Cristina’s Children and the Anapra Education Project
Juarez, MX is considered the murder capital of the world; drug violence is out of control. There are daily reports about the violence that is terrorizing the lives of the residents at this border town; Americans are warned to stay out of Juarez. But life goes on there – there are children to educate and parents who need help to support their children. Who is helping them? This is a story of how one remarkable woman and a group of Lasallians are making a difference in the lives of children in a small colonia outside of Juarez.
If you had visited Anapra in 1999, you would have found an impoverished desert community just outside of Juárez, Mexico where many residents lived in makeshift homes often constructed from wood pallets, cardboard, tires, and tar paper. Day and evening, children played in the dirt streets; there were no playgrounds, recreation centers, libraries, or athletic fields.
That same year on one of those streets you may have noticed that instead of playing in the streets, the children who lived near Cristina Estrada began dropping by her house after school. You would have seen them clustered around plastic tables in Cristina’s yard reading and doing their homework. Cristina was there too, offering help and encouragement. Had you been watching all of this, you would have found yourself wondering how Cristina was handling the ever-increasing number of children crowding into her yard and her home.
Today if you visited Anapra, as we did as participants in the Lasallian Social Justice Institute, you would see children working in one of the three educational buildings; the older students are tutoring the younger ones. There is now a small library and computers available for the students. Cristina and other adults also teach the children about their culture – through dance, costume, and music. Cristina additionally serves as mentor and surrogate mother to many of the community’s children.
If you had not been in Anapra since 1999, you might be shocked to see that Cristina now works with over 250 children and that her students are graduating from high school and going to the university. There are now ten youth in post-secondary education, training to be nurses, psychologists, and teachers. You would realize what an impressive accomplishment this is, given the demographics and past history for educational achievement in Anapra. You would recognize that, against all odds, Cristina is creating an educational miracle in Anapra.
The Anapra Education Project
Though Cristina was working a miracle, she could not do so without financial support, and that is why we created the Anapra Education Project. We are educators, students, staff members, and graduates, primarily from Saint Mary’s College, who were influenced by the Lasallian Social Justice Institute in El Paso/Juarez where we first became familiar with the work of Cristina Estrada. While visiting Anapra, we were confronted with the stark poverty there, yet heartened by Cristina’s work to educate every child in the impoverished colonia. Inspired by Cristina’s commitment and service to her community, we dedicated ourselves to raising funds to provide scholarships to pay for the children’s education there.
Over the past five years, with the donation of one generous benefactor and many smaller, yet signficant donations, we have raised over $250,000 to help Cristina’s children. Our work began because we were introduced to the Lasallian mission in the dusty colonia of Anapra, MX; we continue because we want to keep the lessons learned there about poverty, injustice, and hope alive by Living Lasallian.