.

The secret component in all this accomplishment is the teachers. They’re doing the construction work– building the walls, repairing the roof, installing the roof–in addition to their regular teaching duties.

The community raised the money for the construction themselves: by hosting bake sales and contests, as well as collecting, baling, hauling and selling about 15 tons of cardboard.

They’d like to add a plywood ceiling in the building. That would cost $1,000.00. And they’d also like to paint the walls. I hope they do a nice mural using some of the miss-mixed paint local paint stores often donate to us.

Peter Edmunds

Peter Edmunds

In this season of celebration and decoration, we give thanks for these four walls and roof in Palomas.

And we are grateful for our supporters whose contributions allow us to help the secondaria teachers build a lunchroom for their students.

 

Workshop aims to improve health–Bi-nationally!

Bonnie Young educates youth

Bonnie Young educates youth at the Palomas prepatoria on the risks of substance abuse during pregnancy.

Border Partners participated in a successful workshop this week that focused on issues of health. Held in Palomas, Mexico, the workshop attracted twenty-five border residents.

Two particularly fine presentations addressed important health concerns that affect our communities. Bonnie Young, a Doctoral Candidate at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque who has an MA in Public Health, spoke about “The Risks of Substance Abuse during Pregnancy.” (see photo, top of post) “Prevention and Treatment of Diabetes,” a presentation by Doctor Elisa Aguilar from the US-Mexico Border Health Commission, tackled another serious border health risk.

Participants showed great interest in the new home garden project. A lottery determined nine families who, working with BP, will build themselves a 4’x4″ raised bed garden.  They won materials for the bed frame, soil,  and selected seeds of plant species that grow well in the winter. In addition, they will receive help planting the garden and help paying their water bill, if it increases due to garden usage of water.  In exchange for the monetary compensation, these nine families simply need to document  their current, pre-garden water bill, attend a class on wise water use and undergo a home assessment of their water use.

Border Partners was also able to give away packets of seeds that are ready-to-plant and bags of dried beans for family food preparation. There was lots of free information available in Spanish on the workshop topics for participants to take home!

Participants enjoyed a healthy lunch cooker in solar cookers: stew of lentils, soy and vegetables with spaghetti squash, beans and tortillas…and watermelon.

Marisol, our Palomas promoter, led an exercise break that included good stretches and easy aerobic moves.  This gave her the opportunity to invite residents to the free exercise classes she offers.

After the workshop for adults, Bonnie Young gave her talk on the risks of substance abuse during pregnancy to the students at the Palomas Prepatoria.

The workshop, one of several held during the Border Binational Health Council, was funded by a grant from the Palomas, Luna County Binational Border Health Council. With your assistance and support, Border Partners is making a difference, helping people receive the tools they need to improve their lives.