Student-Santa alliance benefits beleaguered bordertown
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Student-Santa alliance benefits beleaguered bordertown

Puerto Palomas : Mexico | Dec 27, 2009 at 10:06 AM PST
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Ninth graders: Santa helpers in Palomas

You won't catch US retiree Peter Edmunds, age 71, playing bingo or shuffleboard. He's more likely partnering with Mexican middle school students. Age gap and language barriers didn't stop them from joining forces with Santa to thrill tots in a traumatized bordertown this month.

Edmund's involvement started last year when he and his wife Polly formed a nonprofit corporation called "Border Partners." Their goal was to improve the standard of living in Palomas, Mexico--a small border town besieged by unemployment and drug cartel violence.

A Toy Truck Project Partnership

This month Edmunds, a retired contractor who lives in New Mexico, loaded his pickup with power tools prior to Christmas. He struck a deal with the ninth graders at the Palomas Middle School as another in an ongoing series of projects. "If you make one toy truck to give to the town's Christmas appeal program, you can make one to take home to give to a little brother or sister," he told them.

He enlisted the cooperation of the school's shop teacher to conduct the toy making workshops during school time in the shop classroom. He solicited sponsorship from border lumber and hardware stores for toy materials. And he found adult volunteers, both US and Mexican, to lend watchful eyes and helping hands as the students used power tools for the first time ever.

Edmunds is pleased that some volunteers are former graduates of the Palomas Middle School themselves. They translate for him and are indispensable in working with the students. "My Palomas volunteers are really key to our success," he emphasizes.

The students themselves did all the toy making production: putting the toy pieces together, drilling holes for axles, making the wheels and finally painting the trucks they built, designing them to suit younger kid's tastes.

This project results, says Edmunds enthusiastically, are "world class!" He explains: "The ninth graders learned some woodworking skills and had fun expressing their creativity in paint. Seventy kids in Palomas will get a beautiful work of art: a toy for Christmas. Does it get any better than that?"

A traumatized community

High profile and brutal crimes have plagued Palomas in recent months. Town mayor Estanislao "Tani" Garcia was abducted and assassinated in October. The whereabouts of prominent Palomas dentist and businessman Ricardo Fierro, who was kidnapped in broad daylight Thanksgiving week, still remains unknown. The dusty border town is besieged with high unemployment and its ensuing poverty.

Border Partners addresses that poverty with a number of projects. They foster small worker-owned businesses and promote use of low-cost, sustainable technologies to conserve scarce resources.

This is the first time Border Partners has partnered with Santa Claus and the Palomas ninth graders. But since it worked out so well, it likely won't be the last, says Edmunds. The project was so popular with the students that he suspects every grade in the school would want to participate next year.

Brimming with ideas to combat poverty and improve life in the town, Edmunds insists on working with--not doing for--the people. That philosophy is the backdrop of the toy truck project, "What I'm trying to do is empower the kids: to help them realize that they can be part of the [improvement] process."

Edmunds and Border Partners: Making life better in Palomas this Christmas...one toy truck at a time.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Border Partners website

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Palomas student with finished product
photo credit: Border Partners
Billie Greenwood is based in Davenport, Iowa, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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