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Mexicali, Baja California Mexico

Micro-Enterprise and Community Resilience on the Mexico/U.S. Border


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Typical Program
A true immersion into the local reality, you will work alongside community members in school improvement projects, green area restoration or community garden development. All of these initiatives are community driven and community determined. You will learn about Mexican education and the challenges of the underfunded system.

Learn about the promotora model of community nutrition and ecology education outreach. Mostly orchestrated with schools, you will meet and talk with community outreach workers and work in a local community garden or cactus farming initiative.

During your journey, you will have the opportunity to participate in a micro-credit initiative by donning a beehive suit to see the inner-workings of a beehive colony or be put to work painting and repairing hives. You will talk with the micro-credit participants and work side by side with the members of the local bee collective to learn the ins and outs of honey harvesting and related product manufacturing.

Traveling just south of Yuma Arizona, you will visit Los Algodones (a local border community) and participate in their brick-making collective. Learn how to make bricks and get a better understanding of how a collective works. Here you will have a chance to engage with the community through both work and play...impromptu soccer matches with the local kids are not uncommon here!

Gain a better understanding of the dynamics of immigration through a discussion led by the experts who run the Caritas Organization, then take an eye-opening visit to Casa Migrante, a shelter for recently repatriated migrants.

Visit the Museum of the Sun, become inspired by the majestic saguaro cactus native to the area and get a feel for the native customs and culture of the indigenous Cucapah people. For longer trips we can include a visit to the Sea of Cortez for an in-depth look at the nature of water politics and environmental restoration and a trip to the beach.

Check out a Sample Itinerary   [view]    [download]

Duration and Directions

Visitors will fly to San Diego airport and be transferred to the Calexico border crossing, a bus ride of approximately 2 hours. Crossing the border by foot is a simple 2 block transit. Once in Mexicali ground transportation is included until departure.


Upon arrival to the facility in Mexicali and after a rest, an orientation will be provided including an introduction to the hosting organization including culture, safety, rules and expectations. Volunteers will also learn about the critical issues facing communities, including the impact of migration and globalization in this unique region. The orientation will provide an overview of activities for the week and background on the projects, people, and places where we will engage.
Via International is also prepared to offer a curriculum in support of this journey. This includes reading lists, pre trip seminars and post trip reflection modules.

Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers should be adaptable and flexible, willing to work as part of a team, and respectful of local traditions, culture, and customs. Those taking part in community development projects need to be capable of doing physical work, although previous experience is not essential. Spanish language ability is useful, but not necessary.

Click here to view the packing checklist.
Food and Accommodations
The cuisine of Mexicali is unique. Most meals will be prepared by promotoras, who are outreach workers of Via’s sister organization. Using traditional recipes, these women are skilled at creating low cost and nutritious meals with traditional ingredients. While in Mexicali there will be opportunities to try tostadas ceviche de soya (a crisp corn tortilla with cilantro, tomato, onion and, instead of fish, soy), enchiladas (corn tortillas with tasty fillings), and some local Chinese specialities from the immigrant population. Due to the climate, refreshing drinks are always made available. Known as aguas frescas, these are invigorating mixtures of fruit and vegetables.

Mexicali has its own dorm accommodations in a middle class neighborhood of the city. There is space for up to 30 in a group, with three separate sections for men, women and group leaders. Via International also has discount rates at comfortable hotels, for groups seeking that kind of lodging.

Community and Region

Mexicali is the the capital of the state of Baja California in Mexico and is located just across the U.S. border from Calexico, California. The city got its name from combining the two words: MEXI-co and CALI-fornia and is known as the city that captures the sun due to the long, hot summers and short, cold winters. Once an agricultural center for cotton and cereal production, it has also experienced rapid growth as a border town with extensive construction of foreign-owned assembly plants called maquiladoras that rely on abundant low-wage laborers to produce consumer electronics and high-technology products for the U.S. and global marketplaces. 

Over one million people call Mexicali home. The extremely resilient indigenous people, the Cucapah, continue to survive in the desert region. A thriving Chinese community, descendents of railway workers deported from the United States, account for over 100 Chinese restaurants in the city. Natives of Mexicali are called Cachanillas, the name of a plant that thrives in this harsh climate. Mexicali residents are certainly that; people that continue to be resilient in the face of any obstacle.

Via Local Partner Organizations
Los Niños de Baja is a Mexican based NGO that has been working in the border region of Mexicali since 1975. Los Niños’ programs address the basic needs of communities by building the capacities of the residents to become agents of positive change. The community members in turn create opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities.