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. Duke

    Wow the man in that picture has a large feminine chest ans deems to be wearing capri's

    September 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      Another intelligent comment

      September 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiljoy616

      Its two women no guy there, CNN need to get people who can tell the differece.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John C.

    I stopped reading at "Priscilla Martinez".

    September 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • derptard

      Too many letters for you?

      September 23, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vegas Baby

      Ahhhh after school programs where the working class white people like myself pay 73.00 a week, and illegals pay nothing or something equally stupid like 50 cents...yet bring in their masses of idiot children, that will eventually wash my children's mercedes...they get free food for breakfast, lunch and get carry home food plus free child care and health care in Las Vegas schools and are the precise reason for the failure of the Clark County School District. We are giving them Paradise and they do NOT deserve it.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      Those masses of idiot children work hard in school to go to college. And if they don't they work hard to get a decent job so they can live, like washing your children's car. I feel sorry for your idiot children...who..by the looks of the comments of their parent will probably grow up to be as dumb as you.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. R.M. Scanlon

    What sort of people have such cruel opinions of the poor? Perhaps we should follow Jonathan Swift's advice. Eat them!
    No longer is the motto of the US "In God We Trust". It is now"Geed is Good, I Want It All!"

    September 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      A literary allusion in these medieval times? Wish I thought most folks would get this, but I don't. Scriblerians, RIP.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • abby

      unfortunately the masses will totally misunderstand your clever comment....

      September 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiljoy616

      Who hates the poor that easy Christian do for the most part, makes it hard to keep the faith if they acknowledge it but have no answer for it. Maybe they deserve it is about all I ever hear.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I'm vegetarian, but I'd rather eat a chubracabra carcass.

      September 24, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. Obama = failure

    meanwhile....half of Congress are millionaires...

    September 23, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JFritz

    Ah, young America. Fat=bad, and as long as someone is fat, they and their problems can be dismissed. Yes, thinness and beauty are the only good. Certainly kindness and civility aren't, not anymore. Oh, we are such a Christian nation!

    September 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JJ

    Just wondering guys. How is it possible that they don't have money for school but there is money to have children. I say there are priorities in the wrong place.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      I agree!

      September 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      The racist tax payers made them have kids that they couldn't afford so they could keep them on that dirty porch with too much crap and a kid ready for Toddlers n Tiaras.

      September 24, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. NothingButTheTruth

    Put your glasses on. That is not her husband. It is a woman!

    September 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. abby

    I would like to remind folks of this:
    But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 1 John 3:17

    September 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      Amen, and amen.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaulC

      You shouldn't quote the bible to the compassionate conservatives, it makes their head spin around and around.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gabriel3

      “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime"

      September 23, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFritz

      So, Gabriel, who is going to teach them to fish? Isn't that the point here? Texas doesn't want to pay for teaching. Any teaching, it seems.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gabriel3

      JFritz, most likely our parents, grandparents and ancestors did not rely on an after school program from the government to raise us. Back then it was up to parents, grandparents and neighbors taught the children. From rural towns, to wealthy towns, parents need to give their own kids of their time and attention.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • DoNotWorry

      No Christians in the Teabagger Party. Do you really think being poor means people do not want a family?

      September 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sam27

    Communities should not become paralyzed waiting for the government nor or blame others for their inaction. My mother and grandmothers were working mothers and yet they never relied in after school programs for their children, they did not exist back then. Women relied on their husbands, mothers, aunts, and neighbors when they needed help. Moreover, basic and inexpensive items such as books (from the library, Goodwill etc), paper, crayons, a jump rope, a ball etc, and good old fashioned chores keep the kids mentally and physically strong. The government should provide schools but after hours, it is up to the people who brought these kids into this world to give them the time and patience.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. NothingButTheTruth

    Rick Parry, the candidate for the rich!


    September 23, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bob

    Their situation is the result of several things, including being born poor, and then a series of choices that have not really improved their situation.

    September 23, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    Poverty? Did they skip a meal lately? PLEASE! GROW UP!

    September 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiljoy616

      Eating too little will cause your body to store food which will make you look bloated and fat. You don't have to eat that much to gain weight if your eating just basically sugar and pasta which is about as cheap as you can get. But your to dumb to really understand so just go pray to your imaginary friend.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mily

    as i mentioned earlier I am a Mexican immigrant. by reading this article it sounds to me like most of them are as well. if there is one thing that Mexicans/Latinos (mainly 1st generation or new immigrants) know, is how to work the land! and i mean it the the most respectfull manner. many Latino immigrants come from agricultural backgrounds. so i am still not buying the whole food inc...

    September 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • DoNotWorry

      The part of Texas where they live is pretty dry for agriculture.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiljoy616

      ROFL, yes growing stuff in a desert environment that is in a drought is so possible. Dude go back to Mexico if your really from there, which I don't really think you are because we need people with some logic we have enough hill billy to last us a lifetime.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. smroberg

    And Texas is the state that Perry says everyone wants to move to. I'm very glad I live in New England where we have the best schools, least poverty, lowest divorce and crime rates and tolerance towards others. I hope this school district receives help from the state of Texas and its governor.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JFritz

    I wish for all of us this–
    Hard work after which there is more work at home. Poor pay and mouths to feed with it. Humiliation from those who never had to work hard. Contempt for who we are–our skin color, our accents, our weight, and the choices we've made, good or bad. People who never forgive anything judging us.
    Maybe then we'll develop compassion and sense that, indeed, we are all one.
    From this agnostic–Matthew 25:40.

    September 23, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Ha ha you will be disappointed because I don't have too many kids that I expect YOU to pay for. I work hard and put myself through school because I saw my parents struggle.

      But if you don't see your parents struggling in order to get from day to day to take care of you, you won't think it's such a bad thing, and you'll expect the SAME food stamps, the SAME free medical insurance from the government and yes. The same after school program, funded by your hard working neighbors.

      You people do not know the reality of poverty. You only know what you are fed by those whose livelihoods depend on these expensive government programs.

      September 23, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
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