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Establishing Safe, Strong and Self-Sustaining Communities for new arrivals!

Community

The crisis unfolding on the US-Mexico border is not new.  It is the result of a decades-long neglect of an oppressed and impoverished community. This community is composed of “migrants” (whose circumstances have caused them to migrate north from southern Mexico and Central America) and of “deportees” (who have been returned south by deportation from the United States)  Millions of people fit one or the other of these profiles, and thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, fit both. The community of migrants and deportees is bound together not by common location, but rather by common experience (forced migration), by the interlocking relationships of millions of extended family trees, and by modern communications technologies like Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Migrants from the south today are commonly fleeing criminal violence, political corruption and persecution, unproductive fields due to climate change, and severely limited opportunities for advancement via work or education. At present there are over 10,000 migrants on the list maintained by Mexican authorities, waiting in Tijuana for an initial asylum hearing with US officials. These people – many entire families, many single women with children and many unaccompanied minor children – do not immediately have access to traditional work opportunities in Mexico.

 

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people deported from the United States have settled in Tijuana. Many of these deportees had never set foot before in the city, but have chosen to remain so that they would be within driving distance of their families in the southwest United States. This population includes many single men, but also single women, and women with children, almost all members of “mixed-status” binational extended families.

In 2020 Via International embarked on an experiment to serve the Tijuana-based expression of this large, transnational community through an initiative called VIA MIGRANTE.  Our goal was to take the lessons learned from our decades of experience in sustainable community development, and transport the lessons learned into the context of this new population.  We knew this community was different from those we had served before, because it was a floating, often unstable, population that could not be organized in any single colonia or barrio.  Even still, we knew that the proven principles of sustainable community development could be of service to this unique population. This has proven to be true.

There is opportunity in Tijuana.  The city is known for full employment, with job offerings abundant.  As these new arrivals join the peripheral neighborhoods of the city, they need a pathway to become participants in establishing community – safe places where they can work and their children can go to school and/or be connected to their families living on the US side.  They need support services to deal with the trauma they have experienced as well as case management to secure the paperwork that is needed to establish permanent residence and work eligibility in Mexico.  They need support to secure a livelihood and way forward. Via has worked in Baja California communities for over 40 years, developing with the residents a model of community development that supports people to be their own best resource, engaged with others to make a good life.

The Via Migrante initiative can assist the members of this new community of migrants and deportees in meeting these Sustainable Development Goals:

Those incoming migrants and deportees will be supported to seek employment and/or establish their own small enterprise. Many will have participated in the Family Health and Food Security component and will have developed the trust among their new community group to take the next step toward financial security.  The Microcredit initiative provides access to credit to enable people to start small businesses.

The Family Health and Food Security course trains outreach workers to organize their own community group (shelters, community sites, schools) disseminating information about nutrition, health and organic gardening to address critical health concerns (obesity, diabetes).

Not only are the themes of nutrition and health addressed but the group setting supports diverse people from many parts of Mexico (and now Central America) to come to know one another. 

The objective of the program’s psychological counseling is to stabilize the person spiritually and emotionally.   The important thing is for migrants to come to grips with the fact that they are no longer living in their city of origin, nor in the United States. They need to learn to see that viable opportunities exist for them where they are. 

Depending upon the individual case, referral or group counseling for trauma will be provided.  

Community Leadership Education is a critical aspect of the work Via does along the U.S./Mexico border.
The promotoras of this initiative are community members, generally women, who are recent arrivals in low-income areas, had extremely limited access to education and have dedicated much of their lives to their families. Their work in the Family Health and Food Security programs affords them the respected title of teacher in their communities, and enables them to fulfill a much-needed role outside of the home.

Via recognizes the commitment to provide growth opportunities by working with low-income communities and focusing on meeting their basic needs.
Participants can create self-sufficiency systems focused on their needs, and their family and community well-being is enhanced by having access to both credit and training to support the establishment of income-generating activities.

Microcredit initiative provides access to credit to enable people to start small businesses that can include community kitchens and small community stores, resale of items and/or self-production of home-produced food items.  Via International has conducted micro credit in Tijuana/Mexicali for 14 years, achieving 100% repayment of loans and interest for nine years.

 

Via Migrante offers to those who would choose it the opportunity to become established and productive residents of the city of Tijuana. We will provide support services to deal with the trauma they have experienced as well as case management to secure the paperwork that is needed to establish permanent residence and work eligibility in Mexico.  They need support to secure a livelihood and way forward. Via has worked in these communities for 40+ years, developing with the residents a model of community development that supports people to be their own best resource, engaged with others to make a good life.

THE PATH

Via International  supports long term community development initiatives to establish safe, strong and self-sustaining communities.   Through a process of self-determination, participants self-select to be involved in different levels of programming and may access those individual components that are most meaningful to their individual process.  Every effort is made to promote self-reliance while providing opportunities for full community participation.  

 

PHASE I: HEALTH AND FOOD SECURITY 

During stays in the shelters and/or once housing is secured, participants determined to stay in Tijuana will be afforded the opportunity to participate in a program that Via has hosted in Tijuana for decades: Family Health & Food Security.  This integrated community development program builds on basic human needs: the need for adequate nutrition and the need to build community.  This inclusive process engages community members in activities that have social, economic and environmental impact in their lives, and includes methods of participatory evaluation that demonstrate these impacts to the participants themselves.

 

PHASE II: MICROCREDIT

Graduates of the Family Health & Food Security program are invited to form a “solidarity group,” in which participants agree to take collective responsibility for a micro-loan supporting entrepreneurial initiatives designed by each individual.  Payments are made weekly. Each participant also contributes every week to a savings pool, the amount is determined by the group and at the end of a cycle the savings can be gifted to a member by lots or held for an annual savings pool determination by the group.  Learn more about Via’s  Microcredit program.

 

The Result – Establishing Safe and Self-Sustaining Community

Progress

Given the current circumstances, our programs couldn’t be carried out in person in some communities, so we decided to start by implementing Virtual Workshops, with a participatory methodology that allows integrating knowledge and developing skills and competencies in a simple and practical way, where the community can improve their knowledge of health and nutrition through collaborative learning.

The program that we have developed for many years, FAMILY HEALTH AND FOOD SAFETY is promoted in communities, community centers, among neighbors, in schools, and is taught by our PROMOTORAS who are leaders in their community.
Participants are offered basic knowledge of nutrition, preparation of nutritious and inexpensive dishes and it also promotes the acquisition of ecological habits aimed at the conservation and care of the environment, as well as community participation and interaction.

What we started in this 2021 is to, in a very safe and secure way, the FAMILY HEALTH AND FOOD SECURITY workshops inside  the Community Center for Deportee Mothers and Families Madres y Familias Deportadas en Acción  and at Casa de Luz, a collective space formed for the migrant LGBTQ+ community, we are shifting the program to a virtual platform, implementing NUTRITION WORKSHOPS. The idea is that it will be a simple, comfortable and friendly platform, that it is not necessary to have a high level of technical knowledge, but with a great deal of information and instructions that are easy to follow and manage and that it continue to be taught by our promotoras.

We hope after this pandemic to be able to get back on track with our original in person programs once the communities have weathered this crisis, but until then, we remain committed to supporting basic needs.

Despensas

The aim of guaranteeing the right to food!

As a consequence of the current health contingency, there is an immediate need for basic support in order for people to survive. For this reason, we are helping the most vulnerable communities to improve their socioeconomic situation, since in a large majority or migrants are “stuck in Tijuana”,

The distribution of Despensas began in to those communities who were most affected by the coronavirus.
With this food distribution, the healthy diet of these communities is supported so that their limited resources can be used for other basic needs in this difficult time of world contingency.

In order to support those who need it most and contribute to the proper nutrition of vulnerable families we are delivering weekly DESPENSAS.

As of March, 2021, more than 500 despensas have been distribute tin migrant shelters and deported community centers under the guidelines established by the health authorities to
prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Nutriecology Classes

 

NUTRIECOLOGY Classes both virtually and in-person are been giving to Migrant Communities and Deported Mothers. Providing valuable information that the participants will pass along to their families

Participants are offered basic knowledge of nutrition, preparation of nutritious and inexpensive dishes and it also promotes the acquisition of ecological habits aimed at the conservation and care of the environment, as well as community participation and interaction.

 

 

 

 

The methodology consist of:

    • Virtual classes with the community where participants join from their homes or shelters, as the case may be.
    • Flexible hours, according to the needs of the group.
    • Live videoconferences where participants can interact with the promotoras.
    • Delayed videoconferences for those who cannot attend live.
    • Theoretical content on nutrition and health
    • Workshops that are complemented with practice in the preparation of one dish per session.
    • Contact with the promoter who exercises the role of a guide and facilitator of learning, solving doubts and offering feedback.
    • Periodic contact and / or at the end of each session through the phone or Social Media to discuss the contents of the session and to resolve possible doubts.
    • Video tutorials 

 

The idea is that it will be a simple, comfortable and friendly platform, that it is not necessary to have a high level of technical knowledge,

 but with a great deal of information and instructions that are easy to follow and manage and that it continue to be taught by our promotoras.

Workshops

 

ONLINE WORKSHOPS provide invaluable guidance and support. They help newly arrived immigrants and refugees have a better understanding of their rights and the legal system in Mexico.

 

 

Via is working with the University Ibero Tijuana to create workshops that explains laws that may be particularly pertinent to them. They also contribute to the empowerment process of international migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and their families, so that they can meet their needs and ensure respect for their rights.

Workshops are strictly informational sessions at the moment.  

Our vision is ambitious  and urgent. Please join us!

Goals

As the humanitarian crisis has worsened, Via International is receiving ever more inquiries about how to help in the US/Mexico border.

Here’s an example on how your contribution will make an impact!

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Your gift will create a lasting impart the those communities in need

Testimonials

  • A great promoter who explains very well the cooking procedures and especially the nutrition that helps us in our health and in our budget for our families. A new recipe that I learned was very healthy and delicious. - Griselda Reyes
  • What I liked about the class is the preparation and knowing what seasonings the soy needs to taste good. The sauce was spot on! and the explanation of macro and micro nutrients was very informative. - Isabel Hernandez
  • It was a class where we went over information about macronutrients and where to found them. We also saw the Healthy Eating Plate information. It has been a great class and made us aware of how to eat healthy - Karen Juarez
  • Today we saw and learned about vitamins and proteins, macro and micronutrients and where to found them, there was also an activity to reinforce the subject. - Rebeca Padilla
  • Today I learned how to make delicious chickpea quesadillas. Thank you Teacher for your knowlendge! -Rebeca Venegas

Partners

Via International is collaborating with different organizations to establish safe community for new arrival migrants and deportees as we continue to serve marginal communities of Tijuana.

COLLABORATION 

The basic support services for arrivals are provided by the network of shelters, strung along the border fence in central Tijuana.  These shelters provide the basic humanitarian services of lodging and food, but nothing more. In collaboration, Via International will provide a way forward for people, families, youth who determine to stay in Tijuana and, as so many migrating here before them, become a part of the border community.

THE PATH

By combining forces Via International believes  can be combined with long term community development initiatives to establish safe, strong and self-sustaining community for the new arrivals.  Through a process of self-determination, participants self-select to be involved in different levels of the program and may access the individual components of the program that are most meaningful to their individual process. 

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