The economic exchange between Arizona and Mexico is not exclusive to businesses and government. A Scottsdale-based nonprofit will invest $1.4 million in Sonora to incentivize local economies and do something that has a longer lasting impact.
Rancho Feliz is a three-decade-old nonprofit from Arizona fighting poverty in Agua Prieta, Sonora.
They create job sources and build homes “so people can live with dignity in Mexico and not have to migrate illegally into the United States,” said Gil Gillenwater, founder and president of Rancho Feliz.
“A great force for us is to create legal jobs right here on the border,” Gillenwater said. “We really want to stimulate the local economy.”
Gillenwater thinks the organization helps wealthy Arizonans as much as impoverished Mexicans.
“It’s called reciprocal giving: we feed their stomachs, they feed our souls,” he explained.
Rancho Feliz’s new investment in Agua Prieta is a dormitory that will allow them to increase the number of volunteers from 1,000 to 1,500 people per year.
Gillenwater explained the project will stimulate the local economy — and not only through the construction process. Those benefitted by Rancho Feliz with a new home have to pay affordable rent, do community service and make sure their children stay in school.
Joaquín Alfaro is the Mexican architect leading the construction. He said the amount of money invested is big for a project in Mexico… and so is the result.
“The main goal is that the Mexican people and the American people work together and be together,” said Alfaro.
It’s the first time that Alfaro has designed a property for Rancho Feliz. He explained that the construction will be influenced by Mexican traditional architecture to make visitors feel his country’s experience.
“It’s a really good project with an interior patio,” said Alfaro. The idea of the central patio is to bring people together.
The construction of the dorm is expected to take two years. And with it, Rancho Feliz expects to attract volunteers not only from the United States, but also from Mexico and other parts of the world.