About Agua Prieta Family Shelters Incorporated

A 501c.3 organization.

APFS, Inc. is dedicated to providing housing for families living in extremely poor conditions in the Territoria Movimiento and the Colonia Ladrilleria Neighborhoods in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. Agua Prieta is across the border from Douglas, Arizona. It is located about 130 miles southeast of Tucson.

For over two decades, our volunteer building teams provide all-weather shelter to families living in these sub-standard and unsanitary conditions. Currently, three building teams, each consisting of ten to twenty members construct site built shelters from October through March. Year round, our Team Leaders often meet and participate with volunteer groups traveling to Agua Prieta for the first time from other states as far away as Michigan.

In addition to the team that travels from the United States, our Mexican partners provide not only assistance in building, but also serve as translators and hosts during our building weekends.

Building a shelter for those less fortunate in Agua Prieta can be a very special experience. It can be very gratifying to be able to positively impact the lives of so many by volunteering a relatively small amount of your time and effort.

Read About Our History

Agua Prieta Family Shelters, Inc. was started as a result of building our first shelter in Agua Prieta in the Fall of 1997. Hearing that we could make a huge difference in living conditions for a certain large family with young children and live-in grand parents, four of us took off to Agua Prieta, sight unseen. As pre-planned, we linked up with a rancher, Dan Schoenfelder, who is dedicated to guiding building teams in the construction of shelters for families living in shambles and lean-to shacks in the Neighborhood barrio.

Pouring the foundation2When we drove through the Colonia Ladrilleria Neighborhood barrio and arrived at the building site, we found it hard to imagine anyone could live in such a poor environment, day-in and day-out and with little hope that conditions would ever improve. Dirt, mud and sandy streets, no utilities, no sanitary facilities, little food, sleeping on the dirt, few clothes and no shoes for many of the children. On subsequent trips we brought food, shoes and jackets for the children, blankets and clothes for the family and their neighbors.

Working on weekends and in a variety of weather conditions, it took $2500 and several trips to complete that first shelter. While we were building, other people heard of our project and joined us. The next effort was building a duplex for two sisters and their families. When even more people joined us we began to finish shelters that other teams had started and were unable to complete.  Realizing how important our contribution to the families living in these neighborhoods was we developed a schedule for our trips, organized the volunteers, and established our building season (October-March).   Each season we finished whatever shelters remained incomplete and then built a new one or two more before the end of our season.

We had the desire to grow and build more shelters to house more families. However, funding was an issue and it appeared that expanding our service was not going to be easy.

During the summer of 2001, through word of mouth and contacts with friends, we were guided to attorney Sherry Teachner and accountant Jon Hahn. After reviewing our efforts and understanding our desire to incorporate and operate as a 100% volunteer corporation, they offered their services to assist us to incorporate. Following a federal review process, Agua Prieta Family Shelter’s, Inc. (APFSI), a nonprofit 501.c.3 Corporation, was established in March 2002

Elena Chabolla, a reporter with the Arizona Daily Star, heard of our efforts and with Max Bercherer, a Daily Star photographer, joined us for a day during a building trip. As a result of Elena’s feature article, funding sources became more available and additional volunteers stepped up to the plate. Materials to build a shelter now cost  between $4600 and $5000 depending on what materials may get donated during the season.  Funding is always a challenge for our organization, and yet through the generous contributions of our supporters, our building teams have been able to complete four to six shelters every season for the past several years.

Three of the original foursome from 1997 are still active and serve as officers of the Corporation as well as Team Leaders:

Roger Schneider, President; Kip Thompson, Vice-President; Frank Fountain, Treasurer; and Bob Martin is the  Secretary

Additional Board Members have included: Steve Wilson, Connie Coleman, Paul Mueller, Gordon Washburn, and Donna Levandewski.

We all have daily activities and busy schedules like everyone else, but we are committed to continue building shelters, training new volunteers and directing seasoned building teams in the Neighborhoods barrio.

Life in the Colonia Ladrilleria and the Territoria Movimiento Neighborhoods barrio

Situated in southwest Agua Prieta, the Colonia Ladrilleria Neighborhood extends south from Highway 2 to Calle 35 and east and west of Avenida 7. The Territoria Movimiento Neighborhood extends south beyond Calle 35 to the edge of town and also east and west of Avenida 2 Industrial. These are the primary neighborhoods in which APFS, Inc. builds shelters.

Jobs are very scarce in these Neighborhoods. For those that are fortunate to be employed, the average day’s pay is about $10. Consequently, with the high cost of living, most families, especially those living in the Territoria Movimiento Neighborhood barrio, live in makeshift shacks of tarpaper combined with wood pallets and a variety of materials wired and tacked together. Also, the shacks have no conventional actual doors or windows and no services such as electricity and sewer and many have no direct water service, a combination that creates a situation similar to neighborhoods in third world counties. The lack of facilities and services certainly creates a challenge for us as well as others to build the family a nice all-weather shelter, but we get it done using generators, battery powered equipment, gas-powered mixers and, on occasion, large drums to transport water.

The Colonia Ladrilleria Neighborhood Northern portions of the barrio where APFSI has built many shelters in previous years have since been provided with very basic utility service opportunities. However, due to poor economic conditions, many families cannot afford to connect to the services or to pay a monthly fee to use the services.

School enrollment is highest in the winter. Temperatures often drop below freezing and sometimes into the single digits at night. With the lack of heat in many of the shacks, the schoolroom provides a warm haven.

Many families are cared for by only one parent, and it is often the mother who bears this burden alone. Older siblings pitch in and help care for the younger children. But often, the older siblings living in the same shack have children of their own.

The focus of Agua Prieta Family Shelters, Inc. is to improve the lives and well-being of families in barrio neighborhoods in Sonora, Mexico. Our efforts over the past two decades have provided not only housing for less fortunate families living on the US and Mexican border, but we have realized the gratitude and gift of sharing our time and resources.