Proyecto Juan Diego, a nonprofit organization, was established in 2003 by Sister Phylis Peters. Its mission is to educate and empower low-income families to make healthy choices and become socially responsible members of society. This is done through various programs that promote healthcare, families, education, social and civic engagement.
Proyecto Juan Diego is located in Cameron Park, a “colonia” (unincorporated town) located near Brownsville, Texas.
This border city, located along the Rio Grande River, has served as a continuous migration route for the poor of Mexico, Central and South America.
Demographics and economics of Cameron Park include:
- the population is 99.3% Hispanic
- only 19.3% have graduated from high school
- 58% live below the poverty level
- 63% of children live below the poverty level; more than half of them will drop out
- the average per capita income is $4,103 – that’s less than Mexico, El Salvador or Guatemala
- the average family size is 4.8; most live in trailers or small homes
- 53.5% unemployment rate
- poorest community of its size (or larger) in the United States
- #39 of the The Top 100 Poorest Places in the United States
One of the oldest and most successful programs at Proyecto Juan Diego has been the family program. Staff and trained volunteers make regular home visits and assist families for an extended period of time to help meet their health and social needs with the goal of improved outcomes for children and families. the home visitors serve as a link between the family and the services available through Proyecto Juan Diego, government programs and other resources.
Other programs include after-school tutoring, health screenings, citizenship classes, English as a Second Language classes, and stress management activities.
Although Proyecto Juan Diego serves families of all faiths, some Catholic programs, such as a summer Bible program, are offered in partnership with San Felipe de Jesus Church. The parish is located a few blocks from the center.
Residents and community leaders have also advocated for better public safety in Cameron Park. Street lights have been installed throughout the neighborhood, more roads have been paved and there is increased presence of law enforcement. Voter turnout has also increased by almost 20 percent, thanks to several outreach programs.