Together we have created a community of families and friends living side by side with dignity. Two cultures in service together to break down borders.
Agua Prieta is city of approximately 150,000 in the Sonoran Desert on the U.S.- Mexico border. This city, located 230 miles south of Phoenix, AZ, shares a port of entry with Douglas, AZ. The transitory nature of this border city has a “floating population” of up to 50,000 people.
Migrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries travel to border towns seeking greater economic opportunity and hoping for factory work or migration to the U.S. However, plants are closing down to relocate overseas, and crossing the border is ever more difficult with the border a hot political topic.
As a result, a significant percentage of the population is unemployed and confined to makeshift informal housing. Shelters are built out of wood pallets, tar paper and brick. Dirt floors, no electricity or running water, and no proper roof allow the heat of summer and the cold of winter to add to the difficult lifestyle.
Rancho Feliz has been doing work in Agua Prieta for 30 years. We have strong connections and friends in the city who have helped us build a network of opportunity to serve these desperate families.
Within Agua Prieta, Rancho Feliz built a neighborhood to give families a place to live with pride. It is clean, safe and social. Vecinos Dignos Sin Fronteras (Worthy Neighbors without Borders or “Vecinos” neighborhood) is a unique, effective social and economic experiment. The Vecinos neighborhood is not welfare but rather a community for displaced families who – through residency requirements – become empowered to provide for themselves and live as homeowners with dignity in their native country.Learn More
This multiuse neighborhood has 42 homes, a childcare facility, public education center, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, playgrounds and a sport and exercise court. Residents keep the neighborhood clean and landscaped, they do volunteer work and charitable projects, they work together to drive children to school in neighborhood vans, and elect their own board of directors.
The Childcare Facility allows the residents’ babies and toddlers to go to childcare right on the property. We implemented state-of-the-art technology and brain development tools. The facility provides much-needed jobs for the residents.
The Education Center provides trade certificates in computer use, baking, sewing, etc. to the residents and surrounding neighborhoods.
After Vecinos was built and residents moved in, fruit trees and vegetable gardens were added to further strengthen the community and provide much-needed fresh, healthy food. The gardens give residents the nutritious, inexpensive food they need while providing social and community-building activities for the adults and children alike. The garden program teaches children and adults good health by educating them on where their food comes from and the positive effects on mind and body. Amazingly, when children plant vegetables, children eat vegetables! And here’s the magic – each plant returns itself with thousands of seeds. For our Vecinos residents, growing their own food is just like printing money! We have a team of master gardeners who facilitate the program.
Rancho Feliz offers scholarships to all the residents’ children from kindergarten through university. We fund these scholarships through a sponsorship program that connects volunteers to the children, their families, and the neighborhood. The success of this program and the neighborhood has been tremendous. Rancho Feliz offers the children of Vecinos scholarships at three different levels. From kindergarten through junior high school, resident students are offered a scholarship to a private English immersion school. Giving them the advantage in life of a bi-lingual education is priceless. Not only will they have more advantages – they can also speak and write to their English-speaking sponsors. From junior high school, students are then offered scholarships at a private high school where they continue to study English and prepare for university. University scholarships to a public university in Mexico are offered to all high school graduates. Upon graduation the students then “pay it back” by providing a scholarship to a public school for a deserving student from Agua Prieta.Learn More
Hundreds of dogs, many of them homeless, roam the streets of Agua Prieta. These animals are exposed to the elements, to hunger, thirst, abuse and injury. Those that are ill suffer greatly. Each year countless dogs are captured and put down by the city’s animal-control personnel. Prior to Mexico Mutts’ involvement these dogs were executed by painful and traumatic electrocution – a draconian practice that is illegal in the United States. Mexico Mutts introduced and trained the Agua Prieta personnel in more humane and widely accepted methods of euthanasia.
Rancho Feliz established the Mexico Mutts Program to reduce the suffering of neglected and abused dogs. Along with pet adoptions and changing the mindset of pet owners and city officials, the program’s primary focus is funding sterilization services in Agua Prieta. Spay / neuter services are provided free of charge to pet owners via our voucher program. In this way, Mexico Mutts positively impacts the quality of life of animals along the border.
Mexico Mutts provides volunteer opportunities through its support of a local dog shelter. Here, groups provide dog food, plant trees, do maintenance work and help socialize the dogs. Dog adoptions are available. Dogs are allowed into the US once they have been vaccinated for rabies for 30 days.