We are all the same

Over the past few months I have witnessed up close what is happening on our border with Mexico. Like most people supporting legal paths for immigration, treating people humanely and with respect is as important as all the ongoing debates.

We all know how divided we are when it comes to immigration. How do we break the divide and find lasting solutions? Recently I listened in on a meeting with about 40 migrants being cared for on the Mexican side of the border. They were brought to the shelter where they are being protected by the Mexican government with the help of volunteers offering food, clothing counseling and medical assistance. As they listened to a volunteer talk about some of the issues they were facing, many eyes filled with tears. I realized at that moment how much they need our help. Clearly respecting our immigration laws, these people only ask that they be given a chance for a better life.

Most people in the US do not understand that the migrant problem on our border with Mexico is not just a humanitarian challenge on the US side, but on the Mexican side as well. Most migrants being processed by Homeland Security in El Paso do not have the same level of care in Mexico. In Juarez the Mexican government counts on people who have very little themselves to come to the aid of those hoping for a better life.

Here in El Paso we are living on the front lines where every day people from all over Latin America are trying to come to the United States for a better life. Over the past few months I have met people from Cuba, Honduras, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexican States where drug lords are making life extremely dangerous.

Everyone has a different story. Every individual is a child of God with the same feelings and desires all of us have in living this life. As I open my eyes and think more about these people I am reminded of the words from a Janet Jackson album recorded decades ago. “In complete darkness we are all the same, it is only our knowledge and wisdom that separates us, don’t let your eyes deceive you.”

Aposento Alto Tree of Hopes Mexico is on the front lines doing all we can to help people in need. Every offer of support with donations and volunteer assistance is greatly appreciated.

Thank you Display Services

Special thanks to Display’s Services in El Paso for their help with our new sign hanging on the Aposento Comedor Tree of Hopes Mexico. The Comedor (dining room) is the hub of activity at the Aposento Alto Tree of Hopes Mexico where people in need are provided with food and clothing, consoling and medical services. This same facility also provides sleeping areas for Casa Por Cristo volunteers helping to build homes for families living in very poor living conditions in the area.

Sponsorship opportunities abound

be a sponsor

As a Tree of Hopes sponsor you or your business can help our tree grow into a vibrant force for good on the border.  Sponsors will be listed on this page for one year by making a Rotary Club of West El Paso Foundation tax deductible contribution at one of the following levels:

Pinyon Pine Oak Forest Sponsor $10,000

Rio Bosque Wetlands Forest Sponsor $5000

Ponderosa Pine Sponsor $1000

Douglas Fir Sponsor $500

Desert Willow Sponsor $250

Oak Tree Sponsor $100

Mesquite Tree Sponsor $50

Click here to learn more and donate online

Mission accomplished

Using a welding machine purchased with funds donated by the Rotary Club of West El Paso Foundation, volunteers like Ismael have played an important role in helping to install a badly needed water storage tank also donated by the Foundation. Thanks to all for your contributions and support of the Tree of Hopes Aposento Alto Comedor where we help people in need every day.

Volunteers are installing a water tank this week

Using a welding machine purchased with funds donated by the Rotary Club of West El Paso Foundation, volunteers today have been installing a metal frame for the badly needed water storage tank also donated by the Foundation. The Juarez Diario reported on the serious water shortage problem last week and Tree of Hopes Mexico is happy to report that help is on the way.

Thank you Rotary

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We have some great news.   Thanks to the Rotary Club of West El Paso Foundation, donations to support Tree of Hopes will continue to be tax deductible.   The Foundation recently helped Tree if Hopes purchase a new oven for the Tree of Hopes facility in Juarez plus dishes and cups for the kitchen and a badly needed 300-gallon water tank.  Water to the facility has been very unreliable and a second water tank is important to not only all the people being fed in the Comedor, but also for volunteers working there from the area and all across the country.

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To give you some idea of how many people use the facility this week we are expecting a work crew from Casas Por Cristo coming to the area to build more homes plus more refugees from Central America.  Both the US and Mexican governments need the help of churches and humanitarian organizations on both sides of the border to help care for refugees traveling to the border.   Over the past few weeks Tree of Hopes has helped to care for nearly 100 people from countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba and Mexico.  We have no idea how much help the Government of Mexico will ask of us.  The need is great and we need help maintaining and repairing the facility’s infrastructure.   For more information on how you can help us in 2019 please use our Contact Us form or donate online.

The Mustard Seed Cafe

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Last week we were happy to support the work of the Mustard Seed Cafe in El Paso with a donation of food supplies.  The Cafe has been feeding hungry people and caring for every heart that comes through their door since 2011.   They have a new location in West El Paso at  the Westside Community Church, 201 E. Sunset Rd.  Check out there website to learn more including business hours.

The mission of Tree of Hopes is to support “One Health” humanitarian efforts to help needy families living along the US Mexico border in the Juarez, Chihuahua – El Paso, Texas region.  One Health recognizes that the health and over all well-being of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment.

The following information from their website describes this wonderful community cafe.

The Mustard Seed Café is a NonProfit, Pay-What-You-Can Community Café. We want to tell and demonstrate the love of Jesus to every single person who comes through our doors! We serve delicious, nutritious food with an accompanying commitment to treat each person with dignity and honor.

Guests may volunteer an hour with us in exchange for a meal or they may choose to pay what they can on a suggested price for their meal. Some pay the suggested price, others pay less, and some pay more as a donation to pay it forward.

We welcome all!

When you come to the café:
  • Our greeters and volunteers offer a genuine and warm welcome.
  • Talk to our manager, Carmen, if you’d like to volunteer an hour with us in exchange for your meal.
  • Our menu changes weekly and is written on the large chalkboard in the café.
  • When you’re are ready to eat, step up to the buffet line and tell our chef and volunteers what you’d like to order. Our feature items vary weekly, as do our side dishes. We always serve a delicious soup, and our salad bar is one of the best in town. Dessert is usually a yummy cookie or bar, and we serve tea, coffee, and infused water.
  • Your guest check is on your food tray with a suggested price. You’ll pay after you eat.
  • Sit where you like and enjoy your meal.
  • You decide what to pay. Pay the suggested price, pay less if you need to, or pay more to help us keep doing what we’re doing.
  • Write the amount of your payment on your guest check, and pay at the door as you leave.

 

Tree of Hopes Grows

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by Rick LoBello

A little over a year ago I realized something about myself that I knew was there, but for a long time was hidden from view.   As a wildlife conservationist working all of my adult life in National Parks and now the El Paso Zoo, I have always focused on my job and on related environmental education and advocacy efforts.  Then one day last year I discovered that I had a place in my heart that was pretty much wide open. It was a place where I have a passion for helping the less fortunate.  Soon I was doing what I always seem to do, trying to make a difference by encouraging others who also care.

As a member of Rotary International for over 30 years I have been encouraged to live by the 4 way test – (1) Is it the truth?, (2) Is it fair to all concerned? (3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? (4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?   I really want my life to reflect Rotary values which in my opinion are in line with my Christian faith and everything about being an American.  They are also in line with many other people’s values around the world like the global network I am a part of with 1.2 million business and professional leaders in Rotary.

The tree I helped to plant last year I am happy to report is growing.  Thanks to the Rotary Club of West El Paso Foundation and most recently the Zaragoza Rotary Club, Tree of Hopes is gaining more and more support everyday.  Our Helping Families in Need This Christmas Project is touching hearts as our Tree of Hopes bears fruit and grows into a stronger part of our community.

One of the greatest things that I have realized over the past year is what I describe as a “ocean of poverty” in my own back yard.  Back in the 1990s when I visited El Paso’s sister city Juarez, I only experienced the business district near the Bridge of Americas.  Today I am learning that the poverty of Juarez is much greater than I ever realized.   I can’t sit back and just pretend that I don’t live next to this ocean. I can’t drive to work every day on I-10 and not look to the right and see the homes of so many in need.   I just can’t.   It is my hope that this Tree of Hopes will become a important outreach effort for good in the days ahead and that it will encourage others to plant trees of hopes everywhere.

I tell my friends that when you help the Tree of Hopes grow, you can also experience an inner peace as you realize how “we belong to each other (Mother Teresa).”    Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

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Welcome – Zaragoza Rotarians

Last month we were very happy to welcome the Zaragoza Rotary Club when they visited the Tree of Hopes Comedor Project.  Rotarians Claudia Urista and Ofelia Mletzko joined me for lunch in the Comedor with Velia Hernandez and Victor Villalobos and nearly 30 children.

Claudia and Ofelia treated everyone to pizza and cookies and gave each child school supplies.  Rotarians are working on many humanitarian projects in Juarez and we hope that they will continue to help families living in Anapra.

To help raise funds for all the important projects they are working including Rotacare, the Zaragoza Rotary Club of El Paso will present their First Annual Holiday Harmony Concert with internationally renown Italian Pianist Francesco Attesti. The concert will also feature Adian Salas, Opera Baritone, El Paso Native and UTEP Graduate.   Click here for ticket information.

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Currently, Francesco Attesti performs regularly in internationally prestigious concert halls [4] like: Philharmonia Hall of Saint Petersburg, Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Moscow, Mozarteum of Salzburg, Philharmonie Essen, International Piano Festival of Warsaw, Sarajevo Winter Festival, Cambridge University, Leicester University, Columbia University in New York, Denver University in Colorado, and the Conservatory Giuseppe Verdi in Milan.

New water line installed

Volunteers helped put in a new water line for the Comedor Aposento Alto this week.  Special thanks to Manuel Payan seen here and Velia Hernandez’s son Nestor for all their help.

This is a great time of year to work on projects to help improve the Comedor complex.  We still need help repairing leaky roofs and donations to help with the cost of heating this winter.

Van donated by El Paso Church

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A badly needed used GMC 3500 van with air conditioning was recently donated to the Comedor by the Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana.  Tree of Hopes is always looking for volunteers to help continue efforts to help needy families at the Comedor in Juarez.   The van is already being used to help transport children to the facility.   You can donate online using our PayPal account and all contributions are tax deductible.

The woman who keeps the doors open at the Comedor

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As the sun sets on the desert near the slopes of Mount Cristo Rey in Juarez, Velia Hernandez is in her kitchen preparing dinner and getting ready for the week ahead at the Aposento Alto Comedor.  The small complex of rustic buildings in the far northwest corner of Juarez features a multi-purpose dining room where she and her husband Victor Villalobos have been feeding and helping thousands of families since 2009.  Situated near the base of a small desert mesa in the community of Anapra, the facility includes classrooms that serve as dormitories for free medical clinics including eye exams and cancer screenings, music lessons and a place for volunteers from all across the US to spend the night as they cross the border and help build homes for needy families.

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Everything that happens in this little corner of the world happens because of caring people mainly in El Paso who help with money and food to keep everything going.  Last month the Comedor received a generous donation of food boxes filled with cereal, fruit and other nutritious items to give to the children who visit every week.  I was able to help load up everything into the 2001 Dodge Ram Van for the trip back to Juarez.

With the help of her husband Victor every day Velia makes sure that everything happens in this little corner of the world.  As I have witnessed her dedication to the work of the Comedor, it is obvious to me that she is one of the unsung local heroes making a difference here the El Paso – Juarez region.   I am proud to know her and support the work that she is doing.

Thank you Rotary

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By Rick LoBello, treeofhopes.com

As I write this story I am very happy to report that my Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of West El Paso Foundation are helping to grow a new program on our border with Juarez called Tree of Hopes.    The mission of Tree of Hopes is to support humanitarian efforts to help needy families living along the US Mexico border in the Juarez, Chihuahua – El Paso, Texas region.  The signature project is at the Comedor Aposento Alto A.C.  Ongoing programs at the Comedor include feeding needy children and hosting music lessons sponsored by the Focus Association in Juarez.

Most of my friends know that I grew up in Western New York near Buffalo.  Almost every year the area gets plenty of cold and snow.  Up until recently during the winter months I would make comments to friends in El Paso about I hoped it would snow because I miss the beauty of the snow and ice that I grew up with.  The desert and mountains here in El Paso are so beautiful when it snows.  But now I have changed.  Something happened to me a little over four months ago on Christmas Eve.  I spent the holiday with my friends at the Comedor in one of the poorest areas in northern Juarez.  The community is called Anapra.  Over the years millions of people have seen this area from a distance driving on I-10 through West El Paso near Sunland Park and Mount Cristo Rey.  As one leaves downtown El Paso and passes UTEP you can see close views of the neighboring Felipe Angeles.  Just north of Felipe Angeles is Anapra.

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For years I was one of those millions of people driving by this area of Juarez.  As a result of my visit on Christmas Eve I now know more about what is happening on the edge of our city.  For thousands of families the struggle to survive is heart breaking.  There is extreme poverty. I hope and pray that as a result of Tree of Hopes more people will become aware of the situation and want to help.

On Christmas eve I joined Nestor, his sister Grissel and Roberto on a journey across Anapra and Felipe Angeles to help take food and blankets to people in need.  I will never forget the family living high up on a ridge in a house covered with blankets for insulation and the children who lived there.

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I will never forget the man with one leg who had an infection on his foot and who lived in a little shack with one room and a small wood stove for heat.  I will never forget the elderly couple who also lived in such a sad and uncomfortable place.   They looked so sad.  My eyes fill with tears when I think about them.

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I have learned so much about the poor people who live in such terrible conditions so close to our border with Mexico.  There are organizations trying to help them, but obviously the need is so great and more help is needed.   That’s why with the help of the West El Paso Rotary Foundation I am organizing a new non-profit effort called Tree of Hopes.  A website has been started and there are many ways every person who reads this can help.

When working on a conservation education project not long ago a friend of my said that if you want people to help these days many people want to know what’s in it for me.  Well I can tell you that if you help these people you will experience a great feeling inside knowing that you are doing something good for our world and other human beings.

As you drive down 1-10 and look over into Mexico across from UTEP you can see all the houses on the mountain side.  During the winter  you can often see smoke coming from them.    The smoke is not coming from heated homes with fireplaces.  The smoke is coming from small wood stoves with people sitting near them breathing dangerous fumes as they try to stay warm with what blankets they have.

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We have some beautiful artwork on I-10 with nice painted bridges, statues and ornaments and lighted structures across from the new Fountains shopping center.   We also have smoke stacks and little lights coming from homes with people who are suffering all within view of our expensive new cars as we zip down the highway.

With the help of the Juarez Executive Rotary Club and the Municipal Government of Juarez the Aposento Alto dining room was opened in February of 2009. Since that time thousands of children living in one of the poorest communities in Juarez have received warm food served by volunteers. Please help us reach our goal of raising $100,000 to sustain this effort over the next few years.

Let us hear from you.  Tell us how you want to be a part of the tree.  You can be a part of the trunk, a branch, a stem, a leaf, a flower or simply a ray of sunshine or nourishment for the soil.  To make a donation click the PayPal link below.  To follow our progress and learn more go to our Contact page.   Thank you for taking time to learn about Tree of Hopes.

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Comedor hosts volunteers

Yesterday I drove to the Comedor Aposento Alto in far northwest Juarez where over 50 volunteers from Colorado and California were

staying while building a home for a needy family as part of a larger effort in the area coordinated by Casas Por Cristo. At dinner tonight the group will hear a presentation on the Comedor’s need for expanded restrooms and showers and a bus that is needed to help transport children to and from the facility. Special thanks to everyone who is in the area this week working to make our world a better place for people in need.

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We are the tree

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by Rick LoBello

One day Nestor Ramirez told me a story that really touched my heart.   It is a simple story of how God has touched his life and how he wants to make a difference in helping the poor people of his community.  Nestor lived in Anapra, an area of Juarez that I and so many of us in El Paso have seen from a distance, but have never been to.  Anapra is a neighborhood in the city of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which borders the Rio Grande. It is one of the poorest communities within the city.

Not long ago I visited Nestor’s home and met his family.   It was my first visit to Juarez in nearly ten years.  They live next to a small church called Aposento Alto.  Nestor’s parents minister to the people of Anapra and help to feed the hungry.   Tree of Hopes plans to help them in many ways in buying food for the Church to feed the hungry and to build homes for those who live in very sad conditions.

I hope that you will want to help this tree of hopes grow into something beautiful.   The seed has been planted and I am helping it grow.   Will you join me?
Please fill out the contact form to learn more about how you can help.

If you would like to donate now please do so.  We need about $2000 a month to keep the current program going to pay all the bills and buy food to feed the children of Anapra.

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