Last weekend my son, Alex, a friend, Mike, and I made what has become an annual winter trip to Tijuana and Tecate, northern border towns of Mexico.  From 1989 to 2005 our family went each summer with volunteer church teams to build one or two homes. Within a few years we added winter trips to visit the families of the homes we most connected with emotionally.  We still take food baskets and Christmas gifts for the parents to give to their children to about 10 families. 

It has been an interesting experience to watch these families mature over the years. We have watched children grow into adulthood. We are now holding the babies of the babies we held while building their houses. 

When I first arrived in Tijuana, it was exceedingly poor with only a few paved roads and very little infrastructure. There was no electricity and no running water in the areas we were building, not far from the city center.  People were coming from even poorer conditions all over Mexico, leaving families and hometowns, to homestead land near the border with the hope of making a better life.  Over the years, this would prove to be a risk well worth taking. The economy there has blossomed. Although it is still quite poor when compared to US standards, there is a big difference from the extreme poverty of the late 80’s. Many of our friends, while eking out a living, are also supporting their parents and extended families back in the villages. 

Some of the families are barely surviving while, it seems, others are thriving.  One of the indicators I have been observing is the level of education being attained by the children.  Most of the children make it to about 9th grade, which is mandatory there.  One of the key factors which seems to influence the ability for children to move on to high school, and even university, is the family structure.  In each case where a child has made it to university, from the families we know, there are two parents, both working, who actively encourage the child to further their education. 

The families where children only do the minimum education required by law are living in homes of single mothers who are not highly educated.  Those kids are now struggling to find work. The one family where the mother died and the father abandoned his four sons are coping the worst. Neighbor ladies have stepped in to care for the boys as much as possible, but the older boys have already quit school and are finding it difficult to find jobs. 

In my observations, children who live in poverty, at least, survive under the care of a loving mother. In order to really thrive, they need two supportive parents. But, woe to the ones who lose their mothers, especially if other women don’t step in to care for them.  It takes a village to raise a child and that village does a better job when the women are empowered. Join us as we inspire women around the world by promoting wellness, education and economic opportunities.

Source: Sow Hope