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.

In Memory of Kara Naber who died June 6, 2021

by Helena Day Myers. Border Partners Co-founder

Border Partners–along with Kara’s family and many friends–mourn her passing. We will miss her steadfast love for the Mexican people and their culture. Kara was involved with Border Partners’ activities almost from the beginning in a number of important ways.

Kara had a nose for a bargain. She often contributed items she found while shopping. Palomas Oilcloth Designs also benefited from Kara’s knowledge as a seamstress. One of Kara’s first donations was her industrial sewing machine. I remember the time she brought it to my home in Columbus to instruct some of the women how to use it before it went to Palomas. Her encouragement–plus many more machines–has created a thriving business for several Palomas women who make oilcloth bags, aprons and table cloths which sell on Etsy.

Kara was Border Partners’ first paid employee in the U.S. She worked in 2017-2018 to assist with the growing number of tasks facing Polly and Peter Edmunds who served as volunteer managers at that time. Her writing skills and fluency in Spanish were a tremendous asset to this developing non profit organization.

Kara was also a journalist. As an activist, she wrote about environmental struggles in Southern New Mexico, especially Gila River and Florida Mountains. Her writing about Border Partners is still living on the Internet.

I met Kara when she was working as an archaeology guide for the Forest Service at Mesa Verde and Gila Cliff Dwellings. She and her husband Mark Andrews lived in Columbus, NM at that time. As long time sailors in Virginia they lived in a dwelling that reminded me of a sailing vessel. Always interested in other cultures, Kara dreamed of one day living in Oaxaca, Mexico. Several years ago, she and Mark moved there. Then, her stay was cut short by illness this spring.

Following are a few memories from friends in Columbus.

I can’t think of another person I knew who went more determined through life than Kara. She never stopped learning. I will truly miss her.”

“Kara was one of the most proactive people in our area, ranging from political and environmental activism to humanitarian aid. She was creative, tireless and generous. When I met Kara almost 20 years ago, she was wearing her archeologist’s hat and that is the memory I remember her by”.

This photo of Kara, posted on Facebook by a family member, represents that image we, her friends, remember.

Kara Naber, RIP
Died June 6, 2021

Kara’s obituary is available online, offering you the opportunity to leave a message. An online slideshow of photos from Kara’s lifetime can be found HERE. Do visit the Deming Headlight’s coverage of Kara’s life and career.

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!

Recent progress in Palomas

Border Partners’ activity continues in Palomas despite the pandemic. Our emphasis and priorities adapt to meet the critical needs that the pandemic causes.

COVID IN PALOMAS

Restrictions are still in place in Palomas, due to COVID-19. Major outbreaks of the disease occurred here in the last few months. The pandemic affected the community, and new regulations restricted daily activities as a result. Currently, businesses can be open at 50% capacity. However, our free Zumba classes for the community will only be held outside, at least through the month of June. This is because the social distancing requirement has increased  up to 8 feet. There are additional sanitation requirements in place now, as well.

EMERGENCY FOOD DISTRIBUTIONS

In May 2021 100 food baskets supported 295 people in need of basic nutrition.

Border Partners distributed 100 food baskets in May. This food benefited 295 people in the community. Now, our grant from the Paso del Norte Community Foundation that funded these distributions is entirely used. Going forward, we’ll need to rely on contributions from our donors to enable us to continue future food basket distributions.

GARDENS AND FOOD PRODUCTION

 

Hoop house at the Education Center is renovated with improved irrigation equipment. This will make it more productive. It will effectively feed more people in the same amount of space.

We’ve installed new hoses and water keys in gardens that are located at the Education Center. In addition. Juanita, our garden coordinator, is overseeing the rehabilitation and reconstruction of existing gardens.  Garden production is flourishing as the photos indicate for themselves. Excellent food production in this desert environment can only happen with enriched soil and the constant monitoring of moisture to the crops. Quality and intense behind-the-scenes work creates this bounty.

NUTRITION FOR ELDERLY

Melissa Reyes, our General Manager,  conducted a nutrition workshop for the Promotoras. They learned how to incorporate new foods to their menu options for the seniors’ meals on wheels. These food choices will be healthy and nutritious as well as easy to prepare.

DONATIONS SUPPORT OUR WORK

Diaz Farms again contributed a major donation to our operations that augment food and nutrition in Palomas. In March and April 2021, they donated about 2500 pounds of beans from their business. Our staff divided this bulk donation into individual four pound bags and distributed them to families in need. That contribution sustained us through three food basket distributions. Last week Diaz Farms donated:

  • two 100 pound sacks of rice,
  • cans of pure honey,
  • canned salsa,
  • spices and
  • tamal leaf sacks.

In addition, they’ve donated all the food they have in their store. This generous outpouring is because they’re discontinuing that retail operation. We’re scheduling a weekly trip to the US-based operation to load this supply until we’ve received it all. We’re so grateful for this generous donation, especially now that our funding for food baskets has become quite limited.

Other local private donors, including the Chayrez Family, contributed 30 chickens and 3 dozen eggs for the promotoras‘ meals for home-bound seniors program, a plentiful supply of hand soap and other food items. 

Interview with Melissa Reyes: What’s Border Partners doing these days?

Melissa Reyes, Border Partners’ General Manager

How has the pandemic affected Border Partners? Has it had any positive impact on the organization? How has the agency interacted differently since the arrival of COVID? 

A recent professional audio interview with Melissa  Reyes, Border Partners’ General Manager, gives updated info on how things are different in the Mexico border town of Palomas. It lets you know how you can make a difference to support people who don’t have much support at all, whether you live near or far away.

Whether you’re a Border Partners supporter or simply want to learn more about our work, take 14 minutes to listen and learn.

Interview: Melissa Reyes

CLICK HERE to hear the interview with Melissa Reyes.

Adapting to Change and Moving Forward

Sadly last month, we learned that Border Partners will no longer be able to use the old building that we renovated to serve as our Sports Center for the last five years. It had soccer, basketball and volleyball courts and a children’s playground.

Not one to be discouraged for too long, Peter Edmunds, began to think of ways to enhance the existing sports facilities in Palomas. Since 2015, when the Sports Center opened, various facilities have been added and/or improved. Peter went on a drive through town to visit some of these and think about how Border Partners could enhance them. Here are some of his ideas.

There is a new shade/shelter at Ford Elementary School. To use this sports/play area outside school hours we would have to build fences and gates to isolate the school buildings like we did at the Ramon Espinoza Elementary School. This is a desirable site to improve because it would be the only play/sports facility on the far west side of Palomas. The school in the past has expressed interest in having us build a stage and a soccer field on their property.

This is the high school’s brand new soccer court. It only lacks goals that may be stored elsewhere. It could use some spectator seating. Maybe we could use this when school players are not there?

This is the first swing set we built in Palomas in 2009 at the Pancho Villa Park. It looks tired now and should be replaced. It was the first play equipment in a park in Palomas. It gets used so much that the chains wear through and break. This swing set inspired the town government to build many other play structures at this park.

gym

The gymnasium at the Ramon Espinoza Elementary has been open after school hours for the past four years, with a BP staff person to supervise. There are several additions that would make this a better facility. A climbing wall would be fun! Some lower basketball hoops would please the younger crowd and a large fan or two would help everyone in the heat of the summer.

Three other town parks have some equipment but all could use additions like picnic tables, little kids play areas and upkeep. The Kinders could use better play equipment.

These are just ideas and will require input from town and school officials. Over the years, we have built good relationships in town. Our staff will have input too. Which investments would be most beneficial to the people we try to help? Our Board of Directors will weigh in too. And we will need to do some fundraising. But you just may be hearing more about one or more of these ideas in the future.