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Now more than ever it’s important to work together to create opportunities for our community and help change the lives of our neighbors.
That idea is the driving force behind one of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) grantees, Border Partners, and it’s an idea that is closely tied to the foundation’s goals.
Border Partners is now in its sixth year as a HEAL grantee. The nonprofit works to deliver programs to residents of the small border colonia of Puerto Palomas, Mexico, which suffers from the many effects of poverty, including poor diet and inactivity, leading to poor overall health.
Located just across the border from Columbus, New Mexico, Border Partners delivers programs in the areas of health, education, sustainability and economic growth. These programs help improve nutrition, enhance community recreation resources, improve health education and provide water filtration to a colonia with a population of almost 5,000 people and no drinkable water.
This also includes the hiring of nine promotoras who work in Palomas to provide information and help with the various programs Border Partners has. “We are neighbors and we care about our neighbors,” said Border Partners manager Melissa Reyes. “Palomas and the people of Palomas are a beautiful community and we want to help make a difference.”
“Improving the health of the residents of Palomas has been one of Border Partners’ most important goals ever since it was founded in 2008,” Reyes said. “Because of the severe poverty, the lack of resources and the culture, many people are overweight, suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and poor nutrition. Improving the population’s health and nutrition is critically important, not only to Palomas but to the region, as well.”
Poverty and its effects on health are a complex issue that has ripple effects on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Because there is no hospital in Palomas, Reyes said, residents of Palomas are taken to the nearest hospital in Deming in the event of emergencies. Also, many Palomas children are born in the U.S. and attend school in New Mexico.
“The health of the residents of Palomas has a domino effect on our region and Border Partners has worked hard to make progress,” Reyes said. “The HEAL grant we’ve received through the Paso del Norte Foundation for the past six years has helped make some major health projects possible,” Reyes said.
“The HEAL grant has allowed us to create workshops discussing health problems, cooking classes, mental health and physical therapy,” Reyes said. “We also have a promotora office in Palomas where residents can come check their blood pressure, blood sugar levels and get other free health information, and we have helped with the creation and care of 40 community gardens that provide fresh vegetables to the community.”
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In addition, Border Partners established school greenhouses, provides classes on exercise and home gardening, offers nutritious lunches to three schools and seniors, and maintains fitness facilities and sports leagues.
Perhaps most importantly, especially during the pandemic, Reyes said, Border Partners has provided food deliveries to the elderly and others.
“Many of Palomas residents are agricultural workers and there are no jobs right now due to COVID-19,” Reyes said. “Mexico doesn’t have the same public assistance programs we have in the U.S., so we’ve been giving boxes of food to families and the elderly. Many elderly people in Palomas are on their own and they don’t take care of themselves. One of our main goals is to help teach people and give them the information they need to begin to help themselves. But right now, during this pandemic, it’s also important to lend that helping hand.”
Reyes said her organization feels a duty to help its neighbors with a hands-on approach. “We are thankful for the opportunity to serve and to change lives in the process,” she said.
Now more than ever, this is an attitude that the entire Paso del Norte region should embrace. There are so many ways to help improve the health and lives of others in our community, and we are grateful for Border Partners and others that are doing just that. And the domino effect that Reyes mentioned also can create positive outcomes for our entire region.
Jana Renner is a program officer with the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. She may be reached at 915-218-2616 and email@example.com.
• To learn more about Border Partners, visit https://BorderPartners.org
• To learn more about the Health Foundation’s HEAL initiative, its goals, programs and grantees, visit https://bit.ly/30QE3Kn
The New Year has been rung and now it’s time to show up for yourself, because the truth is in 2020 you don’t want to be part of the statistics!
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