United for Montana Vista
This is a story of community transformation in a small rural community of Montana Vista just outside of El Paso Texas. Mayela lives here. She is a first generation immigrant to the United States. Mayela lived in El Paso for 20 years and never spoke English – never had to. She began her quest to learn it when the company she worked with closed. In between jobs she applied for an Americorp position with CRWRC. Her field reports were difficult to understand because they were all in Spanish. She attended ESL classes and felt comfortable teaching children how to speak English but she was not comfortable writing in English. That all changed when she began working in the community.
This community is about 50% undocumented and economically poor immigrants. Many live in trailers, some without addresses.
Mayela engaged residents, in caring for Montana Vista. “We are tired of being known as the community of loose running dogs and trash piles” she says in Spanish.
She successfully organized street clean up days and improved the look of her rural community. Armed with that success she formed a Committee named United for Montana Vista. They have a diverse group of men, women and teenagers.
The group is building relationships and trust amongst community residents by engaging them in work, fun and civic events. More people get involved in civic activities, these days.
For years their children walked through the dirt roads while their neighbors in adjoining communities walked on nice clean sidewalks. When it rained their children would go to school all muddy or would come home all muddy.
After they formed this committee they began to educate themselves on how the county provides services. They also found out that the community in years past paid into a fund to have some of their main roads paved. The county did not assign the funds to the department in charge of paving the roads. This group was able to communicate with the county supervisor who made sure that the paving took place.
Now the group is organizing a recycling program. The waste management provides for picking up trash but does not have a recycling program. They are also planning a sidewalk paving work day. They found a concrete business person who agreed to donate concrete and they organized teams to form and finish the concrete once it is poured.
The community group also includes business leaders. They are in dialogue and developing plans to teach youth carpentry and machinery skills. One possibility is to teach youth how to manufacture shutters for houses.
While most of the work involves community organizing, advocacy, and a pull yourself up by your bootstraps attitude they also have a very compassionate side to them. They have organized themselves and have developed a fund to help families in crisis. They also educate churches and organizations to help them target the resources to families who could most benefit from the resources in a discrete way that does not enable dependency or reinforce a poverty stigma.
This is a story of how people seen as broken and unable to contribute to their success saw it and made it happen. Hope is increasing, leaders are emerging, and Montana Vista is becoming better for it. It is great to participate in the powerful work that God is doing through humble but obedient servants like Mayela. This is a story of community transformation in a small rural community in the outskirts of El Paso known as Montana Vista.