Doxa creates opportunities for people to serve Tijuana through
house building, education, and long-term community.
Back in the mid-2000s, after over a decade of building houses, many volunteer groups noticed that it was all too common for kids to drop out of school. They saw the family they were building with struggle when it came to putting their kids through school. A family with 4 kids would regularly have 2 in school and 2 out of school. Most likely, some would finish middle school and none would finish high school. Seeing this need, Doxa started a scholarship program in 2007. Doxa consulted with Tony and Pilar from Hogar de los Niños and worked with Toby and Zoraida to administer the scholarships.
It was a steep learning curve at first. Doxa sponsored 10 elementary school kids in 2007, providing the necessary materials, uniforms, and registration fees to attend school. These were just the basics. After a few years of doing this, it was clear that something more was needed to help students not just attend school, but succeed. This gave birth to the after-school program.
Staring in 2010, Doxa opened an after-school program run by Rosa. A simple classroom setup where students would come after school to complete homework and have access to any additional resources necessary, like the Internet or a printer. Over the next several years, Doxa education grew from 10 to over 120 annual scholarships. Doxa now has students at every level of education: elementary school, middle school, high school, and university. Each year, Doxa sees students be the first in their families to finish middle school, high school, or university.
Throughout the last 17 years, there have been many students who have practically grown up with Doxa. Spending most, if not all, of their educational years enrolled with a Doxa scholarship. All of Doxa’s students are like sponges; absorbing everything around them and growing in their capacities. Without really realizing it, Doxa has been a very formative part of their lives. Rosa, Ely, Flavio, and other Doxa employees have sown many seeds throughout their years of work, and it’s impossible to know exactly when and how those seeds will sprout.
Recently, we asked several long-time Doxa students to share the impact Doxa had on them and their growth. We learned that something different sticks out to each of them. What started as simply buying school uniforms and then opening a basic after-school program, has turned into something much more.
Veronica has been involved with Doxa education for 12 years, starting in 1st grade. When asked about Doxa’s long-term impact on her life she talks about her performance in school and the positive results of the after-school program. She says “I advanced faster than the other students. The teachers noticed that I could learn quicker since I saw things in Doxa before they were taught in the classroom. Rosa taught all of us in a group. I don’t know how she attended to all of us at once, but she did.” The after-school program has been essential to the success of hundreds of students. Local school teachers even recommend their students attend who may need a little extra homework help.
Brigitt has been involved with Doxa education off and on since 3rd grade. She is now in 11th grade. When asked about what has made the biggest difference for her, she talks about the seminars put on by Carmen or Jorge, whom are local councilors. This is offered as part of the after-school program. Brigitt shares, “I learned to control my emotions, be a better person, and relate better to others. I used to be very bad-tempered, but now I know how to not let others affect me or express myself in a way that negatively affects others.”
Angel has been involved with Doxa education for 11 years. When asked about the impact of his involvement, he immediately talks about his behavior: “Doxa has changed me a lot. I used to be distractable and unfocused. Now I’m more focused and calmer. Doxa gave me structure, a place to be, tutors that pushed me to do things I thought I couldn’t, like divisions with 4 digits. I remember one time when Paola gave me a big math problem like that and I ended up surprising myself.” Upon reflecting upon his time with Doxa, Angel smirks as he realizes “I’ve been part of Doxa for more than half my life.”
Alejandro has been involved with Doxa education for the past 11 years. When asked about the difference it has made in his life, he talks about goals and a sense of purpose. Alejandro shares that “we always have to know where we’re going and who we are as people… know our goals and areas for improvement.” When asked about goals Alejandro responds, “finish school, get a good job, buy a house and car, have the necessary income to support myself and my family. This is going to be hard, but it’s not important how many falls I have or how many obstacles I come across, nothing will stop me from completing my goals.”
Veronica, Brigitt, Angel, and Alejandro have all gone through the same education program over the years. Each of them have taken away a different big idea that they hold as formative in their own lives. It’s amazing how such a simple scholarship program can lead to deep and varying impacts. As Doxa continues to grow its education program, now with a second location in East Tijuana, more seeds will be planted and continue to sprout.
As a natural extension and reflection of relationships created through house building, Doxa’s education program provides scholarships and resources to children in Tijuana. We target the same neighborhoods in which we have built houses, thus reflecting the natural progression of shelter being a primary need and education coming next. In the long-run, education empowers youth to break the cycle and mindset of poverty which is so prevalent in Tijuana.
Doxa’s scholarship program meets children on a holistic level, taking an individualized approach to the success of each student. This intimate knowledge helps guide exactly what resources and assistance the student needs to be successful. Some examples include tuition fees, school uniform, transportation, books, school supplies, shoes, access to Internet and technology, glasses, health care, counseling services, good role models, fun and disciplined learning environment, and sense of purpose.
A few years after starting an education program, Doxa realized that an after-school program was needed. This provides a natural conduit for ongoing communication and a place for homework to be completed. Recognizing that most schools in Mexico are only half-day and almost all parents work a full day; the after-school program fills the niche of the other half. The after-school program not only affords the resources, tutors, and space for homework completion, it also provides a safe, respectful, and disciplined atmosphere for young students to grow.
In recent years, as Doxa has expanded its education program to East Tijuana, we used the blue print from our 10+ years of experience in West Tijuana. First is relationally equipping students to succeed. Which entails surrounding kids with competent tutors and coaching their parents (or responsible adult) to be a positive voice when it comes to education. Maria and Angeles serve as these strong voices and coaches in East Tijuana. Second is materially equipping students to succeed. Which simply entails school supplies, uniforms, tuition fees, and other necessities.
In 2019, Doxa helped build a classroom addition onto Unidos por Siempre. This serves as the education home base for East Tijuana. A dedicated place for the after-school program and where Angeles, who is Doxa’s East TJ Education Administrator, can work directly with students. Angeles says that “having an education classroom really adds permanence and structure to the scholarship program, student success is more easily attainable with the right resources at hand.”
Earlier this year, Maria and Angeles brought up another need throughout East Tijuana. They noticed food insecurity becoming more prevalent and negatively impacting students’ performance in the classroom. Erika, whose children are scholarship recipients and lives in East Tijuana, shared that for many families “sometimes there is enough to eat and sometimes not. There isn’t always something constant, that you can depend on.” Since the education program is a holistic approach, we brainstormed solutions of how best to address food insecurity among Doxa’s scholarship students.
It quickly became clear that a soup kitchen operated at Unidos por Siempre was the best answer. All the tools we needed were lying right in front of us: using the existing kitchen facilities at Unidos por Siempre, Panchita as the cook, and Angeles to help organize and administer. A nutritious and healthy lunch is prepared every day and something that each student can count on. For students that go to classes in the mornings, they arrive at Unidos por Siempre around 1pm and eat lunch together. Then, they head up to the classroom for dedicated homework time with Angeles. For students that go to classes in the afternoons, they arrive at Unidos por Siempre around 9am and do their homework with Angles; once finished, they eat lunch and leave around 12:30pm for afternoon school.
Panchita’s menu is diverse and well-balanced. The usual tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, beans and rice are present and accounted for. But various fruits, soups, salads, sandwiches, and vegetables also appear regularly. Specialty items such as mole, pozole, and tamales appear less often, but are so looked forward to by everyone! Panchita says that “my heart is filled when stomachs are filled and people eat my food with pleasure.” She’s the right person for the job!
The addition of a soup kitchen is proving to be an excellent complement to Doxa’s East Tijuana education program. Maria shares that “a child that is well-fed and well attended to is going to learn more.” The soup kitchen creates healthy eating habits in community and ensures food security through the access to quality food on a consistent basis. Using Unidos por Siempre also provides a central location that is decent, respectable, and appropriate for people to gather throughout the day.
The soup kitchen opened in October of this year, and Doxa intends to continue its operation through at least 2024. If it continues to grow and becomes an integral part of student success in East Tijuana, Doxa would love to make it a permanent offering for East Tijuana students. We’ll continue to monitor and evaluate over the next year, as the soup kitchen grows!
Without really realizing it, Doxa has been unofficially engaging in community development for many years. House building has organically transformed entire communities and continues to serve as a turning point for many families.
At Doxa, we like to say that house building is really just an ‘excuse’ to get to know a family. Then, enrollment in Doxa’s education program is an ‘excuse’ to continue the relationship through regular touch-points, such as the after-school program. Finally, Doxa’s community center programs are an ‘excuse’ to intentionally journey and grow with each family over the long-run. It’s a beautiful progression that flows naturally. Wherever families join us, there is a space for them.
Doxa’s community center includes summer camp, parenting classes, dance groups, exercise classes, art seminars, music classes, community events, and various types of counseling sessions. We have established ways for meeting new people, places for gathering together, and more officially recognized our role in community development that leads to family growth. Doxa functions as a pipeline to deliver impactful programing and resources for Tijuana families. Over the years, we’ve come to realize one of our core strengths is people gathering.
However, it’s not just that Doxa facilitates these various community offerings. It’s more about how Doxa does it. In our case, the how matters just as much as the fact that the programs exist. Doxa puts relationships first, understanding that we are all flawed yet, part of a larger family that journeys along. We know that investment in families means prioritizing time, empathy, understanding, and love above all else. Extending unconditional grace as Jesus has done unto us, creates a safe place where people can lay down their burdens.
We asked a couple families to share their experiences with Doxa:
Vianey Guadalupe has been involved at Doxa for about 2 years and is currently in 9th grade. Her mother, Vianey Karina, sees “mutual respect, coexistence, friendship, love, and presence” as Doxa’s strengths. She says that “it isn’t so much the economic support, but the personal investment of time and opening of community that has made a difference. With my older son, he didn’t have this same support and I really struggled with him. With Vianey, Doxa came to help with education and her growth as a person.”
It isn’t so much the economic support, but the personal investment of time and opening of community that has made a difference… Doxa came to help with education and her growth as a person.Vianey Karina, parent
Haziel has also been coming to Doxa for about 2 years and is currently in 7th grade. His mother, Rubi, says Doxa’s values include “respect, tolerance, peace, humility, and patience. All things that Ely and Sabino show on a daily basis.” Haziel agrees that “the best quality of Doxa are the teachers, they have a lot of patience with us and help us to succeed. We end up surprising ourselves because we can do things that we thought we could not.”
Doxa has, furthermore, been a catalyst for family growth, particularly in Vianey Karina’s mother-daughter relationship. She shares that “as a mom, I’ve seen Vianey improve in school, she’s now an [A/A-] student. Regarding her as a person, she has changed a lot. I think we are now in our best chapter of mother-daughter relationship that we have had. Especially when it comes to communication. We have a closeness that we lacked during her elementary school days. I love that she has a peer community in Doxa and they come over to the house to hang out. That they grow-up together. We have both grown, along with my husband.” Vianey Guadalupe echoes some of the same ideas, saying “Before Doxa, I didn’t have as much trust in my parents. Now, I tell them more details and even ask for their advice. I have liked the togetherness and community at Doxa. I’ve made a lot of friends. Before, I wasn’t a very social person. And I consider Doxa my second home. I feel very comfortable here and I like to come as often as I am able.”
Rubi, who is Haziel’s mother, reflects on how involvement in Doxa’s activities has impacted her son’s life. She says that her “experience with Doxa has been excellent. Haziel has higher grades and has matured a lot. There are lots of activities in Doxa; guitar, music, and dance group involvement have resulted in Haziel being more cheerful and open. I’ve loved to see his growth and motivation to stick with these activities. Overall, the advances in school have been noticed by the teachers.” Rubi continues on to say that she is “very proud of my son, seeing him excel in the various activities. At his last dance performance, watching him perform; I said to myself, I’m a very privileged mom to have Doxa in my son’s life.”
When talking with Vianey Karina, who is Vianey Guadalupe’s mother, it’s clear she values Doxa’s staff. She says “I have full trust in Doxa, because of Ely and Sabino. As a mom, you observe day in and day out the responsibility that they have for our kids and how seriously they take it. These people deserve my trust.” She goes on to share that “Doxa helps with the growth of our children. Every day we hope our kids will get a little bit better and Doxa plays an active role in that process, cultivating values and the foundations needed.” Surrounding families with the right people and role models makes a difference. For this reason, Doxa invests in its staff for the long-term, to have permanence in others’ lives.
Every day we hope our kids will get a little bit better and Doxa plays an active role in that process, cultivating values and the foundations needed.Vianey Karina, parent
Rubi says that she also trusts in Doxa “because it’s a community of people I know and have provided me the help that I needed as a single mother.” She continues on that “Doxa represents a gigantic help for kids, that learn, that have fun, that interact with each other in a safe, respectful place. Besides all the activities, Doxa provides things for parents, such as the exercise classes in the mornings and community events.” Rubi wants to “thank everyone who’s behind Doxa, without it we wouldn’t be who we are today. And Doxa’s kids are who they are because of you, and giving with a loving heart.”
Finally, when closing out our time together, Rubi smiles and says with a laugh that “sometimes I have to discipline Haziel, and his punishment is not coming to Doxa. It always works.”
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