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!