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Ellen Calmus helps Mexican families cope with cross-border challenges

The Corner Project assists families with relatives in the US, ensuring, for example, that children of migrant workers born in the US are able to register for school or other services in Mexico.

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Ellen Calmus (c., standing) poses with teachers and students from The Corner Project, which helps the children of migrants away in the US.

Courtesy of Ellen Calmus/El Rincon

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Here in the stunningly beautiful highlands of south-central Mexico, thousands of families facing economic hardship have seen relatives leave to seek work in the United States. Families have been torn apart, and many of those who have returned to the region continue to need help and support.

Ellen Calmus, an American writer and photographer who founded and today runs a community-based aid organization here, has seen it all.

Her nonprofit group – The Corner Project, or Proyecto El Rincón in Spanish – has won her Mexico's gold Quetzalcóatl medal and praise in Mexico and elsewhere for providing crisis support and other assistance to local families with relatives in the US. It is also seen as a model for how nongovernmental organizations can deal with cross-border migration. A growing number of towns and villages beyond the Malinalco region have turned to El Rincón with requests for assistance for their own families of migrants.

Working with a staff of four full-time employees, along with dozens of part-time participants and volunteers, Ms. Calmus helps create jobs by supporting the design, production, and sale of Aztec-inspired jewelry, handcrafted by local artisans. She also oversees weekend and summer programs for migrants' children.

But she says the bulk of the requests received by her organization are for crisis assistance for the families of Malinalco's migrants in the US, for those who have returned to Malinalco after suffering injuries or falling ill in the US, and appeals for help for the widows and orphans of migrants killed in highway and workplace accidents.

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