Calmus says she is especially happy when she can help young people like 19-year-old Jovani González-Jiménez, whose father died three years ago in a logging accident in Virginia. She found a lawyer to file an insurance claim on behalf of him and his twin brother. The resulting payments have made it possible for the two boys to fulfill their father's dream of putting his sons through college.
"Without that help," Mr. González-Jiménez said, "we wouldn't be in school today.... What we wanted was to get ahead, to be somebody. My father didn't want us to live like he did, a life of suffering, working in the fields. He wanted us to study."
Edgar Monroy, a local woodcarver and teacher, credits Calmus with spearheading development of a cottage industry of craftsmen in Malinalco, which is becoming well known for its woodcarving expertise.
"Ellen is a visionary," he says. "She understands our culture.... My work is valued."
Calmus says that a growing challenge for her and her organization has been to ensure that the US-born children of migrant returnees are able to register in school, and receive vaccinations, health care, and other basic services that Mexico provides to the children of its poorest citizens free of charge. Lack of Mexican documents has stopped or delayed service to US-born children here.
A recent report by the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Hispanic Center said that about 300,000 US-born children were brought to Mexi-co between 2005 and 2010 by a rising number of Mexicans returning to their homeland.