Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | September 1, 2022

Mission to the Border 2022: A Transformative Journey

Blog|Steph McNally

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of being part of the Grace Cathedral mission to the border, led by the Rev. Dr. Greg Kimura.

Among the places we visited, one that stands out to me is Canyon Nest, a school for 3 to 10-year-olds in Tijuana created by PILAglobal.

To reach the school, we needed to walk some distance along a rocky track. Sleepy-eyed stray dogs watched us as we jumped back and forth across a foul-smelling stream. 

Before the teachers at the school could greet us, the space did. The courtyard, with its shade, warm colors, and art station, all spoke welcome.  

Inside, a beautifully arranged classroom awaited the children, its easily accessible shelves filled with crafts and toys waiting to be held, squeezed, and used to make magical creations. 

Costumes and props spilled out of baskets on the stage in the dramatic play area. 

Everywhere there were invitations, stated and implied, for jugar, for play. Every aspect of this school has been designed to build joy, encourage curiosity and reinforce how loved and valued they are to each child.   

This site of learning and joy is built adjacent to a shelter for 1700 people seeking asylum in the US. Many of the children who attend this school, and their families who have risked everything to bring them here, have living situations as precarious as the dwellings we saw built on the dusty slopes of the canyon. 

The lead teacher of the school, herself from Tijuana, shared how much planning goes into the school’s curriculum. Children at Canyon Nest differing levels of literacy; most have experienced trauma. The teachers work with constant care and thought, providing a meaningful learning experience to every child who comes to the school. 

And more and more children are coming.   

That day, I saw incredible teachers who could not be rewarded enough. The CEO of PILAglobal, who led our visit, shared that the organization prioritizes the funding of teachers and teaching assistants, many of whom are drawn from the community, over all other resources. I can’t stop thinking about these teachers. I suspect it is because I feel hope in reflecting on them. 

Photo Credit: Alina Dennis

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