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

A mere two hour drive east from the city of San Diego, California, you can encounter another world just south of the U.S. border. Mexicali, Mexico is a desert city of one million, juxtaposed with the U.S. city of Calexico and next to the rich agricultural fields of rural Mexico.

You will experience resilient communities, able to withstand this harsh desert climate while creating their livelihoods, often times, by linking together two or three part time jobs to cover the needs of the family. Small loan opportunities afford people the chance to create thriving mini-businesses such as beekeeping, catering, or cactus production. By working alongside community leaders called Promotoras, volunteers will learn how leadership is demonstrated at the community level.

A true immersive program, you will see the impact of globalization where many people now work in assembly factories or work to create products for sale in the United States. With salaries of approximately $8/day and with the price of a gallon of milk at $4, these communities demonstrate strong families and cooperative solutions to their social and economic environment. Opportunities abound to engage with locals, learn about migration, and steep in the richness of the relational nature of the Mexican people.

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.

Loyola University Maryland 

"l highly recommend Via International as a great host agency for meaningful immersion programs, both domestic and international. They are rooted in the community with years of experience and relationships, organized and offer great educational input for the participants. They have everything you need fora comprehensive experience. 

Andrea Coicochea, Assistant Director International Immersions


The Impact

The experience of an immersion program impacts post-travel


Discover the realities of border life and globalization in this desert environment.


Analyze different methods of social movements and educational systems.


Participate in community-defined service projects supporting beekeeping, cactus production, and school improvements.


Learn about the issues related to food security, education and economy in both urban and rural areas.


Understand how leadership is demonstrated at the community level, through community-based programs.

Interested in visiting this location?

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