Doxa creates opportunities for people to serve Tijuana through
house building, education, and long-term community.
As a city, Tijuana has been and will continue to be drastically impacted by COVID-19. We see disruptions to employment, education, orphanages, and in some cases regional mobility.
The schools in Tijuana have all stopped in-person classes as of several weeks ago and will most likely not return to classroom instruction this academic year. Zoraida, a Tijuana school teacher and assistant principal, says that “over the past few weeks the education system has implemented various platforms such as classes by TV, radio, and digital methods according to each family and their abilities to connect. This school year will continue and all students will automatically pass onto the next grade, per a government directive.” Adapting to these different learning methods can be a challenge with teachers unfamiliar of how to use them and the varying levels of connectivity that each family has. Some families have a TV, Internet connection, computer, and/or cell phone while others do not. To make this work, it is like a patch-work quilt where everyone is trying their best with the resources they have.
The three major sources of employment around Tijuana and northern Baja California are factories (particularly technology and medical device manufacturing), construction, and hospitality. It’s been hard to see factories temporarily shut down or drastically reduce workers’ hours due to social distancing efforts. Even more unfortunate is the production of medical devices that Mexico could utilize, but instead is contractually bound to export to other countries. This is an unfortunate by-product of special export zones and other international trade rules. Factory owners, Tijuana government, industry associations, and buyers are all trying to figure out solutions. Restaurants, hotels, and other leisure activities are and will continue to be negatively impacted as people stay home. Overall, families are using up their savings on food and other basic necessities during this time. For those that live paycheck to paycheck, the longer COVID-19 shutdowns and shelter in place orders stay in effect, the harder it will be. The families that Doxa serves in Tijuana typically do not have much or any financial buffer to weather economic disruptions.
Carmen, assistant director of Hogar de los Niños orphanage, says “COVID-19 has affected us in two major ways, being socially isolated and having more time to share with our kids.” The social isolation aspect can be hard, especially for a culture that is very relational and is accustomed to expression through face-to-face interactions. Greetings by hugs and a little kiss on the cheek used to be common. This adjustment is tough and can take a psychological toll. On the other hand, an unexpected benefit is having more time with the kids at home. Hogar de los Niños is blessed with large spaces to play soccer, basketball, and other activities. Their kitchen and pantry are stocked and there continues to be nutritious food on the table. Carmen shares that “we have watched story time videos, danced, and sang.” All activities directed through a distance program by the Tijuana Cultural Center. Ending on a positive note, Carmen has noticed a decrease in arguments among everyone.
Maria, founder of Unidos por Siempre orphanage, hasn’t let the news of COVID-19 slow her infectious and vibrant personality. She continues to organize fun activities, like an Easter egg hunt and kid’s day celebration, to keep everyone busy while cooped up at home. Unidos por Siempre has also been vigilant about increasing their cleaning efforts, hand washing, and disinfecting high-traffic areas. For active time, kids make extra use of the play structure and street out front for jump-rope and impromptu soccer games.
For the Tijuana-San Diego region, COVID-19 has also impacted mobility. The San Diego Sector, with its three land border ports of entry, is one of the busiest in the entire world with an average daily total of 149,445 persons entering the United States (2019 data, US Dept. of Transportation). While the border has remained open for US citizens, permanent residents, and work visa holders, it has been closed to those with tourist visas. This has complicated the life of many people who regularly cross the border for family, personal, or other reasons.
For the first time in Doxa’s 30-year history, there were no groups in Tijuana building houses this spring. The faithful Spring Break groups that have been a cornerstone in Tijuana house building were noticeably absent. Unfortunately, many other organizations that build houses around Tijuana and northern Baja California also canceled their house building plans. Instead, a handful of organizations (Doxa included) quickly pivoted to raising donations towards the building of houses by locals. Not only can this still be a way to ultimately accomplish the mission of building houses for qualified families, but it has the added benefit of increasing employment opportunities in the region where many may be facing layoffs.
Doxa’s orphanage partners are also heavily impacted by the absence of groups. Normally, the spring house building season is when they host many volunteers and recognize the income that those groups bring. This income is what helps to sustain their operations year around. In response, Doxa has started a special fund for each orphanage so they can still be supported financially during this time.
With school classes canceled, various distance learning strategies are being used. For older students, online classes have started and Doxa’s education program quickly shifted to providing laptops and home Internet access to families without those resources. Having kids study from home has been an adjustment for all our families, just as it probably has for yours. The after-school program is temporarily closed until we can safely reopen. We use a mix of WhatsApp and phone calls to check-in with families and attend to student progress.
With the disruption caused by COVID-19, Doxa has taken this as an opportunity to rethink, repurpose, and pivot into new strategies for still accomplishing its mission of house building, education, and community throughout Tijuana. These needs don’t cease just because of the current pandemic. While all of our lives in the short-run have been drastically altered by COVID-19, Doxa remains attentive and perceptive in the ways that COVID-19 may have impacts in the long-run. We hope to be able to use this window of opportunity as a way to ultimately better serve the families of Tijuana.
Below is an update on fundraising efforts for house building and both orphanage funds. Thank you to everyone who has contributed towards these efforts, we’re making great progress! You can continue to be involved through active prayer, giving, and reaching out to someone you know in the Tijuana community.
Total fundraising in response to COVID-19
Our response to poverty and how we carryout poverty alleviation plans matters. We have a desire to help in a productive way, and not enable or make worse someone’s situation in the long-run. How can we do this?
First, it helps to determine what type of poverty alleviation effort is appropriate: relief, rehabilitation, or development. This classification was pioneered in the best-selling book, When Helping Hurts.
Another key distinction between these poverty alleviation strategies is that relief is typically done to someone and rehabilitation and development are done with someone (learn more from The Chalmers Center).
Within the current context of COVID-19 in Tijuana, Doxa’s response has been a mixture of relief and rehabilitation. Relief efforts have included food distribution to community households, special emergency funding to orphanages, and the provision of face masks. The procurement process for the food and face masks has been rehabilitation as we source these items locally. Partnering with a local farmer, produce vendor, and larger grocery stores to give them all needed business. Repurposing our house curtain maker, Luis, to instead make hundreds of face masks during this time. Additionally, when legally allowed to resume house building, Doxa will be employing local people to build houses. Another example of rehabilitation efforts.
Even without the challenging times of COVID-19, it can be hard to accurately respond to poverty. For some it evokes an emotional and spiritual reaction and for others an alarming panic and urgency to just do something. If we’re not careful, however, the wrong application can lead to long-term harm. As the situation around COVID-19 further develops and gradually comes to an end, there will be another difficult decision-point on the horizon. When to stop relief efforts before they start to do harm?
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