Our Lady of Las Palomas Interfaith Center


"Dedicated To Giving The Disadvantaged A Hand Up"

community greening project

A Very Special Project* In Cooperation

With The Office of Border Health


*The Office of Border Health has awarded Our Lady of Las Palomas a Community Greening Project mini-grant.  This project invites us to improving our community by organizing community, youth, school, church, and/or neighborhood groups to plant trees, gardens and other plant materials along streets, in parks, greenways, on school properties to serve to reduce the impacts of airborne dust, serve as shade, and improve the community’s sense of well being.

We welcome everyone in the community who is interested in Community Greening to call us and join in any activities that interest you.  We are excited about this project and we'll let you know when the demonstration and education projects are beginning, and especially when the seedlings arrive from Tree New Mexico.  For grant details see the bottom of this page. 

Why Community Greening?

Columbus, New Mexico is a small village located on the Southern edge of Luna County three miles from the border of New Mexico and Mexico.  Columbus has a population of 1,846 (2005), with 85.3% being of Hispanic heritage and 25.5% having non-Hispanic heritage.  Columbus is one of the economically poorest Villages in New Mexico with a median household income of $13,300, (the average income per household in New Mexico is $37,492), and Luna County has 32.9% of the population who live below the poverty level (14.0% of these folks have income that is below 50% of the poverty level).  The median age of residents living in Columbus is 28.2 years and many of these people have young children who attend elementary school in Columbus.  High school students are bused to Deming (30 miles one way).  The Village is building a new elementary school for the students, and this project will make it possible to network with the staff, students and families to plant additional trees around the play ground as well as at student’s homes and public play spaces to help meet the needs of this health enhancing initiative. 

We have a high incidence of airborne dust from frequent wind storms that are so severe they result in road closings between Deming and Columbus, and our relative humidity often drops as low as 4% in the summer months.  Excessive exposure to the sun and to the dry, dusty air are all known to exacerbate asthma, allergies, and create potential risks for skin cancer in our population.  Poverty and the young age of our population both have the potential to create environmental health and justice issues for our young families when it comes to understanding the need to plant adequate shade trees to insure children have safe, shaded areas to play in our community.  Our goals is to educate our young families about the need for adequate shade trees, provide a demonstration project that shows best practices for planting successful shade trees, orchards, and “intensive vegetable gardens” in our high desert environment, and provide 500 seedlings to be planted by the school children at home, in their public play spaces and at school. 

After Improvements and Plants

Before Planting

ACTIVITY 1:  Goal 1.  To provide an education and demonstration project at Our Lady of Las Palomas Hermitage and Retreat Center that will educate and train students, families and other residents in best practices in planting successful shade trees, orchards, and biointensive gardens utilizing straw-bale trenching to enhance orchard and shade tree survival in our dry desert environment that takes advantage of gray water, and collected rain water and using and utilizing the “Abundant Harvest Celugro” system that will improve the environmental health of our community and the personal health of our children and families (The UN also promotes this as an effective strategy to address hunger and improve the health of children and families) .

Objective:  To teach replicable skills and to improve the success rate of planting shade trees and other life enhancing fruit and nut trees and family vegetable gardens through improved desert gardening techniques that conserve precious water, recycle gray water from our homes, and use rain catchment water so that families will be able to improve the health of their children and themselves and their neighborhoods.

Accomplish:  Share knowledge about improved desert gardening techniques so local residents will be able to use this technology.  Have more trees live through the first two crucial years in their new environments until their root systems are developed enough so they may thrive.  Use less drinking water for watering our new trees.  Introduce families to the “Abundant Harvest Celugro” system for growing vegetables in our desert environment.  Learn environmental sustainability techniques in desert gardening.  Provide salable skills to adults who can put this new training to work doing desert gardening for hire.  Improve health.

Outcome:  A rainwater collection system will be demonstrated and installed.  A grey water system with filter will be demonstrated and installed.  80% of our newly planted trees will survive through their second birthday in their new environment.  Install one “Abundant Harvest Celugro” system that can be used for a community education project at Our Lady of Las Palomas and install a second one at the Senior Center for their daily Senior lunch program. Healthier families.

Benefit:  children and families will learn about water conservation and sustainable desert technology that will improve their quality of life, and reduce water costs and reduce over exposure to harmful sunshine.  The trees will benefit from having more water so they will survive until they have adequate root systems to live in our desert environment.  To improve our communities nutritional health and understanding by planting the “Abundant Harvest Celugro” system.  To improve our communities sense of well being by reducing home cooling costs in the summer and providing a green canopy that is not only beautiful but healthy.

Number of People involved:  We expect 20 adults to participate in this education/demonstration project that will represent at least 15 families (roughly 1% of our population).    

Implementation Timeline:  Advertising posters will go up December 15, 2008 and recruiting for this educational project will begin January 5th.  The workshop will take place about January 20, 2009.  We will post exact dates.


ACTIVITY 2:  Goal 2.  To reduce the number of children exposed to dangerous levels of sun exposure and reduce dust and other airborne contaminants by providing500 desert hardy shade trees for planting in private and public play spaces and at their school and other places where children congregate (teen center, library).

Objective:  To improve the health of our young children and families by providing them with education about the importance of planting shade trees, and providing them with trees to plant in their own yards, in their public play spaces, around their new school and other places where they congregate.

Accomplish:  educate parents and children about the importance of enhancing their environment with adequate shade trees.  Fewer children receiving blistering sun burns from playing in high sun exposure environments.  Have cleaner air to breathe.  Creating a more beautiful, safe, and healthy community.

Outcome:  500 shade trees planted, reduce the long term risks of sun exposure and skin cancer, asthma etc.

Benefit:  fewer children developing melanoma and other forms of skin cancer as teens and young adults.  A more human and animal friendly environment by providing adequate shade.  Fewer days when airborne dust and particulate matter cause road closures and health hazards for local residence.   Enhanced water levels in our regional aquifer from the impact of more green cover from desert hardy shade trees.  Improve the communities sense of well being by learning new skills, and a sense of empowerment.

Number of People involved:  We expect three adult staff from the elementary school will participate, along with 40 children, and ten parents.

Implementation Timetable:  Seedlings will be ordered in January and planting will take place by March 1, 2009 or as soon after they arrive in Columbus as possible.  (Tree New Mexico has not given us an estimated date of arrival after the order is placed.)


ACTIVITY 3:  Goal 3.  To educate children and the community about the benefits of our “community greening project” by sponsoring a poster contest in cooperation with the local library, the Friends of the Library and the school.

Objective:  To cause children to think in a new way about the importance of planting trees in our community, and to engage them in learning about all the benefits that trees provide our human and animal families. 

Accomplish:  A poster contest and an art show at the local library that can show off the children’s learnings.  Note cards will be produced from the posters that can be sold to continue the “community greening project” and to continue involving and educating children in health and environmental projects.

Outcome:   Developing the “community greening” skills in our children and their families.  Having posters for a contest and to display at the library, school, and other public places to educate and inspire the public about our project.  Having winners of the contest.  Having note card to sell to continue the life of the project after the grant funds run out.

Number of People Involved:  We expect 40 plus children of elementary age and 10 teenage youth will participate in the contest, with 5 adults overseeing the contest and a committee of 10 adults and youth judging the contest (from the Friends of the Library committee).

Implementation Timetable:  An advertising poster inviting children and youth to participate in the poster contest will go up January 5, 2009.  The contest will culminate January 25, 2009 with the winners to be announced February 1, 2009. 


ACTIVITY 4:  Goal 4.  To reduce the amount of harmful sun exposure at the U.S. Border for families who must wait hours for the commuter bus by providing a shaded park where they may wait more safely.

Objective:  To improve the wellbeing and health of citizens who use public transportation to commute to their homes and work by planting shade trees at the location where families wait for the bus. 

Accomplish:  To plant 15 shade trees in a park like setting using straw bale technology as a water catchment technique, and using a drip pipe system beside each tree to increase the likelihood that they will survive until their root systems are developed enough to survive in our desert environment.  Involve DePaul University students in this project when they come to Columbus in December to study desert spirituality and desert gardening.

Outcome:  a park with 15 shade trees so that families will have a cooler, healthier, more comfortable place to wait for their bus.  People will have less sun exposure and fewer incidences of skin cancer, especially in children who must wait with their parents.

Benefit:  Healthier families, healthier children, and a greater sense of welcoming and wellbeing for families who use public transportation.

Number of People Involved:  Ten college age students from DePaul University and two adult faculty, and two adult gardeners will be involved in this activity.

Implementation Time Table:  December 10, 2008 the college students and faculty will join the gardeners to prepare the park site at the border.  December 12, 2008 the trees will be installed and a litany commemorating Our Lady of Guadalupe, protector of the people, will be celebrated with the new trees included.