The surging populations of Tijuana are made up of rural farmers, indigenous people and families from Mexico City. The runaway growth means there are often no services in the shanty communities that emerge around the cities. In Tijuana as many as 75,000 people arrive to live in any given month. Why do they come? Families migrate each year to the border in search of employment, with jobs readily available and wages higher in the border region than in any other part of Mexico. The minimum wage in central Mexico is $6.50 USD/day and in rural areas $4.25/day. The cities of Tijuana and Mexicali, due to the many assembly line factories, offer wages of $9.79 USD/day with some mid-level factory jobs starting at $12/day.
Food insecurity is a critical issue in the border region. Although families earn more than in other parts of Mexico, families must spend 60-70% of their income on food. Pricing in the region is similar to the United States, so a gallon of milk is more than$4.00 and a factory worker may earn $10/day. Health expenses are often not considered until it is urgent and then a mother will pay to help her sick child instead of buying food.
With both parents now working in factories, many children end up eating street food instead of nutritious meals. Upward of 50% of children, come to school with no breakfast. In many instances lack of food is not the issue, but food selection. Many of the adults coming from rural Mexico have come from jobs requiring physical labor. They are farmers or construction workers. Arriving in the border region they secure factory assembly jobs and are much more sedentary. Their food habits, however, do not change. A contributing factor is the juxtaposition with the US border. Where a former diet may have consisted mostly of corn tortillas, rice and beans; the border region is filled with fast food restaurants and quick foods. These dietary changes are creating long term health issues. Tijuana has the highest incidence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity in all of Mexico.
The migratory nature of the communities creates other issues. In many neighborhoods the families are from different states of Mexico. They do not share the same customs and live isolated in their small, shack houses built from recycled materials such as old garage doors and used factory palettes. They do not have the support structure of extended family that they experienced in their home village. Young people have nothing to do, and drug abuse and robbery are rampant. On the one hand, the situation motivates people to connect around community needs such as water, electricity and schools. Parent-teacher committees work to develop school facilities, usually providing materials and labor for construction, as the government often only provides a piece of land and a teacher. Regardless of these needs that promote community involvement, with both parents working and all the responsibility of raising a family with little resources, opportunities to create relationships and participate in community issues are scarce.
Via International is proud to partner with Los Niños de Baja California, a Mexican based NGO that has been working in the border region of Tijuana since 1975. Los Niños’ programs address the basic needs of communities by building the capacities of the residents to become agents of positive change. The community members in turn create opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Los Ninos community outreach workers create the opportunity for these isolated community members to know one another and become associated around a key concern: the nutrition and health of their families. The Los Niños classes demonstrate traditional Mexican dishes while providing a simple low cost approach to nutrition. Simple gardening techniques are a core part of the classes, teaching families to produce some of what they consume as well as learn about caring for the environment. The Los Niños promotoras are community change agents, as they assess needs while they are teaching. After the classes the groups often remain organized. They may participate in the micro-credit opportunities or take additional classes. As one participant stated, “I would see the women in my group in the community, but I didn’t know them. Now I have friends, I know their children, we look out for each other.”
Los Niños promotes strategies that contribute to community food security. Community food security is defined as “all people in a community obtaining a culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through non-emergency food sources at all times”.
Our model integrates nutrition, health, and organic agriculture into a community approach that offers program participants self-reliant methods to address their food needs. Los Niños promotoras are trained to work in their own communities disseminating information about these important issues.
Promotoras de los Niños are trained to work disseminating information on these important issues among their own communities.
Los Niños de Baja California recognizes the commitment to provide opportunities for growth by working with low-income communities and focusing on meeting their basic needs.
The Micro-Credit program has proven to be effective in generating an increase in household income. Participants can create self-sufficiency systems focused on their needs, and family and community well-being is enhanced by having access to both credit and training to support the establishment of income-generating activities. This provides families with an increase in the resources available for both the health and education of their children.
Los Niños de Baja California understands that access to educational opportunities changes awareness, which in turn produces changes in attitudes and habits. These changes have a significant impact on the quality of life in the community.
The community leadership education program provides training in areas vital to community development, such as: leadership, nutrition, organic agriculture, health, business development, and community organizing.
Our community leadership education program is aimed at low-income members and outreach agents called promotoras. Los Niños de Baja California offers an accredited certificate to its promoters through collaboration with Universities in Tijuana.
Families benefited from Nutri-Ecology workshops and Environmental Health Fairs
Graduates of the Community Promoters Diploma to date.
Entrepreneurs benefited from Micro-Credit.
Participants in Volunteer Travel projects.
We believe that this programs provide opportunities to nurture human potential through self-reliant activities that promote community development and meet these Sustainable Development Goals:
Los Niños de Baja California, A. C. It is a non-profit institution, registered as a Civil Association in Mexico in 1988; Since then, it has worked to improve the quality of life of children and their families by creating the necessary opportunities for them to realize their human potential through participation in the development of their communities, in the border cities of Tijuana, Tecate and Mexicali in the State of Baja. California, Mexico. Its objective is to promote self-reliance and community participation through educational and development projects.
To promote opportunities for human improvement, through participatory processes in the development of the community, improving the quality of life.
Los Niños de Baja California has a vision of a world where people fully participate in the development of their community. Participation in self-managed activities with themes of social justice and human dignity.what is community development?
Participatory process that occurs in the base communities, by identifying their needs, organizing themselves and taking actions to satisfy them, thereby improving their quality of life.
Via’s Community Development initiative supports leaders promoting sustainable community development in the California/Baja California border region. Our responsive and inclusive approach supports a wide range of programs, always and everywhere designed by local leaders who are best positioned to know the needs of their communities.
Via supports local engagement as a participatory process in which individuals identify community needs and organize themselves to take the actions necessary to improve quality of life. It is not a linear process but a “caracol de desarrollo” or spiral of development that advances and retreats both individually and collectively. Slow and inclusive, integrated community development values patience, persistence and respect, and helps build paths to self-reliance in under-resourced communities.
We are proud to collaborate with a host of dynamic local partners oriented to a long-term commitment to addressing complex socioeconomic challenges and working toward community level solutions.