By Ryan Garcia
Texas A&M University Relations
Texas A&M University’s Colonias Program expanded
its colonias efforts in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, thanks
to a donation from the McAllen Medical Center that helped fund
an additional outreach worker, or "promotora" who will
assist in carrying out the program's mission.
Colonias are underdeveloped, unincorporated communities
that lack one or more major physical infrastructure elements,
such as running water, sewer systems, paved roads, electricity,
safe and sanitary housing and storm drainage. In Texas alone,
there are more than 1,500 colonias, with nearly 500,000 residents.
Those numbers are expected to nearly double by 2010, say officials
in the program.
Louis Garcia, CEO of the McAllen Medical Center, presented a
check for $10,000 to the Colonias Program in the Lower Rio Grande
Valley Region, during a February 2002 ceremony at the San Carlos
Community Resource Center.
Run by the College of Architecture’s Center for Housing
and Urban Development, the Colonias Program has established 16
community resource centers along the Texas-Mexico Border. These
centers serve as platforms where local agencies and service providers
can deliver education, health, job training, human services and
youth and elderly programs. More than 45,000 residents walk through
the doors of these centers each month, taking advantage of these
much-needed services, center officials say.
The Colonias Program focuses on “community self development”
— a process in which the majority of residents become involved
in activities to strengthen the social infrastructure of the community,
said Kermit Black, associate director for program development
at CHUD. This design that helps inhabitants “help themselves”
promotes meaningful and appropriate development of the community’s
physical and economic infrastructure, he says.
Colonias centers, made possible by partnerships with local entities,
provide classrooms, libraries, medical examination rooms, auditoriums
and fully equipped playgrounds. Each center is tailored to meet
the special needs of the community it serves.