Grassroots leaders train to stop flooding in border colonias

Josué Ramírez, Texas Housers Rio Grande Valley director

Josué Ramírez, Texas Housers Rio Grande Valley director

The Land Use Colonia Housing Action (LUCHA) initiative has made some big strides in the past year.

At Texas Housers we’ve been working with our partners in the LUCHA effort – A Resource In Serving Equality (ARISE), buildingcommunityWORKSHOP [bc], the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) and La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) – alongside colonia residents in the Rio Grande Valley to develop a broad set of community education materials. Together we’ve launched the LUCHA Library, offering resources in the subject areas of drainage, governance, housing, planning and development and public services, and begun a series of monthly trainings.

LUCHA aims to build the power of residents and organizing groups, like ARISE and LUPE, by increasing local access to information that can be used to better advocate for community concerns. Participants go through multiple curriculum levels and build a knowledge base for engaging efficiently in the grassroots campaigns organized around issues affecting their communities, such as inadequate drainage.

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Josué speaks to LUCHA leaders at a monthly training.

Beyond the monthly trainings (pictured at left), with three months dedicated to each subject, the LUCHA curriculum is complemented with additional community organizing and actions such as house meetings, preplanning, communications trainings, testimonies at the bimonthly County Commissioners Court and individual meetings with county and drainage district staff.

The LUCHA curriculum was redesigned throughout 2016 through direct community involvement and a thorough participation process with colonia leaders. Since we know that residents hold critical local knowledge, they are at the core of the curriculum’s development. Since the launch of the new curriculum, community organizers have held six trainings with more than 50 colonia leaders. Over the next several months, the trainings will be expanded into the colonias which a Texas Water Development Board study identified as having serious structure and nuisance flooding.

Our friends at [bc] produced a great video that shows how the drainage trainings work:

 

dsc00657The trainings supplement the grassroots drainage campaign currently ramping up in the Valley by demonstrating how design and infrastructure issues impact individuals’ lives and what steps residents can take personally to protect their homes and communities. When learning the terminology of water management, participants interact with homemade models of different drainage systems such as swales, ditches and pipes used to manage water (pictured at top). Residents also passed around examples of local vegetation that can filter water and reduce runoff (pictured at right).

As LUCHA leader Eva Carranza says in the video, “We could see first hand what they had taught us, what we had learned, and we were applying it in the colonia.”

The recent addition of a graphic designer to the LUCHA team has transformed the curriculum content into a graphic learning tool, making the technical information in the LUCHA Library accessible and applicable to low income and colonia residents. Beyond the drainage trainings and the governance trainings held several months ago, the partners and the community are hard at work to develop and release curriculum on housing, public services, and planning and development later this year.

Learn more about the LUCHA process:

 

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