Archive for ‘Education’

Update on Doxa’s COVID-19 Response

The deeper we get into 2020, our experience continues to look different than what we all had expected. Doxa has used this crisis-filled time for prayer, evaluation, and innovation. To revisit the ways by which we carry out our mission. Even though it may look a little different, Doxa continues to create impact through house building, education, and community.

For house building, this has meant creating and employing local building teams to construct homes. Many groups and individuals have financially supported the building of houses during this time. It has not only resulted in houses still being built, but also in increased employment opportunities for a community that is experiencing layoffs and reductions in working hours. This “new” way of building houses has opened up an opportunity that Doxa has never seen before. It may also be something that becomes a permanent fixture within Doxa, even after this season of crisis passes.

For education, we have equipped students for distance learning. Instead of investing in school uniforms, Doxa equipped those students to learn from home with laptops and Internet access. Tutors from Doxa’s after-school program also continued to check-in with students and families through WhatsApp or phone calls. Now that the 2019-2020 school year is finished, we have several weeks to catch our breath, strategize, and plan for what Tijuana schools will do next. One thing that we do believe is that there will be an increase in scholarship applicants for the 2020-2021 school year.

For community, we have had to stop all activities and the dance group practices. While we hope to continue those soon, we recognize that safety and health take precedence. For Doxa’s annual summer camp, which routinely draws over 100 children and adults, we have had to delay and augment its implementation. We are planning for a shortened camp, limiting numbers of kids, instigating increased health and sanitizing procedures, and conducting mainly outdoor activities. One of the major needs that summer camp will address is school review. Many students did not absorb or retain the same amount of school lessons as they normally would have.

Back in March, as shelter in place orders were starting to occur around the world, Doxa undertook a spring fundraising campaign. Those goals were to fund 22 houses, raise $7500 for Hogar de los Niños orphanage, and raise $15000 for Unidos por Siempre orphanage. We have been completely blown away as you have helped to exceed these goals. Thank you so much for your generosity! 22 houses have been funded, over $8000 raised for Hogar de los Niños, and over $15000 raised for Unidos por Siempre. A grand total of $164,705 for Tijuana! We can’t thank you all enough for this outpouring of support!

As we transition into summer, the effects of COVID-19 have lasted longer than we originally anticipated. We had thought groups were going to be able to travel again to Tijuana and build houses, school planning would be back to normal, and summer camp would be the joyous laughter-filled time that everyone looks forward to. In the wake of prolonged COVID-19 impacts, this has left even more families without the prospect of a new house. The cost of access to education increases with laptops and Internet requirements. While we are still planning on summer camp, it definitely will look different.

In order to respond to these continued needs, Doxa’s goals for this summer and fall are to fund the building of 20 houses, 50 education scholarships, and $2500 for a modified summer camp. There has already been awesome progress on these new goals!

If you would like to support, donations can be made through Doxa’s secure website and we also have an Amazon List setup for school supplies.

We are so thankful for your prayers and support during this time. It has been breathtaking to see the larger community moved into action, on both sides of the border.

What is Doxa Education?

Started in 2007, 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. Entering into relationship with their family, journeying along with them, and sharing the successes and failures along the way. This intimate knowledge helps guide exactly what resources and assistance the student needs to be successful. Doxa scholarships work through two main avenues:

  • Relationally equip kids to succeed. This entails surrounding kids with competent tutors and coaching their parents to be a positive voice when to comes to education. In Mexico, school is only half-day so there can be a lack of discipline and mentorship around homework time.
  • Materially equip kids to succeed. This entails the required school tuition fees, uniforms, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, transportation, access to computers and Internet, and glasses (you’d be surprised by how many kids don’t know they need them). Having the basic necessities affords kids greater opportunity to succeed.

With kids relationally and materially equipped to succeed, they can dedicate more of their effort to their studies and be effectively supported when times get tough.

Additionally, Doxa operates an after-school program. This provides a natural conduit for ongoing communication and a place for homework to be completed. As most schools in Mexico are only half-day, the after-school program fills the niche of the other half while most parents work a full day. 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 community.

Local school teachers have even been known to recommend that their students who need a little extra help attend Doxa’s after-school program. This allows for more individualized and specialized teaching, that the public schools can not always offer.

Schools in Tijuana have been impacted due to the effects of COVID-19. Schools have been closed for the past several months, some efforts were made regarding distance learning, and now administrators are assessing options for next school year. Regardless of what instructional format they decide, learning will occur and Doxa is ready to equip its students to be active participants in that process.

In the 2019-2020 school year, Doxa’s education program sponsored 140 students. Transitioning into the 2020-2021 school year, we believe there will be an increase in scholarship applications due to the COVID-19 economic downturn that Tijuana is experiencing. Our summer fundraising goal is 50 new scholarships and we’ve already got 16 funded! Would you consider joining us?

If you are interested in supporting Doxa’s scholarship work in Tijuana there are two ways to help: 

  • Consider giving monthly towards the sponsorship of a child. There are varying levels of sponsorship and more information can be found here.
  • Consider providing school supplies from Doxa’s Amazon List. Pick out your favorite items and provide some of the necessary supplies that these kids need to succeed.

Tijuana Life and COVID-19

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. 

Development of Pedregal Neighborhood

Colonia Pedregal de Santa Julia is where Doxa first started building houses about 30 years ago. After decades of development and more than 2000 houses built in and around Pedregal, it barely resembles what it once was. Back then there were many notable differences: no paved streets, no street lights, sporadic electricity service and running water, no sewer system, no telephone or Internet service, lots of open space and undeveloped land, and schools were often canceled for just a light rain (or because the clouds looked like rain!). Land values have gone from the hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

In 2020, Pedregal is a well-equipped neighborhood in every sense of the word, like a small suburb a short distance away from downtown Tijuana. Pedregal now enjoys: pavement in the vast majority of streets with sidewalk space, all major utility services (electric, water, sewer, telephone, and Internet), street lights that illuminate the neighborhood, almost no more vacant land for new housing development, and schools that operate rain or shine. Take a look at some pictures that show the development of Pedregal over the years. See if you can spot any of the brightly colored Doxa houses.

Not only does Pedregal look different, but families are more established. They have more history there and household incomes have risen overall. For the first time, parents are experiencing what it’s like to have some disposable income above and beyond the immediate needs of their families. All of this development is something to be celebrated!

At the same time, though, development like this throughout communities can mean that the needs are changing. Housing and infrastructure used to be the primary need in Pedregal. Now, the primary needs revolve around education and community.

Doxa’s education program equips children relationally and materially to succeed in school. This methodical approach means that a Doxa staff member gets to intimately know the needs of a specific child and family. Then, journey along with them and learn what is really needed for success. While this approach may be more time intensive, it yields amazing results. As long as the student is willing to put in the work, there is nothing that Doxa won’t do to help them succeed.

Doxa’s community events, gatherings, and programs span a wider breadth of offerings which have included: parenting workshops, dance classes, cooking classes, neighborhood fundraisers, Christmas parties, Mother’s Day celebrations, counseling sessions, community fairs, and summer camp.

While these newer education and community needs are exciting, it is also one of Doxa’s values to continue partnership and support of local organizations like Hogar de los Niños. Especially, as they have been an integral part of the Pedregal community since the 1970s.

Doxa looks forward to sharing more about what the vision for education and community looks like in Pedregal!