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Community Revitalization and Immigration on the U.S./Mexico Border

San Diego is home to the most militarized, technologically advanced, and highly trafficked border in the entire world.

This rich trans-border culture, influenced by its proximity to the U.S./Mexico border, continues to develop a unique Chicano population and identity making up over one third of the city’s populace. This diverse cultural group has been underrepresented politically. Through community-driven resilience it has survived and thrived. How can a group that has not only been underrepresented, but misunderstood, gain respect in light of the media’s outlook on issues involving immigration? How is a city so close to Mexico affected on a daily basis by legal and illegal immigration?

This program will explore the impact of living only 15 miles from the U.S./Mexico Border and the challenges faced by families, local farmers, businesses, and the large Chicano community. Participate in community driven initiatives and live the realities by combating the stereotypes immigration has been given right here in one of the most important areas involving this issue. Meet the Amigos Car Club, a grassroots organization that has curbed gang-violence in urban areas, bring water to immigrants crossing the border with the founder of Border Angels, Enrique Morones and travel from Otay to the Pacific Ocean to join the border patrol on a tour between the fence and the wall, highlighting the extreme differences between life on two sides of a wall.


Typical Program

Journey into the two different sides to one centralized issue: the border. Hear from local activists who believe that reform is necessary to this humanitarian issue, while also hearing directly from the border patrol who man the border fence. Work with international refugee population on urban green restoration initiatives.

The border is not just a physical presence, but a mental one as well. Take the Chicano Park Mural tour, meet the Amigos Car Club, and hear from community development activists who fight daily to counter the media’s stereotypes of the Chicano community that has built a home and thriving culture in Barrio Logan.

Duration and Directions

Fly directly into San Diego’s Lindbergh Field Airport or take the scenic drive from LAX. Although renting a car can be convenient for some groups, Via is more than happy to provide ground transportation at a nominal fee.


After arriving in San Diego, visitors will be welcomed by a traditional style lunch or dinner prepared by one of our promotora nutrition specialists . Next, volunteers will receive an orientation by Rigo Reyes, our Community Development Program Director, who will explain Via’s mission in San Diego and philosophy of community engagement. Volunteers will receive an overview of activities for the week and some background on the projects, people, and communities.

Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers should be adaptable and flexible, willing to work as part of a team, and respectful of local traditions, culture, and customs. Those taking part in community development projects need to be capable of doing physical work, although previous experience is not essential. Click here to view the packing checklist.

Check out a Sample Itinerary

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Food and Accommodations

As part of your immersion experience we’ve invited a nutrition expert from Tijuana, Mexico to join the group assisting with meal preparation, education, and cultural exchange. Enjoy traditional Mexican dishes prepared with a vegetarian nutritional model including fresh veggies, rice, legumes, soy, and other regional fare. Not to worry meat-eaters, we’ll still have chicken pozole and various tamales. Replenish with homemade agua frescas like, horchata, hibiscus, and tamarindo. For student groups, preparing food, eating together, cleaning up, and recycling are all part of the learning and immersion experience.

Via International has partnered with two local churches each in their own unique location in close proximity to our headquarters in Barrio Logan. Enjoy the laid back culture while living only blocks away from the ocean.

Community and Region

Barrio Logan, one of San Diego’s oldest communities, is the hub of activism in the region. Since 1910, when Logan Heights experienced an influx of refugees from the Mexican Revolution, this area of San Diego has remained a largely hispanic and Chicano community. After decades of rezoning, transforming the Barrio into a community covered in concrete overpasses, the city council promised to build a park, but began construction of a highway patrol station instead. In the first of many social activist demonstrations, students and community members occupied the area until 12 days later, the land was rezoned for park use. So began the history of Chicano Park…

The Chicano Community, the self-given term for the population of Indigenous Mexican-Americans, has continued to struggle for cultural identification for years. Caught between borders, nations, and identities, this community, no longer identified as Mexican, created their own unique culture of art, music, low-riders, and food. As a result, a cultural identity shaped in the shadow of the border, the Chicano movement has become the center of social activism, peaceful protest, and grassroots organization here in San Diego.

Local Development Organizations

U.S. Border Patrol – The primary mission of the Border Patrol is to prevent terrorists and terrorists weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from entering the United States. These men and women work around the clock to man the border between the United States and Mexico. We are grateful for their willingness to share their stories, perspectives, and the realities of security.

Chicano Park Steering Committee – This volunteer staffed committee helps to maintain the National Historic Site, Chicano Park. Giving tours, helping in mural restoration, and planning the annual Chicano Park Day, the Steering Committee is a symbol of community development embodying the spirit of the Chicano Movement. Their contribution to the revitalization of Barrio Logan in San Diego has been paramount.


  • Discover the individual, cultural and political implications of the U.S./Mexico Border
  • Learn what it means to stand for community activism at the grassroots level
  • Analyze different sociopolitical viewpoints ranging from Border Patrol Agents to local community activists
  • Understand the harsh realities affecting daily life in communities along the border
  • Participate in community-defined service projects supporting revitalization through art and providing aid to immigrants

Through community engagement, discussion, and public service work you’ll form your own opinion and become an active participant in the challenges facing this unique border region. Hear from all sides of the border and live the reality. Participate in the United States Border Patrol talk and serve with Border Angels in a Migrant Water Supply service project.


  • Villanova University
    “I learned that community is any group of people that can come together to support the same cause. A community can be anything from a group of people supporting immigration reform to a group of people supporting Chicano Park. I felt that the service projects we worked on made a big difference. Both the garden and cultural center really benefited from our work, and we learned a lot about the culture that surrounds these communities.”
    Will Morris, Political Science MajorWill Morris, Political Science Major
  • Villanova University
    “My experience at the U.S./Mexico border challenged me in ways I never expected. I found it surprisingly difficult to stand against the wall separating the United States from Mexico. Even with the complex political issues and polarizing opinions surrounding immigration, I learned that the most important part of the debate to always keep in mind is the human dignity in every person, regardless of what side of the wall he or she grew up on.”
    Bridget Black, Political Science MajorBridget Black, Political Science Major
  • Fairfield University
    “I have gone on the trip three times, and it has been such a wonderful part of my Fairfield experience. Each year, I was fortunate to gain more knowledge and new perspective. Via International provides an immersion experience that encompasses many aspects of the issues surrounding the border...I have been extremely impacted by this experience and the people I have met along the way. Thank you for opening up your community to us and for providing an experience in which we could learn and grow immensely. I will graduate in just about a week, and I will soon be a nurse. My hope is that I can soon return to San Diego to work in a border region because this has become a passion of mine.”
    Julianne Hulin, Double Major in Nursing & MusicJulianne Hulin, Double Major in Nursing & Music
  • Villanova University
    “My week with Via International opened my eyes to the immigration issue in ways I could have never truly imagined before embarking on this trip. Though I thought that I would leave the trip with a solidified opinion on border issues, I truly came away with something so much more valuable: the awareness of the heightened need for education surrounding immigration in the US. In my view, so so many individuals simply have ignorant ideas about immigration, because they have never experienced the border in the way we did."
    Jessica Flynn, Sociology, Gender & Women's Studies MajorsJessica Flynn, Sociology, Gender & Women's Studies Majors


With over 20 trips and 300 participants per year, students around the world are capturing images and videos of our different voluntour sites. The best ones are featured here. Submit yours today by clicking here.

Villanova University – February 2015 

Video Credit and Special Thanks to Carla Nilo Aguayo
February 28-March 7, 2015
San Diego, California
Students from Villanova University (13 students and 1 faculty) traveled to San Diego for a service break trip. With VIA San Diego, they participated in community revitalization and immigration on the U.S./Mexico Border

Villanova University – October 2012

Photo Credit: Alison Hager

Miami Dade College – May 2015

Photo Credit: Manuel Obando

University of Portland – March 2013

Photo Credit: Gabriel Reed

Southern Utah University – March 2013

Photo Credit: Gabriel Reed

Miami Dade College – May 2015

Photo Credit: Manuel Obando

Villanova University – February 2012

Photo Credit: Alison Hager

Southern Utah University – March 2013

Photo Credit: Gabriel Reed

Villanova University – March 2013

Photo Credit: Gabriel Reed

Villanova University – October 2014

Photo Credit: Will Rattigan

Loyola University – March 2012

Photo Credit: Gabriel Reed

Program Fees

Program Development

Is a key expertise of Via Staff providing faculty and student leaders collaborative input to refine itineraries. We create unique access to local partners and coordinate all pre-trip activities.

Travel Services

Provide 3 meals-a-day including snacks and clean water, lodging at community site, adventure activity and museum entrance fees, first aid supplies, and 24-hour supervision. (Via transportation optional)

Educational Services

Create dynamic cultural exchange through a full-time Regional Coordinator and translator, presentations by local experts and partner organizations, discussions on regional issues and initiatives, community preparation and participation support.

Community Support

Covers the cost of volunteer work projects, bringing vital resources to community-driven initiatives, and funding the purchase of tools and materials that facilitate the visitor experience.

Sustainable Development Support

Provides an important donation to mission-based initiatives for year-round program development of micro-creditnutritionleadership educationecology training, and sustainable development initiatives.

Via's Integrated Model

We’ve designed our programs to provide high-value, affordable travel while maximizing volunteer and educational impact. Via provides full-service support and coordination to simplify logistics for group leaders and engage seamlessly with community-driven initiatives and local community members. Via’s regional facilitators and educational program development provide and integrated approach that offers visiting volunteer groups a deeply immersive, inspiring, memorable, and transformational experience that is safe, stable, reliable, and impactful.

We are very proud to offer this level of access and impact. A group of 14 participants can volunteer in San Diego for a 7 day immersion at an estimated cost between $900 – $1100 per participant. To receive an exact quote based on your organization’s specific travel dates and group size, please complete the form below.

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