The Doxa Download (Blog)

Every two months we post a series of new stories about Doxa and Tijuana. Check them out below and sign-up to get them delivered straight to your inbox.
We'd love to have you join us!

Doxa respects your right to privacy, treats all your information confidentially, and never shares information with any 3rd parties.

Doxa Update and Ask

Like most everyone else, Doxa has never experienced something like the effects of a pandemic. It will be at least a full 2 years before the first US volunteer group comes back to stay and build in Tijuana. A slower than projected return. The only other time in Doxa’s 30-year history that even comes close is 2008, when the effects of Mexican cartel activity and the global financial crisis caused some groups to skip building that year.

Even with the pandemic disruption, Doxa has continued to operate on the ground in Tijuana. Since April 2020, groups and individual donors have funded the building of 39 houses, equipped 117+ scholarship students for distance learning, facilitated limited community events (such as summer camp), and supported Hogar de los Niños and Unidos por Siempre orphanages.

House building fundamentally changed with the creation of two local building teams. Once houses are funded, these teams work with the families to level the site, pour the cement slab, and construct the house. Thankfully, we have been able to build houses for all families that were promised one last year. The wait list continues to grow, though, with no firm dates of when the next houses will be built.

Education has looked different, as well. Equipping all scholarship students for distance learning entailed the purchase of many laptops, tablets, software, and school supplies. It also meant outfitting Hogar de los Niños, Unidos por Siempre, and Doxa with business printers, more tutoring staff, good Internet connections, and supplies. These classrooms function as resource centers to support kids during distance learning.

Thankfully, Doxa has a large property that is mostly undeveloped. This means lots of outdoor space, which has permitted limited community events. Summer camp made a return this year, dance classes have resumed, and every Thursday afternoon people gather to play soccer, volleyball, or kickball. Doxa’s community programs, however, aren’t as active as they once were.

Pre-pandemic, about 1000 people per year came down to Tijuana with Doxa to build houses. These operations and the resulting donors accounted for the majority of Doxa’s revenue. Not only did house building groups have an immensely positive impact on Doxa, but also on Hogar de los Niños and Unidos por Siempre orphanages. The absence of groups has, unfortunately, resulted in a financial toll on Doxa that also has ripple effects to the partner orphanages.

Doxa desires to still be present in the lives of students, families, and both orphanages. To continue the long-term relationships that have been formed over the past 30 years. In order to sustain operations, education scholarships, and community programs Doxa is embarking on a fundraising goal of $175,000. These donations will result in a fully operational education scholarship program, continuation of community events, and retention of all staff through 2022.

We ask that you prayerfully consider supporting Doxa during this time. Here’s how:

Thank you for your years of partnership and together we’ll continue impacting the communities of Tijuana.

What is Doxa? – by Dale & Liz Whitney

If you are reading this newsletter then it is possible you have been to Tijuana and are missing the community there as desperately as we are. We must acknowledge at the outset our deep appreciation for Rosa, our mentor and friend.

Many of you have been asked this question, “So what is Doxa?” If you have been to Tijuana, depending on when you went or with whom, your answers may have varied from house building, day camp, to worshiping in a “thin” place where God seems to be nearer than our world back home. An underlying component of our collective experience is the relationships that have surrounded all of us – teammates, house families, and the orphanages that have hosted us.

For the Whitney’s Doxa is defined by the people and encounters we have had in Tijuana: from brilliant Rosa who believed that education could change a generation, to the house building efforts from donors and builders up and down the West Coast, to Tony and Casa Hogar de Los Niños, to friends like the Tzecs, to our visits to the bodega and materiales store, to the plan for a Community Center in Pedregal, to a new partnership in East Tijuana, and to the students whose career paths were influenced by their time in Tijuana. We have had twenty-five years of shared meals and prayers, celebrations of births, weddings, birthdays & anniversaries, loads of lumber, and gallons of paint. Over two thousand new homes, new opportunities for education, new connections in developing neighborhoods, and a whole lot of lessons about grit and tenacity, this is our Doxa.

The Church in Tijuana Meets the Church in Seattle

For us, friends in Tijuana prayed for our kindergarten Sunday School students, many who grew up to make their own trips to build a house, while we in Seattle prayed for the children we met in Tijuana. How grateful for who they are now and their voices in our lives. (Thank you, Facebook.)

We are also thankful for a congregation in Seattle who believes in each other. They have generously supported house building and education in Tijuana. Dale remembers a little girl sitting amidst the debris in the old dump in Tijuana and to this day, she lingers in his prayers. He says Doxa isn’t just the people who build, but also the people who donate, who pray, and encourage those who are partnering with her family (and families like hers) for something different. We have often been part of an Easter house building trip with high school students and are often struck that the same God who died for us also died for that little girl. Resurrection Sunday.

Liz notes that new home owners in Tijuana have been so supportive of the team members working with them on their homes. For those in Tijuana, they have to own the land – no small feat, and then they are trusting our teams to construct a solid structure. Many of you know the dynamic we are describing. Families providing drinks or treats; asking about the builders, praying for them.

A Part of the Gospel

One father of a new home gave this crucifix to our team, with these powerful words, “Thank you for your part in the Gospel.” The crucifix hangs in the kitchen at the Old Orfa as a reminder of a partnership that we have participated in and one that continues to change lives on both sides of the border.

This is Doxa.

Summer Camp Recap

Summer camp has become a tradition over the past decade. What started with a handful of kids during one week has grown into a month-long summer camp with over 100 children. Last year’s summer camp was canceled due to the pandemic, much to the disappointment of kids and parents alike. This year, however, we got creative and crafted a COVID-friendly summer camp.

With 84 kids and 14 volunteers, this year’s summer camp was a little smaller than usual. COVID protocols meant limiting the number of attendees, holding almost all activities outdoors, not doing any field trips, and removing the lunch component of camp. Still, everyone was eager to return to camp this year!

New offerings included activities specifically designed for middle school kids. In years past, Doxa’s camp was only open to elementary aged kids, but now many of Doxa’s students are growing up. Ely was instrumental in putting together age-appropriate offerings for middle schoolers. These included physical activity games, DARE classes by Tijuana police officers, and psychologist-led mental health and sex-education seminars.

Meanwhile, the elementary school kids were busy with the usual arts and crafts, sports games, and activities. Thankfully, there were plenty of adult volunteers around to run the various stations.

Since there were no field trips this year, Flavio and Sabino put together a water obstacle course for the last Friday of camp. Something special that we haven’t done before. Kids were split into two teams and competed against each other to see who could finish the course in the fasted time. Everyone enjoyed it so much that I think we’ve inadvertently created another summer camp tradition.

Overall, it was so good to be active, playful, and creative around one another again. For many, this summer camp was the first time in over a year that they had really been around other people or did team activities. Time to dust the wheels off and get moving again!

Education Scholarship Report

Last year was turbulent. The adjustment to online learning was tough; not just because of the change in scenery, but also because of a technology gap experienced by almost all of Doxa’s students. Likewise, it was a time of adjustment for Doxa, as we learned how best to support students in this new environment. For many, it looked like providing laptops, tablets, and Internet access. Doxa also worked to quickly and safely open back up its after-school program to serve as resource classrooms. These efforts made it possible for students to complete their work and continue their studies.

Over the past few weeks, students all across Tijuana have headed back to school. There are various public school systems and private schools, so not everyone has the same start date. The vast majority of students continue with online learning, with some universities and high schools going back in-person on a hybrid schedule.

Over the summer, there were rumors of a return to in-person classes for everyone come this September. Those were, however, just rumors as school administrations keep pushing back the date to return to the classrooms. The most recent communication stated November, but that even seems too good to be true.

Doxa’s education program remains strong with 117 students this academic year. They range in age from kindergarten to university and live all across Tijuana. They come from Hogar de los Niños, Unidos por Siempre, and the neighborhoods that Doxa has typically built houses. Most of these students are on a full scholarship; which includes school uniform, supplies, backpack, shoes, books, transportation, tutoring, and access to a resource classroom every school day. There are also many students who are not formally on scholarship by Doxa, but attend a Doxa resource classroom when needed. They could just need a dedicated place to study, Internet access, or a tutor for homework help.

Doxa’s education program has been operating for 15 years. And as the program has gotten older so have our students. Doxa now has 14 students in college, wow! They are studying towards a wide range of degrees that include hotel management, international relations, administration, and psychology. It’s amazing to see these students grow up into awesome men and women!

If you’d like to help Doxa develop great students all across Tijuana, it’s easy to become a sponsor. Click here for more information. We currently have openings for new sponsors at elementary, middle, high, and college levels.

2020 from Andrew, Doxa’s Board Chair

The ministry of Doxa has been around for almost thirty years and continues to grow as God calls us to serve in the many neighborhoods of Tijuana. Over the last year the board and staff took the time to reflect on what the next five, ten and twenty years has in store for Doxa. This was not always an easy process as we were forced to identify our strengths along with our weaknesses, but the results have been rewarding.

We studied our vision, mission and values, which allowed us to refine these key concepts to align with the organization we have grown to be while not losing sight of the core values that were set in place almost thirty ago. The refining of these foundational elements set the stage for us to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the upcoming years that creates short-term and long-term goals. 

Some of our short-term goals include expanding board membership, fundraising and increased marketing. We have already brought on two new board members and will be looking to grow the board by a few more in the months and year to come. Our fundraising efforts took shape this last spring as our Executive Director, Alex Knopes, led a robust campaign to ensure that houses were still being built even though the pandemic restricted groups from participating in the building of the houses themselves. Through this fundraising we were able to safely employ local labor to complete the houses and provide homes for families that had been waiting. We have also begun to establish fundraising campaigns that will include the Pedregal Community Center and expansion concepts for house building and community outreach in East Tijuana. As we continue to expand our marketing efforts, we encourage all of our supporters to follow us on social media. Please see links below so you can stay up to date on all of these goals as we work hard to push them forward. 

We believe these goals will continue to push us towards our vision and mission. A vision of:

A world in which relational and economic life flourishes, where people are globally compassionate and gain new life by giving theirs away.

Doxa’s Vision

And a mission to:

Create opportunities for people to serve Tijuana through house building, education, and long-term community.

Doxa’s Mission

In all our ministries we are striving to further our vision and mission. We are most excited to see our first community center building take shape in the neighborhood of Pedregal. We are nearing the completion of the plans and will begin to get bids for the construction and strategize the phasing of this capital project. The community center will be designed to support the Tijuana community through child and adult education, providing tutoring programs and community events. Taking a relational and interactive approach will help to form long-term community relationships. It is exciting to see this concept turn towards reality and we look forward to engaging all of our communities on both sides of the border to come alongside as we realize this goal together. 

Remembering Rosa (April 17, 1966 – October 2, 2020) – by James B. Notkin

When we first began to build homes in Colonia Pedregal de Santa Julia the roads were dirt and deeply crevassed, without electricity the sprinkling of houses on the hillsides, were dark at night and every drop of water, whether for cleaning or drinking, was trucked around the neighborhood. Clearly, great change occurred over the last thirty years but one constant was Rosa and her passion to make life better for every person she encountered. 

I first met Rosa in the early 90’s when she came to Hogar de los Niños orphanage and cared for the kids there. Each year about a hundred high school students from our church would travel across the border to build houses and the orphanage was our base of operations. In addition to all her work at the orphanage, which at the time had over seventy children living there, Rosa’s duties included helping out-of-their-depth youth pastors, like me, navigate everything from finding building sites and creating a lumber yard throughout the orphanage to delivering sand and finding a tow-truck for a van teetering over a cliff – all done, regardless of what other mishaps had occurred that day, with graciousness and a brilliant smile. To be honest, I am not sure the smile was good natured restrained laughter at my ineptness or, in the early years when she was learning English, a way of communicating her great support for our endeavors. Either way the smile always helped. 

Over the years the building trips grew larger in size and in number and it became clear to the Doxa (then Homes without Boundaries) leadership team that growth was due in no small part to Rosa. Many short-term missions do more damage than good because of their “hit and run” nature but Rosa’s year-round presence and engagement in the community dovetailed into Doxa’s commitment to return year after year to the same place and built trust in the neighborhood and beyond. Logically, we hired Rosa full time and with that both the community and Doxa became stronger. More specifically, each of us became stronger inspired by her compassion and commitment. 

Most of the teams from the US knew Rosa from the educational offerings like day camps she organized or the house building projects she supported but there was so much more. She was known by multitudes as “la profe.” Others saw her as the unofficial mayor of the region. And for many she attained that mononymous status reserved for Elvis or Prince and was simply Rosa — as in one person saying to another in need, “go see Rosa.” Regardless of her title, Rosa was a force for good. In the movies the good guys wore white hats but in Pedregal they wore bright white sneakers and those white sneakers of Rosa were everywhere: out in Brisa Marina talking to a family about building a house, at the clinic taking a woman with cancer who had no other way to see a doctor, at the community center tutoring, meeting with Zumba instructors to offer classes, in another colonia delivering food and supplies to a woman with disabilities, at the Annex overseeing the delivery of house building materials, or downtown partnering with the City of Tijuana to build three hundred houses further out on the highway where we are still building today. Rosa was a one-person Social Welfare and Housing Agency — and a great one.

More importantly Rosa was Flavio’s beloved and Paola, Esmerelda, and Flavio’s mom. They were her pride and her joy — her eyes dazzling at the mention of them. To each of them I, Doxa and am sure all who benefitted from Rosa’s dedicated work, her sacrifice of evening and weekend time with her family to resolve a visiting group’s crisis, want to say the deepest thank you for sharing the gift of Rosa with us. 

Several years ago, Rosa traveled to Rome and received an audience with Pope John Paul II. As she spoke to me humbly of this joyful experience that affirmed her God-given belovedness, it was profoundly evident this belovedness was the source of the belovedness she poured out to all who met her. Rosa knew she was loved by Jesus and responded with her whole being. Her wisdom and influence permeate Doxa. Being in Tijuana will never be the same without Rosa who has travelled this journey with so many of us. Yet, her influence, example and inspiration remain, encouraging us to dream and persevere in our mission. Jeff Holland, a co-founder of Homes without Boundaries (now Doxa), tells the story of coming back from a tough day of building houses when Rosa, who had brought in a mariachi band came up to him and asked, “Why aren’t you dancing?” Jeff wanted nothing more than to take a bucket shower. But Rosa insisted, “It’s a fiesta. You have to dance.” That’s Rosa. There are always obstacles and heartaches on the road to being a beloved community but it doesn’t mean you don’t keep dancing. Constantly. 

House Building, Education, and Community Report

Doxa’s house building, education, and community operations have been heavily impacted this year (no surprise there). The solutions of the past were not going to work as easily in a 2020 world. In order to continue Doxa’s mission, creative solutions were used. House building realized by employing local construction teams, education largely online (but some still in person), and community reimagined. 

For the first time in over a month, the local house building teams were back on the job sites. They completed two new houses over the weekend. Bittersweet, as they were the first houses built without Rosa. Still, it is good to get back to work and work at something that Rosa believed in with her whole heart. The families worked alongside Doxa’s local building teams and together the houses were completed. New green and blue structures dot the hillside in Rojo Gomez, and the Jaral Cejudo Family and the Gomez Ambriz Family now have a house to sleep in. Next up for these families is moving in and turning their house into a home. 

The education scholarship program has largely moved online, equipping all middle and high school students to learn with laptops and Internet access. A handful of the younger ones, 2nd and 3rd grade still come to Doxa and get more personalized assistance. Over the summer, we outfitted Doxa with all the necessary COVID-19 equipment and procedures in order to have smaller study groups utilize classroom space. Doxa continues to work with Hogar de los Niños and Unidos por Siempre on their education needs. Providing a dedicated tutor who comes to work with the kids on a daily basis has proved to work well in those settings. The classroom at Unidos por Siempre now functions as an in-home school for those kids. 

Admittedly, finding ways to continue the community part of Doxa’s mission has been the most challenging. Aside from providing families with some food packages, holding a parent meeting on COVID-19, and some virtual communications with families, it’s been difficult to cultivate the kind of community that Doxa is typically accustomed to. We just haven’t been able to find a way to adapt the authentic in-person, face-to-face connection that draws people to Doxa’s summer camp, parenting classes, community events, fall carnival, clubs, and activities in a COVID-19 world. While those program offerings remain on pause, God has presented an enormous opportunity in the meantime: to assemble stakeholders and form a local task force to detail out the programmatic plan of the Pedregal Community Center. Parents, neighborhood leaders, Doxa staff, and subject experts are part of this effort. Just as the design for the community center was driven by local stakeholders, so is the programmatic approach. As things continue to develop, we look forward to sharing them with you all! 

Finally, none of the reimagined house building, education, or community work could’ve been realized without your support. We are so thankful for all of the groups and individuals who have donated this year. We literally wouldn’t still be here without you! The trust that you’ve placed in Doxa to still carry out its work in the midst of a pandemic is something we don’t take lightly. The current status of Doxa’s fall/winter fundraising goals are below: 

  • 14.3 out of 20 houses funded!
  • 65 out of 50 new scholarships funded! Goal exceeded, praise God!
  • $2500 out of $2500 raised for community food packages!

We’ve met or exceeded two out of three fall/winter fundraising goals and are closing in on the third! Thank you for the outpouring of generosity for the people of Tijuana!!

Remembering Rosa

It is with great sadness that we share Rosa Amelia Dominguez Zavala passed away in the early morning hours on Friday, October 2, 2020. She is succeeded by her husband, Flavio, and their children. This news is painful and shocking as we grieve this loss together. 

Rosa had been active in the Tijuana community for almost her entire adult life. She worked with Casa Hogar de los Niños orphanage, Doxa, and the catholic church San Judas Tadeo. Rosa got her start at Hogar de los Niños and became part of the fabric of the neighborhood (Colonia Pedregal de Santa Julia). With Doxa, Flavio shared that Rosa found her passion and really shined. From Doxa’s inception, she was the main person to qualify families for house building. And for more than a decade, Rosa led Doxa’s education and community programming. She dedicated her time to mentoring kids and their parents, whether through the after-school program, summer camp, parenting classes, or special events and clubs. Flavio noted that with Doxa, Rosa had a platform to affect change in her local community which gave her and those around her flourishing life.

We give thanks and continue to be in amazement at all the things God was able to accomplish through Rosa. She touched thousands of lives on both sides of the border. While we will miss her dearly, we know she is in a better place now. Earlier this morning, Flavio and their children shared that they were so grateful for everyone’s friendship, support, hard work, and love. In serving Tijuana together, it has been your love poured out that has made the difference. Rosa saw everyone as part of her family and she always opened her house up to everyone. Her family intends to keep her legacy of that.

Rosa’s burial is scheduled for tomorrow at 10am PDT. While there won’t be any large church gathering, we invite you to join in a moment of prayer at that time for Rosa and her family.

For those who are interested and able, there is a Memorial Fund setup to help with funeral and unexpected family expenses during this time.

Thank you for your continued love and, as Rosa would say, I’m sending you a fuerte abrazo (big hug). 

– Doxa’s Board of Directors & Alex Knopes

House Building with Local Teams

We are now three-quarters of the way done with 2020 and not a single nail has been hammered by an American volunteer group. That’s a statement most, if not all, of us never thought would be the case. Instead, local building teams have been hard at work cranking out houses (15 houses completed so far). This has led to a very interesting dynamic, a worksite with all Mexican builders. 

With the onset of COVID-19, it became clear that this year was going to look very different for house building operations. While Doxa was firmly committed to building for qualified families that had been on the waiting list, it would be accomplished with the hiring of local building teams and raising financial support from groups and individuals. This new model has showcased some of the best of everyone involved. Groups and individuals have shown enormous generosity in giving, families have worked hard on their own houses, and Doxa has been able to provide increased employment opportunities for builders in the local community. Seeing everyone shine in their roles has been a privilege. 

Many times groups that have experience building in Tijuana assume that locals would build the house much better and faster than they do. While there may be some truth to this, there’s still a learning curve. The local teams use cement mixers and power tools to speed up the process. It’s also not uncommon for them to pre-cut all of the lumber the day before. These steps dramatically speed up the assembly process on the worksite. Not to mention the experience that these teams gain week after week of working with each other and the 12-hour days they put in. 

Of course, there’s still the moments of “oh, I forgot the box of roofing nails back at the orphanage” or “I could have sworn that the window lengths were 46” instead of 46 ½,” guess we’ll have to recut some lumber.” Squaring up the walls and roof can also be a challenge. It doesn’t magically just come together for the local teams, either. Kids on the worksite still play in the paint while moms chase after them. It seems as though, even across cultures, we still have things in common. 

One thing that is different on the worksite is the feel and atmosphere. There’s less talking and more non-verbal communication. There’s an awareness of process and order of building that is unspoken. When things are explained, few words are used. Everyone is keenly aware of the overall goal of finishing the house and is constantly looking to see how the group is progressing. To describe it in a nutshell, it is a group mentality versus an individual mentality. It is approaching the task from the standpoint of what is needed, instead of what I want to do. Not surprisingly, the time with the most talking is lunch time. Conversations start and drag on through the food; until it’s time to get back to work! 

Through the end of this year, our goal is to keep the local teams building and houses coming. We are about half way to our goal of funding 20 more houses. Thank you so much to everyone who has already contributed, you’ve already made such an impact. If you’re interested and able to donate, please do so through our secure website

Distance Learning in Tijuana and Doxa Education

Just as COVID-19 has caused many schools across the United States to transition to distance learning, Tijuana schools have taken the same approach. Since April, there has been no in-person classes and there won’t be any until at least 2021. Zoraida, a Tijuana schools assistant principal, shared that distance learning is largely dependent upon the teacher. Various methods are being used such as Google Classroom, Zoom, WhatsApp, and broadcast TV. Zoraida believes it’s important to have some sort of communication with each student and their family, but what that looks like is dependent upon the family’s resources and teacher capability. 

For the students sponsored by Doxa’s education program, Rosa notes that distance learning over video seems to work for middle school, high school, and college students. Elementary school children, however, still need the in-person atmosphere in order to properly learn. In preparing for this school year, Doxa equipped all of the middle school, high school, and college students with the technology and access needed to learn remotely at home. For elementary school children, Doxa has opened its after-school program for in-person classes. Of course, all the necessary safety and health precautions are being taken to ensure students remain healthy while getting the educational support they need. 

Hogar de los Niños and Unidos por Siempre are equipped with laptops, Internet access, and tutors to help their children engage scholastically. The older kids often help the younger kids with their homework. Thankfully, both orphanages have a dedicated classroom where kids study throughout the day. Unidos por Siempre even has a school teacher who comes a few days a week. The children in both of these orphanages are fortunate to have school brought to them this year. 

For a school year where learning in the classroom probably will not occur, we are so thankful for the new solutions that still allow learning to take place. Even though all of these students will be automatically passed onto the next grade level, our goal is that they will learn the material at the same level they would have in-person in the classroom. 

As expected, we have seen an increase in scholarship applicants and the cost of equipping students to learn remotely. Through the end of this year, our goal is to raise an additional 50 scholarships and we are half way there. If you have already supported, thank you so much! If you’d like to get involved, you can purchase any of the school supplies from our Amazon list or give a monthly scholarship. Any and all support makes a huge difference, thank you!