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17 Years of Doxa Education

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.

Soup Kitchen at Unidos por Siempre

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!

Stories of Family Growth

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.”

Doxa High School Students Build a House

The vast majority of people experience and come to know Doxa through house building. For over 30 years, Doxa has facilitated the building of about 2300 houses throughout Tijuana resulting in safe and secure housing for over 11,000 people! Nearly 35,000 people from the US have participated in house building trips, some returning multiple times. God has truly magnified this simple experience to be much more than anyone could’ve realized.

Teams from the US come to Tijuana and discover new life by giving themselves away and being witness to others doing the same. It’s a powerful experience. For most participants, being a part of a house building trip means having a role in extraordinary generosity, most likely on a scale that they haven’t seen before. How often does one get to tangibly partake in building and giving a house away? It’s an eye-opening, horizon-broadening experience with impacts that last a lifetime. Not only are the trip participants impacted, but also the family members who now have a new house. Lives changed forever. 

Doxa’s primary role in house building has been as facilitator: preparing groups from the US and families in Tijuana, readying building materials, connecting groups with local staff and partners, and providing trip support. Most groups utilize the experience as a tool or platform, such as for youth ministry or the development of volunteer teams. The common denominator among all groups is that the house is not the only thing that gets built. 

Finishing a house in Tijuana requires sharing and participating in a vision, planning, logistics, digging, cement mixing, framing, painting, roofing, window and door installation, cooking, communication in Spanish, and cross-cultural relationship formation. All skill sets have their time to shine. It’s an experience that helps young people make meaningful and lasting contributions in today’s world. All receive the powerful yet simple message that young people don’t need to wait or ‘grow-up’ in order to engage in significant work. 

A couple years ago, Elizabeth, Doxa’s Director of Operations, had the idea of providing this same house building experience to Doxa’s high school students. She saw first-hand the impact of this experience and wanted the same for Doxa’s students. In addition to being part of an experience in radical generosity, Elizabeth notes that Doxa’s students “learn to value what they have and appreciate a hard day’s work; coming home tired after working a full day like their parents.” She also talks about commitment, “finishing what you start is an important value that we can instill in our children, especially when things get hard and you have to work in teams.” 

Like groups from the US, Doxa’s high school students get opportunities to nail, paint, measure, cut, and build the house. Elizabeth sees these learning opportunities as building blocks for Doxa’s high school students that prepare them for something more in their lives. The house build is led by our committed and experienced Flavio Camacho. He leads by example with dedicated workmanship and teaches the students how to build each day. Doxa’s Spanish building manual also comes in handy. When construction is complete, it all culminates with turning over the new house and its keys to the family. 

This experience, furthermore, comes full circle for some of Doxa’s high school students as their families were recipients of a Doxa house years ago. Now it is their turn to be on the other side of the experience. 

For the past two years, Doxa’s high school students have had the privilege of building a house over their summer break. One of Doxa’s students, Brigitt shares that a “house changes lives for the better and gives me some perspective to really value what I have.” She continues to say that “to help others makes me feel good, to see peoples’ lives improving. You never know when you are going to need help.” Another one of Doxa’s students, Angel remembers “the sacrifice that the family was making for their new house and the poor conditions that they lived in before.” He goes on to describe that “teamwork makes the job easier and that everyone on the team has their own strengths.” Still, another Doxa student, Veronica learned “to value my house, what my mom did for me. Especially after seeing how the family valued and appreciated us on the worksite.”

Elizabeth sees the house building experience as life-changing for Doxa’s high school students and would love to incorporate it as a permanent annual experience that Doxa can offer. Elizabeth notes that “it’s a mission trip for Doxa’s high school youth located within their very own city.” Just as this simple experience of building a house has been so impactful for nearly 35,000 people from the US, it has been and will continue to be impactful for Doxa’s high school students. 

Giving Tuesday & December Matching Campaign

Today is Giving Tuesday and also the launch of Doxa’s 3rd Annual December Matching Campaign. This year, we’ll be showcasing a couple projects and some personal impact stories from both locations: East and West Tijuana. 

First is funding a house build by Doxa’s high school students. For over 30 years, Doxa has helped facilitate life-transforming house builds for high schoolers that come to Tijuana from all over the US. Now, it’s time to provide this same experience for Doxa’s high school students in Tijuana. Learning how to build, work together, and give themselves away. A horizon-broadening experience in their very own city. 

Second, we’ll showcase some stories of family growth. A side effect of Doxa’s education and community programs that operate throughout the year. We’ve seen family dynamics completely change for the better, just through involving the entire family in Doxa’s ecosystem. Likewise, these families have been so gracious in allowing Doxa into their homes, lives, and relationships. 

Third is funding a new Soup Kitchen out of Unidos por Siempre. Maria and Angeles, who lead Doxa’s education program in East Tijuana, have seen access to nourishing and healthy food become a top priority in their area. The Soup Kitchen opened last month and is proving to be an excellent complement to the after-school program, which already operates there. 

And finally, it’s hard to believe, but Doxa’s education program is now in its 17th year! Doxa has been a place where some students have practically grown up with us. We’ll highlight a few of their stories and takeaways from these long-term relationships. 

Doxa’s board of directors has generously pledged $40,000 in matching funds, so all donations up to that amount will be doubled through the end of the year.

Over the next month, we invite you to follow along as we take a deeper dive into each of these projects and impact stories. We’ll focus on one each week. Please also consider donating before year’s end to double your financial impact. Muchas gracias! 

Changes Lead to Good

Araceli and her 7-year-old daughter are dressed up in Christmas clothes, coming from a school Christmas recital. Araceli’s 1st grader sang in front of the entire school this year, which she so much enjoys. Araceli smiles with joy as she recounts the performance and shows pride in her daughter.

Araceli grew up in Tijuana, spending almost her entire life in the neighborhood of Pedregal de Santa Julia. She is the third of six kids, who grew up at Hogar de los Niños orphanage. She recounts that her family was the orphanage, as she never knew anything else. Some of her siblings still live there all these years later. She talks about the orphanage with a heart full of gratitude. Hogar de los Niños filled a void for her, not just one of physical needs with food and clothes, but also the necessary intangibles of love, growing up with family, and role models. 

Rosa and Eduvigues, who worked in the orphanage, practically became her parents. Rosa taught her to read, write, and memorize math tables. Araceli recounts that she was never really a good student, but always tried hard and Rosa did see value in that. Araceli gets emotional when talking about Rosa, as she passed away a couple years ago. Rosa left a strong impression on her that she still carries with her to this day. Perhaps that’s where her strong work ethic came from. 

What Araceli lacked in study skills, she made up for with her love of physical activity, exercise, and spirit of determination. Putting all that together led her to open a neighborhood Zumba studio. Not bad for someone who didn’t finish middle school. She operated the Zumba studio for years, teaching many in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, she had to close that business due to the pandemic, but her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in again as she went back to school to be a masseuse. 

Araceli shares that she wants to open her own Zumba and spa business once her house is built. She already has it planned out, where the house will be on one side of her property and the other will be dedicated to studio and spa. She hopes rent payments for housing and business space will finally be a thing of the past. 

When talking about her daughter, Araceli’s face starts to brighten up. She says she wants to impart humility, a good work ethic, and persistence onto her young daughter. All qualities that have served her well throughout her life. Araceli also shares of a deep desire to break the cycle of family trauma, specifically of absent biological parents. She starts to get emotional again when explaining her motivation to be an active and present parent in her daughter’s life. Wanting her daughter to have access to family in all its fullness. 

Taking a moment to reflect on her life, Araceli says that she’s learned to recognize when things change, it is always for the better. Even when it doesn’t seem like it at the time, change brings opportunity. Whether its leaving Hogar de los Niños, starting a new business, becoming a mother, or dealing with a pandemic. She shares that each stage in life should be used as a step that leads to bigger and better things. Moving on before dependence and complacency have a chance to creep into the picture. Better days are always ahead for Araceli. 

In hearing how Araceli describes change in her life, I can’t help but think of her on the waiting list for a Doxa house. How a house will be another big change in her life and how it will fulfill a need that will help catapult her and her daughter to better things. 

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

It was my 8th grade science teacher who first introduced me to the concept of “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Sounding funny at first, but is so true. Every decision we make has some element of unknown that we are unaware of. In Tijuana, Doxa has seen this happen frequently with youth who have to make decisions about school and work earlier on in life. Without the opportunity or access to try new skills, learn new things, and more fully develop their giftings these critical decisions are made with far too little information. 

Schools in Tijuana operate on a permanent half-day schedule. This allows school buildings and teachers the ability to service twice as many students. However, it also means significantly less classroom time for students. While students receive the usual core subjects, such as math, history, reading, and writing, almost all schools lack access to the performing arts, visual arts, sports, technology, and counseling services. Furthermore, as students finish high school and look towards college, they must declare a major prior to enrollment. This pre-mature decision, forces them into a path with too many unknowns. 

Likewise, Doxa has found that youth who decide to exit school prior to finishing college, often choose work in the same area as their parents. While not necessarily a bad thing to do what your family has done, youth need to be empowered to experience the world and have the opportunity to develop their own giftings before making such a large life decision. After all that, if they decide to follow in their family’s footsteps, that’s great. And if they choose a different path, that’s great, too. This is at the heart of Doxa’s value of empowering young people

Recognizing the void of access to the performing arts, visual arts, sports, technology, and counseling services, Doxa sees an opportunity. Several years ago, Doxa started with a little dance group called Yelitza. Juan Sabino, the dance instructor, has since grown that group into one of the premier youth dance groups in Tijuana. Over the years, kids have shown a curiosity and desire to learn dance. They keep showing up! 

Earlier this year, Doxa’s Tijuana staff assessed what other opportunities we may have been missing and how best to address them. The top three were visual arts, music, and counseling. Over the past several months, we have undergone pilot programs in each of these areas. Ultimately, the goal is to grow Doxa’s offerings into permanent programs. I had the opportunity to interview a few of the newer instructors earlier this week. 

Susy is Doxa’s art teacher. She started with Doxa about 6 months ago in partnership with Tijuana’s cultural center and has a background of working with vulnerable communities. She believes that “art is therapy that changes lives” and that “art is important for the full human being because it opens doors that allow us to develop our talents.” She has seen how autistic kids have used art as therapy to become more independent and others have used art to calm their anxiety attacks. Susy hopes that exposure to visual arts will spark “changes in kids’ personality, growth in their confidence, self-esteem, and the skill of working in teams.” Susy’s motivation comes from her belief that cultivating the next generation of adults starts now, with how we treat and view the youth around us. She says that “while I may not be able to change a kid’s life in one day, I can help them to express themselves and mitigate their burdens through art.” 

Manuel is Doxa’s music teacher. For about the past 8 months, he has been teaching acoustic guitar and singing. His classes consist of teaching basic cords, rhythms, reading music, singing, and putting it all together in a finished song. His class’s first public performance was last month at Doxa’s fall fair. Manuel knows that his music classes are a success when “kids enjoy the class, learn the song, and their parents like what their kids have done.” While Manuel provides the instruction, he often lets students pick which songs they’d like to learn. He sees motivation in each student to keep getting better. 

Jorge is a psychologist, who works with Doxa a few times per week. He works with groups of elementary-age kids and adolescents. The age-appropriate workshops focus on emotional intelligence, depression, anxiety, family trauma cycles, and identity. Jorge has also dedicated time to grieving and processing losses experienced by the pandemic. Almost every single student at Doxa has experienced the loss of someone since March 2020. In addition, Jorge provides one-on-one sessions where necessary. Jorge strives to “form human beings who are emotionally intelligent and conscious of their surroundings, that can accept their errors and see them as a learning opportunity, that will be empathetic and help others without wanting anything in return.” 

While Susy, Manuel, and Jorge have all been a tremendous value-add for Doxa this year, it is only the start. Susy hopes to undertake a community-wide mural next year. Manuel can expand classes to other instruments besides acoustic guitar. And Jorge would love the opportunity to work with parents, as so much more progress can be made when families are in sync with each other. Additionally, Doxa sees opportunity in the areas of sports, technology, and engineering (to name a few). Whether through partnership with other organizations or directly with subject-matter experts, Doxa can facilitate impactful programing that exposes youth to the world around them. 

Doxa’s community center is a gathering place and facilitator of quality programming. Ely, Doxa’s director of operations, has worked hard to build a pipeline that can be flexible to changing needs. A way to bring experts into the community to share their passions and knowledge. These opportunities afford Doxa’s youth exposure to new things and a safe space to explore their curiosity. A way to find out what they like and don’t like. Youth emerge better-equipped to make decisions in their own lives and know a little more about themselves and the world around them. Doxa serves as a stepping-stone to greater things. 

An East Tijuana Home Base

Since the early 1990s, Doxa has been active on the West side of Tijuana. We’ve had the privilege of building over 2200 houses, thereby providing shelter to over 11,000 people. Over the last several years, needs have been changing and Doxa has started to also build houses in East Tijuana. 

Doxa absolutely wouldn’t have been able to build so many houses in West Tijuana without a great home base. A place where volunteer groups can come, stay, and prepare for their building days. A place that is well-known throughout the local community and trusted so that families can come and apply for houses. A place to store house building materials and tools that is safe and secure. Apart from the right place, it also takes the right relationships. The people that activate those places and make them come alive. People who are deeply embedded into the local community, know the families, know the needs, and can be present year-round. 

For West Tijuana, Doxa’s home base has always been Hogar de los Niños. We’ve had the privilege of growing alongside that orphanage for decades and used house building as a launching point for even more partnership.

When thinking about the vision of an East Tijuana home base, we strive to embrace Doxa’s values at all levels of implementation. This means collaboration with local organizations to the maximum extent possible. There’s no need to recreate the wheel, if we can partner with another organization who is already active. Working together, we can often have a larger impact than working alone and complement each other’s strengths. This also means being deeply committed to people, communities, and places. Making targeted and high-impact investments in relationships and spaces that will further strengthen the local community and help Doxa to achieve its mission. Cultivating and being committed to long-term partnerships sets the stage for future collaboration. This is exactly how house building led to the creation of Doxa’s education program.

In 2017, Doxa started to build houses in East Tijuana and has built around 70 houses so far. We’ve been able to hobble along without the benefit of an established East Tijuana home base. Groups have stayed at Unidos por Siempre and Rancho. House building materials have also been stored at both of those locations, and even at a neighbor’s house! Doxa’s supplies have been scattered everywhere. When it rains, we need to throw tarps over the lumber piles! It’s a real chore to keep everything organized and accounted for. 

What Doxa has lacked in an established facility, however, it has made up for with relationships. Maria Figueroa (pictured right) and Jaime Ortiz (pictured at top) are the two principal relationships that have been cultivated over the past few years. Maria is the founder and director of Unidos por Siempre. She heads up family selection and on-the-ground logistics for groups. Jaime is the manager at Rancho. He heads up Rancho facilities and interfaces directly with groups who stay there. Together, these two (and their respective coworkers) are integral to working in concert with groups during their time in Tijuana. 

With the relationships in place, it is now time for Doxa to work on a more established East Tijuana facility. Unidos por Siempre is a good place for small groups to stay, but we also need to be mindful that it is a working orphanage without much space. Rancho, on the other hand, is a very large place with over 20 acres of land and can accommodate groups of all sizes in their dorm-style rooms. Unidos por Siempre and Rancho are only about 3 minutes away from each other and are both focal points in the neighborhood. 

The most urgent need is now a shed in East Tijuana that can accommodate 14 houses of materials, tools, and storage. This will complete the vision of having an East Tijuana home base where groups can land and launch out of in service to the local community. Rancho has graciously offered to provide room so a storage shed can be built. Plans are already finished and its time fundraise to make this a reality. Our goal is to complete fundraising for this project as part of Doxa’s December matching campaign and build the shed in time for groups to use in 2023. While there will always be more projects to further enhance and improve an East Tijuana home base, the addition of a shed signifies that all the pieces are present and functioning. 

The team of Maria and Jaime, as well as their respective spaces at Unidos por Siempre and Rancho, provide Doxa with partners for the next 2200+ houses! We are so thankful to them for working with Doxa and ultimately bringing glory to God through their service!

Doxa’s Value: Empowering Young People

This article is part of a series, taking a deeper dive into each of Doxa’s five values. Our last article was on collaboration with local organizations

Empowering young people has been central to Doxa since day one. At a basic level, empowering others involves equipping with necessary tools and facilitating opportunity. When both of these are done well, it leads to intentionally holding space for growth. Allowing young people to surprise you as their unique gifts blossom and develop. 

Another essential part of empowering young people is not controlling the outcome. Allowing space for failure also means allowing space for success. Having young people develop their own motivations and agency results in growth. We, meanwhile, fully acknowledge that this process may be a bit bumpy. Afterall, life isn’t always perfect. 

Doxa has been careful to incorporate the value of empowering young people into the fabric of each mission area: house building, education, and community. It certainly looks different in each area, but the central ideas of equipping and facilitating remain constant. 

House Building 

In the early 1990s, house building operations were just starting. Volunteer groups were all comprised of high school youth from churches. James B. Notkin, youth pastor at the time, recalled using the house building experience as part of a shift in youth ministry from an entertainment model to an empowerment model. An opportunity that allowed young people to push themselves, see Christ in a new way, and make a big impact on others in the process. 

Doxa provides the materials, qualified recipient family, tools, and manual necessary to build a house. The design of the house is purposeful in its simplicity, utility, and appropriateness for the context in which it is in. A wood structure that is easy enough to build for those without experience, but also of necessary building standards and quality for life in Tijuana. This intentionally provides space for groups of young people to successfully build a house in less than a week’s time with little or no building experience. It is not necessarily easy, days can be long, hard, and dirty. However, it is more than doable and each team completes it in their own way. 

Oftentimes, the takeway message is that young people do not need to wait, get more educated, have more experience, or grow up in order to make a meaningful difference in the world. That through the gifts they already have, and those they will develop along the way, young people are ready to start now. Another factor, which sometimes gets overlooked is that building a house is a very tangible outcome. It’s easy to step back at the end of the week, see the difference and the life-changing impact on the recipient family (not to mention the cross-cultural relationships that have been formed). It’s a very perceptible experience from start to finish. 

It is Doxa’s hope that this house building opportunity of empowering young people will spill over into other areas of their lives. As they return back home, changed from their experience in Tijuana. 

Education 

Doxa takes a holistic approach to its education program. Mexican students come from varying backgrounds, so each needs a little something different in order to have the opportunity to succeed scholastically. Equipping students can mean providing uniforms, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, tuition fees, transportation, and medical/dental/vision checkups. These are the basic necessities just to get in the door and have an opportunity. 

Thinking beyond the basic necessities, Doxa further provides the opportunity to study well and succeed. We do this by operating after-school resource classrooms with qualified tutors, Internet, and computer/printer access. These dedicated spaces, provide the opportunity for students to study in a focused atmosphere that is not distracting or full of other temptations. Almost all of Doxa’s students live in houses that are no larger than 500 square feet and house 4-8 people. It’s extremely rare that any of them would have a dedicated study space.

Thankfully, in the past several years, it has gotten easier to find spots in school for incoming students. However, in the event that a family can’t find a spot in school for their child, we use our network to help. Tijuana’s school system is made up of several types of schools: federal, state, municipal, and private. Each school has its own teachers, principal, and rules. It results in a complicated patchwork system for parents to navigate. 

Doxa is committed to do anything in order to provide a quality opportunity for students to succeed in school, but only when they are also motivated. Each family and student drive their own success, while Doxa takes care of providing the necessary tools and opportunity. This approach results in ownership over their school journey, with almost all students achieving higher levels of education than their parents did. 

Community 

In 2017, Doxa interviewed over 70 families who had received houses since the early 1990s. One of the key takeaways of this study was that youth who did not experience much outside of their own neighborhood ended up following in their family’s (and neighbor’s) footsteps. While not necessarily bad to do the same as your parents, it’s important to be equipped with the knowledge that there’s other options and avenues. 

Empowering young people at Doxa’s community center is all about exposure and opportunity. It’s exposure to new skills, things, and experiences. It’s opportunity to put into practice, perform, and showcase what one has learned or seen. 

For example, Doxa’s dance group (called Yelitza) is led by Juan Sabino. He not only teaches the dance moves, history, and meaning; but also uses his connections to get performances lined up. Yelitza performs about 35 times per year in venues that range from city-wide performances to private parties. He takes the group all over Tijuana. It’s a way that Doxa’s youth get exposure to others within the dance world and can use Yelitza as a stepping-stone to bigger things. In this way, Yelitza’s reputation has also been elevated and is known for cultivating some of the best new dancers in Tijuana. 

It’s also important to get young people exposure to new surroundings. Baja California is an extraordinary state, rich in history and natural beauty. However, you wouldn’t necessarily know that from living in the city of Tijuana. Each year, Doxa takes its youth to the cultural center and then out of the city for a camping trip. An opportunity to leave one’s surroundings and see something new. For many young people, this is their first time outside of the city of Tijuana. 

Through exposure to new and unfamiliar things, young people’s imagination and curiosity are awakened. They can see possibilities that they didn’t know existed and try many different things to see what fits them best. After all that, if they decide to follow in their family’s footsteps, that’s great. And if they choose a different path, that’s great, too. It’s the provision of opportunity that allows them the freedom to choose and become motivated about their own futures. 

20th Anniversary of Unidos por Siempre

On October 12, 2022 Unidos por Siempre celebrated its 20th anniversary. A big milestone for any organization. Located in Rojo Gomez, a neighborhood in Eastern Tijuana, Unidos por Siempre has seen its surroundings change dramatically. Back in 2002, Rojo Gomez was largely vacant land with no utilities, schools, or infrastructure. Nowadays, Rojo Gomez is much more developed with access to running water and electricity (in most areas), schools that offer K-12 classes, some paved roads, and stores. Just as the surrounding neighborhood has evolved over the past 20 years, so has Unidos por Siempre. Maria, who founded Unidos por Siempre, and Angeles, who grew up and now works at Unidos por Siempre shared some of their experiences over the past 20 years. 

Angeles explained that Unidos por Siempre has gone through three major chapters in its life: soup kitchen, orphanage, and social assistance. The constant, though, is its commitment to the Rojo Gomez community and maintaining relevance by adapting to changing needs. 

From 2002 until 2008, Unidos por Siempre was only a soup kitchen. Angeles was just 6 years old at the time and remembers helping to bring out chairs and tables each day for other kids to come and eat lunch. She vividly recalls that one of the tables was made of particle board and the corner would slowly get chipped away from all its use. Maria remembers a big tree that used to provide shade, but also get in the way. During those years, Unidos por Siempre established itself as a place where the community could come to eat and gather for a little bit each day. 

Then, from 2008 until 2020, Unidos por Siempre became an orphanage. Angeles remembers that it all started with a pull-out couch, which was the first bed. She recalls there being a mountain of kids around as they would have pajama parties regularly. Maria reminisces on all the energy and excitement there was as more beds and rooms were slowly added. Most kids were from the surrounding community and needed outside support to survive. There were also some kids from DIF that the government temporarily placed there. Maria is proud about those days, in which they didn’t always have everything needed, but did they best they could. What they lacked in resources, they made up for with kids and community. 

Maria specifically recounts three kids who have had a lasting impact on her. Osvaldo came to live at Unidos por Siempre when he was 9 and was very timid a first. What ended up bringing him out of his shell was the food and sharing mealtime with everyone. He lived at Unidos por Siempre for years, ended up completing college, and is now a criminologist. Luis is another child who grew up at Unidos por Siempre, who is now an engineer. Gustavo is yet another child to complete college and is now an accountant. Maria’s face beams with pride as she recounts their stories, like she’s being taking on a trip down memory lane herself. 

Angeles calls the current chapter of Unidos por Siempre “social assistance.” While there are still kids who call Unidos por Siempre their permanent home, it is not the same quantity or need that the orphanage used to fulfill. Angeles explains that the community of Rojo Gomez isn’t quite as poor as it used to be and the needs are slowly changing. Maria adds that the main focuses of Unidos por Siempre are now temporary housing for kids and families, education, childcare, and food. Maria’s desire and call to the community of Rojo Gomez is as strong as ever, even as needs change. 

When asked about the legacy of Unidos por Siempre, Maria gets a little emotional and conveys her hope that each person passing through would know and love God, be well-educated, and learn the value of cleanliness. She states that the best inheritance she can leave for kids is a good education. Angeles agrees and adds that her journey to finish college wasn’t always easy, but wouldn’t have been possible without Unidos por Siempre’s help. 

Today, Maria sees the impact of her many years of work as most of the kids still keep in contact. She gets invited to quinceañeras, weddings, and baby shows. It’s not uncommon for her to see kids that grew up in Unidos por Siempre with kids of their own now. Just as Unidos por Siempre has made a big difference in the lives of many children, Maria has also come out changed. It’s impossible for anyone to forgot those formative years together. 

Maria closes our time together on a note of thankfulness. She is grateful for all the help and opportunity to know so many people. She has crossed paths with kids, Tijuana government officials, volunteers, families, and various partners on both sides of the border. She’s joyful and thankful to have been in a position to invest time, love, and care into so many lives that have come through Unidos por Siempre.