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made out of


Compacted and


An Educational Construction Project The vision

I hope that we will have a natural gathering space for greetings, chit-chat, convivencia, hugging...that's one of the best things that happens here now. It makes the place inviting. ~Delia Gomez

The building that we are dreaming of will be our gift to the community and to our futures. It will be a tangible reminder to our daughters and to low-income immigrant women in the area that they are worth this effort. ~Sheri Sykes-Ortega

For approximately seven years the Women’s Intercultural Center functioned in a 1,500 square foot space, which was acquired by converting a two-car garage and adjoining storage area into several small offices, a kitchen and a gathering space. Over the years, the space proved insufficient for the Center's expanding programs. The classes and projects brought in more participants and more ideas for new classes. It was time for a change. In the beginning of 2000, the women, staff and board of the Women's Intercultural Center began to seriously consider the possibility of expanding their building. Together, they envisioned what a larger space would offer. Some ideas they had initially were to create:

• • •

• • • • • •

an attractive store/gallery space a large commercial kitchen for cooking classes and catering. an open, flexible space for art and messy activities, such as carpentry and pottery, while also having space which can be divided and multi-purpose classroom space for sewing, crafts, etc. accessible bathrooms comfortable offices a warm and welcoming reception area storage closets and a quiet space for ESL and tutoring

Our desire for this building project is that the women will contribute their energy at every stage. This will involve extensive effort on education about solar energy, the environment and alternative building methods. We will all be involved in this education process: the women, staff, board, and the Anthony community. ~Sheri Sykes-Ortega

own homes. Affordable housing is in short supply in the border area; many people live in mobile homes or sub-standard housing. When a family does acquire sufficient money to put an addition on the house, it is often done with cinder blocks and inadequate insulation. Extreme summer heat and cold As a grassroots community organization, winter nights in this desert area result in the Center staff and board determined that high utility bills. Manufactured homes, the least expensive option for many, are the goals of the expansion project would particularly difficult to maintain at a livable be to: temperature.

Goals for the Expansion

1. Provide revenue generating employment opportunities for the Center's participants and the community. 2. Offer training in environmental principals that would help families save energy and resources. 3. Promote alternative building methods which people could use for future employment opportunities and in their

After receiving a start up challenge grant of $100,000.00 from the McAuley Fund, the board and staff decided that it was time to try to make their vision a reality. In the Spring of 2001, the Center began an educational process by which people from the community learned to build an Environmentally friendly, and aesthetically pleasing building on Center property.

What does the community need? We decided to engage in an educational process regarding use of solar energy, weatherization, water conservation, and alternative construction methods appropriate to this desert area.

“ I am so excited about this process, and the potential outcome. It is a work in progress...and I guess so are we. ~Kirstin Maanum

A Holistic Approach to Construction By Martina Filerio

We approached the construction of our new building in a holistic manner, as we try to do with most of what we do here.


~Martina Filerio

We invited women participants and their families to an information meeting at which we introduced this idea. Sister Kathleen spoke about values: the community working together, the importance of education, the need to learn how to care for our environment, and learning to make a beautiful building at low cost. We wanted to consider these factors in the decisions we made about our building.

We then presented our schedule of field trips and presentations by which we would learn about building out of alternative When the Women's Intercultural Center board and staff made the decision to build materials—adobe, straw bales and used tires. Fifty-five people signed up for the additional space on the Center property, educational process. we approached the construction of our new building in a holistic manner, as we You may ask: Why didn't they hire a try to do with most of what we do here. contractor and crew to go and build the We approached the construction of our new building in a holistic manner as we try new building and be done with it in half the time? Why did we take the time to include to do with most of what we do here. the community in the process of learning

about different types of alternative construction? "Because we're crazy" is what some of us thought at times. Anthony is made up of a lot of homes that have been built by the owners themselves. When families no longer wish to pay rent, financially their only alternative is to buy a lot, a mobile home, and move in. The purpose of this process was to allow families who were planning to move or build to do so with better knowledge of what was and is available to them. We all appreciate the value of an education on low energy consumption these days. Many people here have trouble paying their utility bills and we wanted to address this issue in depth. We took the group to a session on weatherization at UTEP—the first time that some had ever set foot in a university or "felt like a college student." We learned about lowering utilities in our homes by simple means, such as changing the type of light bulbs we use. We are learning together, creating awareness, and as soon as we have enough information, we'll decide what materials to use in the building of our new space!

Creating A Just Work Environment By Sr. Kathleen Erikson With the educational construction project, we have an opportunity to do things in a different way. So often, we are critical of our society, thinking it is materialistic, shallow, unjust in large and small ways.

So, if we could do things the way we believe they could be done with the good of all in mind, how would we do it? If we examine the values we want to promote in this process, what values do we want to emphasize? A work environment in which all are treated with dignity and respect: Workers feel comfortable on the work site, have plenty of water, access to bathrooms, are not "bossed around" but participate in the work process, can make suggestions. Fair wages for the work Starting with $6.00/hr, the Center is Committed to paying people fairly. Community The Women's Intercultural Center is a place for women from Anthony and the surrounding area. We believe that strong women make strong communities, and family members and others from the community are welcome to participate in Center programs as appropriate. Throughout the construction process, we hope to involve staff, Board members, people from the community, volunteers from other places—in a process that allows them to interact and learn together. We want this to be more than a job for workers, but a place where they get to know one another. We will plan times to eat together and celebrate together. Education The intent of the education process is that all who participate, however minimally, in the construction of additional Center space, will learn something. At each step of the way there will be educational sessions where theory and practice of construction will be presented. The goals

of the education are: 1. to teach skills which help people get future employment, 2. To teach skills which will help people make their homes more environmentally friendly and low cost in energy use, 3. to allow participants to explore their interests and abilities in various areas of construction, landscaping, home improvement, etc. Environment Building out of earth and used tires is a demonstration of using low-cost (or free) recycled materials which will help the environment and be energy efficient. Throughout the process, we will look for ways to make use of solar energy, use as little water as possible, and use recycled materials inside the building.

Working Collectively: ‘With’ Rather Than ‘For’ By Meghan Gorham

of people. I felt privileged to sit in on a planning meeting for the construction project. I sat amazed at the thoughtfulness given to details by each staff member and the eagerness to be correctly informed on each step of the process. It might be easy to overlook the strength of these women, to take for granted the end product and to not see what went into making the Women's Center happen. But I was fortunate to be there at a time of transition, where there are still a lot of questions, a time of respectfully working through differences of opinion, and a time where strengths shine through.

I have had visions of programs that would operate differently, where the people are a part of the process.

~Meghan Gorham

As a second year graduate student in social work, I have studied and even developed proposals to create services and programs targeted to identify and meet the needs of a certain population in any given area. Part of my frustration with many such programs is that they are By Maria Ramos created for a group of people , and these people rarely are allowed to give input into My name is Maria and I'm from Juarez. I have almost all of my family here and I the whole process. have five children, a son and four daughters. I'm a single mother. After visiting the Women's Intercultural Center, I now have proof that it can be I got interested in this project when I done and can last. Sitting with these women, one cannot deny the importance learned about it through a cousin who is of doing things with rather than for a group working here. It seemed very interesting

Las Trabajadoras: The Construction Crew

Women Doing Construction By Mary Rodriguez My name is Mary Rodriguez. I'm from Guadalupe, Chihuahua from the valley Of Juarez. I have my family but my husband and I are now alone in the house with my sister and her little boy.

This work is wonderful for me. Being in this project means that women like us realize that we are able to do the same things that men do. We are worth so much. ~Maria Ramos

I got interested in this project because I was curious about it and I needed to work. I fill tires with dirt and we pound it with a sledge hammer so that it stays hard. It amazes everyone to see a woman doing construction--and construction with tires no less! Nothing has been difficult for me because when I enjoy something, I do it. It's been very fun for me to work with my coworkers. We enjoy our time together and we get along well. I like everyone because they're all beautiful people and we have a good time. It's been a positive experience for me because I'm always learning new things.

to me. I thought to myself, "I'm going to work and see if I can do the same thing that the women in this project are doing." I wanted to know how capable I was of enduring this kind of work. This work is wonderful for me. Being in this project means that women like us realize that we are able to do the same things that men do. We are worth so much. This project can open many doors to many jobs. Through this project, our self -esteem has been raised and we feel more important as women.

It amazes everyone to see a woman doing construction—and construction with tires no less! ~Mary Rodriguez

How I Got Involved By Laura Garcia

I want to tell you how I got involved in this construction. One day when I was helping clean the church across from the Center I realized that there was a women's center there and I saw a sign that had information. I wrote down the information—I was very curious about it— and I called. They gave me information about the construction with tires. I was very interested and went to the classes about different types of construction. The Center decided to use the tires.

English during the day. As we were talking, she told me about this project and I was very interested. I felt I had to come. At first, I thought that the construction was something that would be very hard, that only men could do. But as I lost my fear— of carrying heavy things and tools that men use—I saw that women could also be equals if one resolves to do it. Now, I enjoy what I do. I feel more able to do what I most like, which is filling tires. Yes, it's difficult, but in a short time I have changed my way of thinking. I know that I can do what I put my mind to do.

Yes, it’s difficult, but in the short time I have changed my way of thinking. I know that I can do what I put my mind to. ~Angelica Davila

Changing My Way of Thinking By Angelica Davila I have lived in Anthony, New Mexico for five years. I have one girl who is seven years old. My husband works in trailers. I was a housewife; I had never worked before. I have a neighbor who comes to the Women's Intercultural Center to study

Working Together By Martina Mancinas

I am married and I have seven children and ten grandchildren. I came here from Durango, Mexico. I am Catholic. When I came to mass, I saw a sign for the Women's Intercultural Center on the other side of the street that said "We give English classes.” It interested me; my dream all of my life is to speak English. I went there and they told me when the classes were and what kind of other

workshops they had. Since then, it's like my home. I ask things about immigration. The people at the Center give us a lot of information about everything we need—advice to raise our children and also how to interact with our spouses. The work for me is very creative and interesting. It teaches us how to fill tires and know the measurements of the level and make a house or a center for ourselves. We can work, men and women together, and they don't discriminate against anyone. There are words of welcome for everyone.

We can work, men and women together, and they don’t discriminate against anyone. There are words of welcome for everyone.

~Martina Mancinas

Pleased to Participate By Beatriz Melendez

I was born in San Juan del Rio in Durango, Mexico. I am married and I have four children and two grandchildren. I live in Anthony, N.M. I have been here for 22 years. I have a friend named Luz. One day she went to my house to visit me and she

asked me, "What do you do in the morning?" and I said "I get bored" since all of my children are at school. She said, "Listen, Betty, I'm going to the Women's Intercultural Center. They are needing volunteers for the day care center." It caught my attention and the next day I went. I remember that a very friendly person helped me, Alma, who was the secretary. She gave me all of the information and that's how I arrived at the Center three years ago. My participation in the project is to work in everything I can: filling tires, mixing cement and everything I can that has to do with the construction. The biggest challenge of the project for me is the height of the walls, since I'm afraid of heights. What part of the project have I enjoyed most? Filling tires. At first, it was difficult, but now it's very easy for me. I like everything about the project. I am very pleased to be participating in it and to be able to say to the world that it's not embarrassing to me to work and use sledgehammers and come out full of dirt. Personally, I feel very proud to see the walls getting higher and higher.

I am very pleased to be participating in [the project] and to be able to say to the world that it’s not embarrassing to me to work and use sledgehammers and come out full of dirt. ~Beatriz Melendez

Feeling Useful and Capable By Ramona Urbina

It’s exhausting work. The first day everything hurt and I thought that I wasn’t going to last very long working here. But now I feel like a woman who is used and capable. ~Ramona Urbina

I am the mother of five children, three daughters and two sons. I live with my children and my husband. I come from a little town in the state of Durango. Mexico is my country. My family and I arrived here in Anthony in 1992. Why used tires? There are more than three billion tires that One evening in October of 2001, my are thrown away in the United States. neighbor called me to tell me that the Every year we throw away more than 250 Women's Intercultural Center was going to million more. (Paschich & Hendricks, start a construction project using tires. The 1995). next day in the morning, I invited Angelica and we came to the Center. For me this How to fill a tire: After digging a leveled kind of work was hard because I had trench, tires are placed and pounded with never in my life held a level. But I learned. compacted earth so that they weigh over 300 pounds. Each tire becomes a It's exhausting work. The first day rammed earth brick surrounded by steel everything hurt and I thought that I wasn't belted rubber that are pounded into place. going to last very long working here. But Once they are filled, the tires are very now I feel like a woman who is useful and difficult to move. capable. I have changed a lot. I feel very content when I see all of the work that we Tire filling is done in teams of two. As one have done, my co-workers and I. More woman shovels dirt into the tire, the other than anyone, I am very proud because I woman pushes dirt into the sides of the know I can do it. What I have enjoyed tire. As more and more dirt is added, a most is seeing the construction coming so sledgehammer is used to pack the dirt into far along. all areas of the tire. When the tire is

Used-Tire Construction Basics

sufficiently filled, it will swell from seven to 7 1/2 inches to about nine or 9 1/2 inches tall. Finally, the tire must be level in all The building’s inauguration was held on directions. November 26, 2003. As a demonstration of commitment to operating in a The second layer of tires is staggered in collaborative style instead of inviting a the same way that bricks or concrete “dignitary” to cut a ribbon or give a speech; blocks are staggered. A small piece of cardboard is placed under the second row the women stretched a long ribbon across of tires so that dirt will not fall through. As the front of the Center and all those instrumental in completing the construction each layer of tires is finished, it must be project cut the ribbon at the same leveled by stretching a line level across time. Then Sr. Camilla Verret led a the tires. “blessing tour” through the Center. Bishop Ramirez from Las Cruces presented the Center with a beautiful picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe which to this day hangs on the wall of the Gallery.

Building Inauguration

Insights into the Construction

The Center staff and the women encountered many frustrations due to construction delays and in securing the building permits. The women overcame the frustrations and challenges of this project by gathering together to meditate and write about their dreams for themselves and their dreams for the Center. These inspirational messages were then placed within the compacted earth inside the tires that make up the structural walls of the Center.

What Happened to the Women?

Some of the women who were most involved in the construction of the main Center building developed employment skills and were hired on as part of the staff, a tradition which continues to date. Some learned English and gained Most people upon entering the building for the confidence to move on to attain technical skills, higher education or the first time say they sense a special employment. And some started their own feeling, a feeling of inner peace. We small business through the skills they believe that what they feel are the gained from the project. emotions of the inspirational messages recorded by the women in their notes. — End — Notes that now have become one with the compacted earth.

A place constructed out of compacted earth and tires.  

A story of the Women's Intercultural Center's most successful educational project: The construction of the main Center building. The only p...

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