Sample Advocacy Options: At the Border and Beyond

ARISE (A Resource in Serving Equality)

A premier community-based, non-profit organization with five centers in the poorest small towns in America, such as Alamo, Texas, whose mission is to empower community women by focusing on children's educational needs. Since mothers and grandmothers play a key role in the dissemination of health information to their children, women in the colonias have been targeted with interventions, such as health education groups, by ARISE, to help prevent diabetes and obesity in children. Community for Children participants have worked with ARISE to capture their legacy in word and media, to survey communities to identify health and education needs (link to filename ARISE abstract), and to consolidate their statistical data from 25 years of service for grant writing.


Article about ARISE from Texas Observer

YouTube video

Cameron Park fitness

Cameron Park Colonia Project

Colonia is a Spanish term for neighborhood or community. In Texas, colonia refers to an unincorporated settlement that lacks basic water and sewer systems, paved roads, and safe and sanitary housing. The development of Texas colonias dates back to at least the 1950s. Using agriculturally valueless land, land that lay in floodplains or other rural properties, developers created unincorporated subdivisions. They divided the land into small lots, put in little or no infrastructure, then sold them to low-income individuals seeking affordable housing. Houses in colonias are generally constructed piecemeal by their owners and may lack electricity, plumbing and other basic amenities.

Dilapidated homes, a lack of potable water and sewer and drainage systems, and floodplain locations make many colonias an ideal place for the proliferation of disease. Texas Department of State Health Services data show that hepatitis A, salmonellosis, dysentery, cholera and other diseases occur at much higher rates in colonias than in Texas as a whole. Tuberculosis is also a common health threat, occurring almost twice as frequently along the border than in Texas as a whole.

Community for Children participants have opportunities to develop programs for families who reside in the community. They conduct needs assessments through discussions with mothers and grandmothers, provide health education classes and other interventions.

Friendship of Women, Inc.

Domestic Violence Shelter and Children’s Program/Brownsville, Texas 

The overall purpose of Friendship of Women is to provide services and assistance directly to victims of domestic violence, including children, to speed their recovery and aid them through the criminal justice process. Shelter Hours: 7 days, 24 hrs, 24 hour crisis hotline, welfare and health advocacy, individual counseling as required by residents. I&R to community social services, education, legal services through community agencies and court systems. Medical services as needed, food and clothing. Transitional housing and battered intervention and prevention program.

The professional development/advocacy experience with Friendship of Women (FOW) will focus on social justice and health care disparities.  It will allow the training physicians to explore public health issues (e.g. violence against women).  The residents/students will have the opportunity to work with children’s groups and witness the effects of domestic violence and participate in effective strategies to break the cycle.  More importantly, the training physicians will have the opportunity to actively engage in interdisciplinary teams to effect change.  To that end the student will develop a meaningful project that will assist victims of violence.  

FOW has noted a perception by mothers that strangulation or choking may not be considered true domestic violence, because in many instances it leaves no marks and the mothers have no proof of the event.  Many times their children witness these tragic events.  FOW is requesting assistance with changing the perception.

Advocacy Objectives 

1.Experience service agency models (e.g. criminal justice system and community based agency) designed to interrupt violence against women.

2.Conduct a literature review on health screening practices relevant to domestic violence strangulation.

3.Develop and implement a professional development seminar relevant to domestic violence strangulation. Highlight some key factors to disclose to law enforcement officials and emergency room/medical personnel when collecting evidence of strangulation. 

4.Develop an appropriate screening tool for advocates to ask of victims who allege strangulation to ensure they are receiving medical attention and to prove strangulation in court.

5.Develop a professional brochure (English & Spanish) as part of a community education program.

As background:  

Effects of Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) on Children

Kitzmann and colleagues (2003) found that over 60% of child witnesses to IPV fare worse than non-witnesses in terms of developmental outcomes.  Children who witness violence in the home are more likely to exhibit externalizing problems, including aggression, hyperactivity, and oppositional behavior (Paterson, Carter, Gao, Cowley-Malcolm, & Lusitini, 2008).

Residents/students have the opportunity to work with children living in the shelter and those that are involved in group therapy.  Students will be working hand-in-hand with lead faculty for the College of Nursing at the Texas A & M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) and Academy of Violence and Abuse Scholar. 

Friendship of Women is located approximately 25miles southeast of Harlingen, where you will be living.  You will need to drive there each scheduled day of advocacy.  There is no public transportation between these towns.

Holy Family Services

Holy Family Services is the longest licensed free standing birth center in Texas and a non-profit organization.  HFS is located in the heart of the "Rio Grande Valley" north of Weslaco.  Founded in 1983 by four Catholic sisters, the mission is to provide safe and affordable family centered maternity care to families in the Valley.  What started as a small clinic is now a "model birth center", the oldest one in Texas, comprised of: six birthing suites, a clinic, a classroom, a chapel, medical storage rooms, and housing.

Since its inception, Holy Family has been staffed exclusively by certified nurse-midwives and registered nurses.  It has become an important clinical learning site for many student nurses and midwives.  Since 2000, medical students have also been involved in service-learning with HFS.  Dr. Stan Fisch, Professor and UTHSCSA/RAHC Pediatric Program Director, and his wife, Nivia Fisch, a nurse midwife, have been integral to the work of HFS since its inception, serving on the board for 30 years.  

Holy Family Services is located approximately 26 miles west of Harlingen, where you will be living.  You will need to drive there each scheduled day of advocacy.  There is no public transportation between these towns.

MedicoLegal Partnership for Children

In keeping with its mission to create a world of hope for the most vulnerable and poorest of our children, Community for Children has forged a partnership between the Brownsville Community Health Center (BCHC) and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA).

Medical-legal partnership (MLP) is new patient care model that aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable individuals, children and families by integrating legal assistance into the medical setting. MLPs address social determinants of health and seek to eliminate barriers to healthcare in order to help vulnerable populations meet their basic needs and stay healthy. (Source: From the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership web site).

Together, BCHC and TRLA are working to better meet the needs of the Lower Rio Grande Valley community and its children by providing free legal aid in the clinic setting to help families who have been denied public benefits, face eviction, need help in advocating for their children’s special education services. Participants in Community for Children might work with legal and clinic staff to research “high impact cases" regarding special needs children and their access to healthcare, education and support or provide outreach education for families about accessing legal aid.

ProBar - Aiding Children in Immigration Detention

Love cannot be stoppedIn keeping with its support for the Universal Rights of a Child, Community for Children offers participants the opportunity to work with the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR), an agency formed to provide high quality pro bono legal representation to the thousands of immigrants detained in the Rio Grande Valley, primarily seeking protection in the form of political asylum. Annually, over 400 are unaccompanied children from Central America – children who have fled their home countries and journeyed to the United States without parents or guardians. These children are housed in federally run shelters and foster care homes while they are placed in deportation proceedings to be reunited with family in the U.S. or departed back to their home countries. Many of the children are escaping some form of violence, either physical or sexual abuse and many suffer the ongoing effects of emotional, mental and physical trauma and illness. They are usually only in the detention center for approximately two months.

CfC participants will have the opportunity to witness the conditions in which the children are living, hear first hand the experiences they have survived, and attend a court docket, while working with ProBar to establish best practice guidelines for attorneys interviewing these most vulnerable of children, including identifying resources in the area for children who have suffered trauma. Recent projects of CfC students involved research and presentation to staff on vicarious trauma from exposure to so many tragic cases during the course of every working day; as well as research on effects of abuse, violence and neglect on children and why they might appear to be hardened and combative with staff and in legal proceedings. Previous research by CfC students is being used across the country in cases involving post-traumatic stress in children of sexual abuse suffered during their journey. This research has resulted in amnesty for children and reunification with their families.

ProBar website

Proyecto Azteca

A member of the Equal Voice Network, Proyecto Azteca is a nationally recognized, community-directed, self-help housing organization that has financed and trained more than 700 families in the construction and first time home ownership in over 120 Hidalgo County colonias. The mission of Proyecto Azteca, rooted in the hope of creating a more equitable society, is to build healthy and thriving communities by assisting low and very low income families, traditionally denied home ownership opportunities, with the construction of quality affordable houses, and empowering them to become responsible home owners with an enhanced quality of life.

Staff at Proyecto Azteca chair the Equal Voice Housing Coalition, bringing together over 40 partners involved in housing programs in the 4 County area of Starr, Hidalgo, Cameron, and Willacy. Staff also chair the Equal Voice Health Care Coalition in Hidalgo County which has 15 members including the federal clinic, Nuestra Clinica del Valle; the State funded COPC (Community Oriented Primary Care Clinic), El Milagro; and a free clinic providing medical and mental health services, Hope Clinic. Community for Children students have a variety of options in working with Proyecto Azteca.

Proyecto Azteca website

Southwest Key San Benito Shelter

Southwest Key is one of the non-profit organizations providing shelter to thousands of refugee children from Central America each year.  They currently have five shelters in South Texas.  Community for Children has enjoyed a partnership with Southwest Key for many years.  They have allowed our residents/medical students access to their facilities and have invited them to teach classes and provide presentations to both children and staff.  Topics of classes have included basic science and health, sex education, art and story-telling, and poetry writing.

The refugee children in the shelters have often suffered from violence.  They are separated from families and friends, virtually alone with strangers.  They have had to grow up fast and carry worrisome burdens about their families and their own future.  Once again, Southwest Key staff have asked the residents/medical students to teach classes in coordination with their own teachers.  They also request that the residents/medical students lead a daily meditative practice be conducted every day with their children and staff.   

In addition, program staff are interested in having the students work with children to create a mural with a theme that the children choose and which is uplifting and provides a message of welcome to the children. 

Southwest Key San Benito Shelter is located approximately 15minutes from your housing. There is no public transportation between these towns.