Update: No after-school program for struggling Texas border community
Gavina Barrera raised four children in her home, including a daughter who still lives there with her own children.
September 23rd, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Update: No after-school program for struggling Texas border community

Priscilla Martinez wishes the children of Las Lomas had an after-school program this fall. But in this Texas border community poverty is the norm, and extras like after-school programs are luxuries.

"We don’t have any funding right now," said Martinez, director of Colonias Unidas, the community center in Las Lomas that usually hosts the after-school program. "We're just hanging on by a string."

Colonias Unidas' primary source of funding comes from revenue from mailboxes the center rents to Las Lomas residents. That money ran out after this year's summer program, which provided the children of Las Lomas with lunch and a place to play four days a week, Martinez said.

CNN visited Las Lomas in July, when the summer program was in full swing. Gavina Barrera, a resident of Las Lomas, showed us around the community, which is known in bureaucrat-speak as a "colonia," or an unincorporated settlement usually lacking water, sewage systems, sanitation or electricity.

In Las Lomas, in unincorporated Starr County about an hour from McAllen, median household income was $22,418 in 2009.

Explore the country by the numbers on CNN.com's census map

Barrera, a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to Las Lomas in 1984, has seen the colonia grow from a shanty town to a neighborhood with paved roads and drainage systems. It may be substandard to many Americans, but given the progress of the past 20 years, it's a place Barrera is proud to call home.

But with each step forward, it seems another hurdle arises.

Colonias Unidas held an after-school program last year from September to May, she said. From Monday to Thursday, high school students provided homework help to younger children, receiving a stipend as incentive. This year, the money ran out before fall, Martinez said.

In the meantime, residents look forward to the little things, she said. Colonias Unidas holds a monthly "mercadito," where residents can sell handmade crafts or used household items. In October, architecture students from Texas A&M University will build a playground on the community center's grounds.

"That's something we look forward to. It gives motivation to the community, and that's important when you have little in the way of wealth or material possessions." she said. "People live simple lives here, but basically, as long as they're safe and their families are safe, they're happy."

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Filed under: Census • Economy • Texas
soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. Rossko

    So although you are fat you are poor and starving? You want an after school program – then start one – or do you mean you want to have other people PAY for an after school program for your kids while you sit on a couch and eat bon-bons?

    September 24, 2011 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. John

    Has anyone noticed that cnn has had an article showing Texas in a negative light, on it's homepage, since Perry jumped ahead in the polls?? I'm all about CNN trying to sway our opinions... but I enjoy it more when I don't notice it :/

    September 24, 2011 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Jethro Bodine

      Perry is a penis head!

      September 25, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. justxme

    Why don't all these non-working mothers start a afterschool program? That's right, they want someone else to watch their kids! I feed a family of 3 on $200 a month, alot of dried beans and veggies.

    September 24, 2011 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. gung hoe

    @ johnL1 I take it that youre talking to me john actually yes john Iam a little full of myself as you put it And why shouldnt I be not only have we succeeded dury this downturn but expanded Every year we give a roof to a needy family We do the best to watch over our brothers and sisters john Oh ya john my company wouldnt be anything without my help And I hope you can comprehend that john thats why Im a little full of myself

    September 24, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. s kel

    Justin I could just shoot u, lol

    September 24, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. s kel

    I mean it, (not laughing)

    September 24, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. paul r.

    I remember the after-school program that impacted my generation most profoundly. It was called "homework."

    September 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jethro Bodine

    The Hispanics are multiplying like rabbits! Where's the father of the children?

    September 25, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ruthie3

    Really having some problem reconciling how our ancestors, settlers, etc., managed w/o after school care? Maybe I missed something in the history books...anybody know how they managed?

    September 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
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