Decolonized Mind

Dr. Yasir Hussain was born in the tribal lands of the Kurram Agency in the town of Alizai, grew up in Peshawar, and later relocated to Islamabad, Pakistan. With a love for literature, Hussain became a Fulbright scholar at the University of Pennsylvania before completing the Phd in Language, Literacy, and Socio-Cultural Studies at the University of New Mexico. In the dissertation called English Language Teachers’ Preparedness: An Investigation of Idealogical Meaning-Making in Higher Education Institutions in Pakistan, Hussain seeks to understand the influence of the English language on modern teaching methods. Today, Dr. Hussain teaches with the Department of English at National University of Modern Language in Islamabad.


Narrator Yasir Hussain


Read Dr. Hussain’s 2018 dissertation:


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Posted in Albuquerque


Born in Albuquerque, John Saucedo grew up visiting grandparents Max and Patricia in Carrizozo, New Mexico. An Albuquerque High School graduate, John mastered traditional gameplay and modern video games. A fan of popular music, including early K-Pop sensation Girl’s Day, Saucedo developed a social media meme based on a single photo of Korean singer Park So-jin. Inspired by family members to live well with appreciation for the beauty of New Mexico’s distinct landscape, John lauds empty and open spaces that allow for a sense of calm. In remembering long bouts of gameplay whereby lucid dreams occurred between sleep, playing the game, and everyday life, John prefers multiplayer games that connect internet players across the globe. With game titles such as Metal Gear Solid II, League of Legends Classic, and Crash Bandicoot, John has made connections both online and in-person with friends who share gameplay strategies, competitive spectator gameplay, and possibly online streaming ad-revenue and tournament prize money. Whether speaking on desert landscapes of New Mexico, data-information-media theory, or future possibility with video gaming, John’s appreciation for others, and the work to be done, continues to be clear.



Narrator John Saucedo

Recorded 28 April 2015 with thanks to Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library Special Collections, 423 Central Avenue.

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Posted in Albuquerque

Hope Stories

Albuquerque Main Library at 5th & Copper

My journey to learn public history began with the March, 2014 Albuquerque Police Department shooting and killing of James Boyd, a “Homeless camper” who had been identified by nearby housed individuals as transient, potentially dangerous, and in need of assistance. The community memory of Mr. Boyd’s death persists in controversy alongside local social justice efforts for police reform. The murder sparked open protest, increased attention to the treatment of those suffering mental health episodes, and intensified the call for alternative police responses for Albuquerque’s homeless and near-homeless neighbors.

In May of 2020, I delivered the Consolidated Services Corridor article, graduated from the New Mexico State University public history program, and then, at home with my wife, hunkered down with pandemic society. The word “Home” echoed in my mind as I processed the Hope Stories project, contemplated Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, and reflected on the perspectives of public history from the archives. Too often the clichéd trope of “Home” only scratches the surface for those working to end homelessness. My contribution was limited to short visits to the Hope Campus to attend The Great Conversation, 5 hour volunteer shifts at El Caldito soup kitchen during summer of 2018, and picking up groceries from Casa de Peregrinos food pantry with the onset of the pandemic.

Read the Article: 

Some view homeless people through the social lens of statistics, populations, or economics; others by human rights, affordable housing, or the history of charity organizations. Returned to Albuquerque in 2021, my wife and I noted how empty the streets appeared, the way automobile and city bus traffic had somehow slowed down and changed for pedestrians, and a new pandemic “Quiet noise” throughout the city we love. Certainly due to lockdown of the housed — Albuquerque’s homeless have their own stories to tell about surviving Covid-19. Our homecoming was short lived because each day our perspectives changed with more information, additional insight, and work to reengage with the community.

Albuquerque continues to grapple with wide-spread homelessness regardless years of heightened media awareness. For some, an increase of “Not-In-My-Backyard” posturing continues about where the unhoused are permitted to exist. I have yet to drive along Gibson Boulevard to view the newly adopted consolidated homeless services area located at the former Lovelace Hospital. I remember a long ago visit as a teenager, a memory from a time my mother had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for me there due to her familiarity with working at the hospital as medical transcriptionist. 

That transcription became a part of my adult life, and that Lovelace Hospital has been named Albuquerque’s newest homeless services corridor, does not escape my sense of professional identity. Although I am somewhat relieved to be moving on from my chosen graduate study topic, I cannot abandon New Mexico’s struggle with poverty and homelessness without first finding my place to help the people of Albuquerque. That said, I acknowledge my limitations about the best way to help. Conducting the Hope Stories project, I have learned to be realistic, to communicate each intention without expectation, and, most of all, to persist, to persist, and to persist — no matter what symptoms and causes appear to be. 

I first thought to study American poverty and homelessness after mom Cheryl’s return trip from Dallas to Albuquerque, the summer following the murder of James Boyd. Mom became fed up with being a florist, and decided to return to the resources where, she believed, people understood her struggle to pay monthly rent, utilities, and food costs. This included, of course, all the rest that goes along with having a “Home” when you’re “Poor.” In the late 1980s, my mother had divorced my father shortly after our family moved to Albuquerque from Sacramento, California. Papa Carl was a Staff Sergeant relocated to Kirkland Air Force Base, and mom Cheryl had never taken kindly to being a military wife.

It is here that I check-in with my white privilege, a topic my father and I could never agree on. From my perspective, economic privilege in America happens in excess for the entirety of white people, even for those who acknowledge the history of violent and systemic racism, patriarchy and toxic masculinity, and the white supremacy responsible for inequitable housing across the country. My father’s view had been that everyone, no matter color of skin or origin of birth, had the chance to “Prove” themselves worthy to American capitalism and its vast systems of state government. In looking backwards, it was difficult to teeter-totter between the culture of the military base and the poverty of southeast Albuquerque as a latchkey kid.

On the other side of the family, the 1990s were a difficult time for my mom. Her access to white privilege became a paradox of social service offices, hospital visits, and a continuous effort to maintain friendships with neighbors that lived in apartment buildings she barely could afford. Mom Cheryl worked dead-end jobs to pay the rent for too many apartments to count; struggled with mental health episodes brought on by debilitating back pain, a result of the food service industry; and, by the time she’d ended up near-homeless after that return trip to Albuquerque, mom Cheryl had only narrowly scraped by to reach the age of 65 and access the social security income attached to my father’s military benefits.

What realistic and realtime options are there to create an end to homelessness? What are the access points available in Albuquerque for those desperately hungry, living on the streets, or threatened with eviction from their homes? How can we collectively help the hungry, the homeless, and the people of our community? What options help to prevent eviction for our neighbors? How does the American society of the future address the roots causes of poverty in light of past and present day symptomatic treatment of hunger, healthcare, and homelessness?

Instead of pointing fingers, perhaps it’s a sustainable community resource that Albuquerque, alongside other cities of the United States, must address for the long term benefit of the people.

“The purpose of life is a life with purpose.” 

Hope Stories narrator Kit Elliot

What future can we create, together, from the collective purpose of housing and caring for everyone? Hope Stories narrators listed perspectives about the reality of being capable of helping homeless services’ providers through the portal of Consolidated Services Models; however, most of all, narrators called attention to the economic culture of our society — the need for direct action to increase affordable housing units, heightened access to healthcare for the uninsured, the unemployed, and the unhoused, and, a greater movement to solve the problem of food insecurity for children and their families.

Unlike this blog post, the Hope Stories project does not consider my personal history nor did I ask narrators to create narrative tapestries from their own experience with homelessness. For further insight, read the list of interview questions, consider the historical questions that I had in mind from the context of your own city, or connect with bibliography materials to request a few of the books and articles that I studied. Few narrators knew about mom Cheryl’s story, or my father’s illness and death near the close of the project. The distances that take place to create ethical relationships with narrators cannot always make claims of professional reciprocality when public historians collect, process, and preserve stories that include trauma. The community experience of public history becomes combined with best practice, personal relationships that develop, and professional care to keep an ethical momentum toward the original goals of the project.

The point I’m trying to make clear: the lives of the people carry on, in good health or with continued suffering and struggle, and regardless the perceptions of the out-of-town researcher, the temporary interviewer, or the professor working to manage research proposals. A community history should not be made into a cathartic balancing beam between the city and its people, and, like public health and city government, a community’s history cannot serve one group of people without also seeking to connect them together with their neighbors.

It is redundant to identify human beings as “Homeless people,” or “Transient,” or any number of classifications that obscure the needs of the individual. Likewise, it is important to remember that the volunteer community itself risks suffering from a kind of helper’s anxiety, unwarranted threats with disingenuous terms like “Virtue signaling,” and issues of inaccessibility about the best way to contribute.

Do we stand in the way of the help we offer, or can we collaborate in such a way that symptomatic problems become addressed while root causes are treated by honest care for the next generation?

At Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, an ongoing community narrative serves to help volunteers and benefactors understand that, while monetary donations are welcome, it’s active engagement that brings people together to prevent hunger and homelessness. There are a variety of approaches to help those in need when their need becomes present within the community. Yes, money pays the bills, and keeps the lights on. Yes, cash money helps feed the hungry, and to upkeep vital resources. Money is an excellent way to reach out to the people who need temporary housing, medical care, and a nutritious hot meal — and, rather than a “Handout,” a “Hand up” from the hardships of the street.

To do absolutely nothing, and to be vocal and opinionated about what should be — “Must be” — done, is the worst treatment for the problem.

I rarely give handouts, and seldom connect with panhandlers. Instead, I seek solutions regardless the difficult answers that may put me to work. I seek volunteerism, and communication, and connection to viable resources. I behave this way because I believe that the best way to help originates from places like Mesilla Valley Community of Hope in Las Cruces, Hope Works and Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, and the future Gateway Center at Lovelace Hospital on Gibson Avenue. A crucial part of Consolidated Services’ Models today being developed across the country: these resources for the hungry, the sick, and the homeless are temporary keys to the much bigger problem of historical American negligence, a shared refusal to address the root causes of poverty.

We need innovation, compassion, and tenacity through the generations to prevent homelessness far into the future.

Main Library Downtown at 5th & Copper

At home in Albuquerque, my wife and I have thankfully returned to work for “Housekeeping” after the pandemic. We do our best to increase the savings account, to discover realistic avenues of employment, to afford housing and food costs, and to keep physical and mental health in mind… into the future. 

Last week, driving by myself on Zuni Road at Louisiana Boulevard, a woman held up a sign written with magic marker telling the story of her daughter’s struggle to overcome an illness. At the stoplight, traffic cluttered to a standstill as the woman carried a gray plastic jug to panhandle spare change. I noticed that quite a few paper bills had already been donated that morning.

I have learned from Hope Stories narrators that it is very important not to be too emotional, overly sympathetic, or fleeting with intention. The phrase “We are all human, we are all being,” echoes from the voice of a narrator who emphasized the practice of case-by-case attention to available resources, actions, and realistic outcomes. In terms of the real-world: perspective and opinion does little to nothing to be of service.

With the sign carried underarm, the woman walked along the median and shook the jug. The coins thumped and rattled like a hallowing street drum. In reasoning about whether the story of her daughter’s condition were true, down to my bones I felt how little my unvoiced opinion, or any so-called “Truth,” helped this woman’s persistence to survive.

It occurred to me that what was once called the “War zone” — now rebranded “International District” — had somehow grown worse while the community worked to better itself. Arbitrary feelings from a former resident; an outside observer’s paradox, and completely inaccurate to the reality of the neighborhood. An irrational fear of poverty and homelessness — each time I’d lost a job, or “Moved on,” or drank too much; the threat of being robbed, or beaten, or raped — for me, this perspective does not exist. Such images risk becoming unhealthy and obscured social constructions rooted to the fear of poverty.

On another side of the city, James Boyd had been killed in a well-off area of the Albuquerque foothills, not too far away from what city officials sometimes call a “Pocket of poverty.” Personal experiences make little difference to the livelihood of this woman’s child, or the memory of James Boyd, should we choose to do nothing, to give nothing, to be a silent nothing; largely safe and unexposed by those that threaten to evict, to bankrupt, and to send one another to the American “Poorhouse.”

The street light blurred from red to green. The woman climbed up to the curb and onto the sidewalk of Zuni Road. She took a deep breath in, then exhaled into the heat of the morning, peering down the road to navigate the next sequence of cars that would soon arrive on the boulevard. From the safety of the vehicle, I drove through southeast Albuquerque’s state streets — Louisiana, Kentucky, and Georgia streets; Florida, Dakota, and California, &tc. — questioning my purpose, questioning my actions, questioning my next steps.

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Posted in Albuquerque, Las Cruces

Aggie Cupboard

Kit Elliott graduated from New Mexico State University class of 1962, earned English, Spanish, and Secondary Education degrees, and became an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) instructor through Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Central New Mexico Community College. Born and raised in the military, Elliott remembers waiting in line for “Airlift” food distribution in 1948 Berlin, Germany. An alumna volunteer with Aggie Cupboard, Elliott speaks about NMSU campus food insecurity, and student homelessness dating back to the 1960s.

Whether working to increase awareness about fair trade, human rights, and women’s labor with Weaving for Justice, or attending to borderland migrants and economic refugees seeking medical care, emotional support, and asylum in the United States, Elliott’s statement that “The purpose of life is a life with purpose” makes light of a compassionate and tenacious volunteerism to help others succeed. 

A member of New Mexico’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Red Cross’ Disaster Medical Assistant Team (DMAT), and the national Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Elliott’s career commitment to New Mexico’s public health continues to inspire volunteers who work to limit campus hunger and experiences of student homelessness. From Elliott’s perspective, it’s important to recognize healthful nutritional education, personal “Balance,” and to incorporate a well-rounded “Understanding of food” as NMSU students.

906 Gregg Street Las Cruces, New Mexico

Aggie Cupboard program specialist Meg Long first became involved with social service advocacy with women experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Long worked with AmeriCorps to improve housing conditions for South Dakota Native Americans, and lived in Kenya, East Africa with Peace Corps as a HIV/AIDS prevention educator. In Portland, Oregon, Long became a certified Living Yoga “Trauma-informed” and “Recovery–sensitive” instructor for those experiencing substance abuse and recovery from incarceration.

With Sociology and Social Work degrees from Western Michigan University, and Masters of Public Health from New Mexico State University, Long recognized the need for increased student access to nutritional food sources. Originally introduced to the campus community in 2012 as “NMSU Food Pantry,” the Aggie Cupboard helps to increase supplemental nutrition, housing resources, and community awareness about hunger in New Mexico. Long explains that Food Insecurity is “The state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quality of affordable, nutritious food.” 

Aggie Cupboard provides free and confidential food assistance to the NMSU students, staff, and faculty. To help limit food insecurity, this important local access to food includes Doña Ana Community College, and the monthly Mobile Food Pantry (MFP). Aggie Cupboard nutritional assistance includes “Non-refrigerated nutritious food that typically includes staples such as protein, vegetables, soups, beans, rice, pasta and sauce,” while Mobile Food Pantry events work in collaboration with Casa de Peregrinos and Roadrunner Food Bank to deliver fresh fruits, vegetables, and other perishable goods, to the NMSU community.



Narrators Meg Long & Kit Elliott

Hope Stories 15 –– 1h 37m duration. Recorded at NMSU Aggie Cupboard on 906 Gregg Street, Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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Posted in Las Cruces

El Caldito Crew Chief Cook

Julie Boxer grew up hiking the forests of Washington state, a colder, rainier, Pacific northwest ocean climate compared to the Chihuahuan Desert which surrounds the City of Las Cruces. Boxer became an outdoors skills trainer with The Mountaineers, a Master of History at University of Washington, and contracted overseas teacher for the United States Air Force with University of Maryland.

When deciding not to become a career teacher, Boxer chose to combine the love of cooking and the livelihood of restaurant ownership with Dad’s Place, a breakfast and lunchtime diner located in the downtown Washington State Capitol district of Olympia. With laborious hours and lively working shifts, Boxer transformed the diner into a successful catering side business, and, as Catering Director, incorporated important avenues of revenue for large scale venues and guest events.

Boxer has traveled to Japan, and England, and most recently “Thru-Hiked” from hut-to-hut in New Zealand. After retirement to the southwestern United States, Boxer joined an active community volunteer movement during Las Cruces’ Volunteer Fair. A member of the Ocotillo Hikers, and El Caldito’s working board Secretary, Boxer leads the kitchen as Crew Chief Cook each Thursday. Shifts begin in the early morning hours to prepare hot entrees, side-dishes, and the daily soup to be served for the 11:30 AM lunch hour. 

North to Soledad Canyon Road in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Julie Boxer says that as Crew Chief Cook the “Chief Challenge” remains consistent volunteer engagement for those handy at making sandwiches, preparing salads, and capable of preparing and serving varieties of hot and cold foods to El Caldito guests. As Secretary, Boxer reminds us that weekly tasks include annual events’ preparation for Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces “Empty Bowls,” Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Military Veterans’ dinners, and more. Boxer names El Caldito as part of the successes of Camp Hope, to include Community of Hope collaborative alliance partnerships working in tandem with Roadrunner Food Bank and Casa de Peregrinos Food Program to help end hunger in southern New Mexico’s Doña Ana County.



Narrator Julie Boxer

Hope Stories 14 –– 1h 38m duration. Recorded in the narrator’s home.

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Posted in Las Cruces

Mesilla Valley Community of Hope

Wintertime Snows on Las Cruces, New Mexico's Organ Mountains

Nicole Martinez grew up in California and Oregon, studied Sociology at Brigham Young University, and, after working for Utah’s child protective services, earned Social Work and Sociology masters’ degrees from Western New Mexico University and New Mexico State University. In 2006, as Housing Programs Manager, Martinez helped transition Hacienda Del Sol women’s shelter into the organizational care of Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH), closing shelter services and emphasizing the Las Cruces community’s need to expand resources.

Permanent Supportive Housing programs continued, such as Adobe, Inc group home to assist chronically homeless clients. With principles of “Housing First,” MVCH improves local housing opportunities for Las Cruces area residents and visitors. In 2011, Martinez became MVCH executive director at a time when overnight campers began to sleep nearby Hope Campus buildings due to severe winter weather and significantly risen numbers of people seeking daytime hours of operations.

In collaboration with homeless clients, Martinez and other staff members appealed to the City of Las Cruces for lawful overnight camping measures which resulted in extensive planning to introduce safe, sanitary, and rezoned areas for sleeping, preparing meals, and remaining close to services on the Hope Campus.

Wintertime Snows over Las Cruces, New Mexico’s Organ Mountains

With the creation of the self-governed tent city known as Camp Hope, Martinez advocated for transitional housing grants to match the needs of Las Cruces permanent housing opportunities. As MVCH executive director, and Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), Martinez supports caseworkers who assist clients by working to secure funding for programs like Sue’s House, a group residence for chronically homeless women; Veteran’s Housing and Supportive Services; a biweekly Homeless Legal Clinic; and long-time requested establishment of the Mano Y Mano day labor program.

To help support the operational needs of Camp Hope, Martinez created the annual Tents-to-Rents online fundraiser, available to business organizations who volunteer to raise money and provide resources, and for compassionate individuals who seek beneficial avenues of donation.

Mesilla Valley Community of Hope partnerships continue with the City of Las Cruces, the Veterans’ Administration, and New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD). Martinez and MVCH staff also collaborate with New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness (NMCEH) to complete federal Continuum of Care applications, advocate homeless issues during yearly legislative lobby day sessions, and offer technical assistance and best practice training workshops for southern New Mexico organizations who seek to help those experiencing homelessness within their own communities.

In 2018-2019, Mesilla Valley Community of Hope served 2,971 clients on the Hope Campus, an increase of 343 clients from the previous year.



Narrator Nicole Martinez

Hope Stories 13 –– 1h 33m duration. Recorded at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

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Posted in Las Cruces

El Caldito “Empty Bowls”

Gabriel Anaya was born and raised in Moriarty, New Mexico. In high school, Anaya worked at a family restaurant on the famous US Route 66 and developed a love for cooking from the simplicity of recipes. An early alumni of New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanics Arts, Anaya attended the Las Cruces land-grant college during its name change to New Mexico State University. A member of NMSU’s Reserves Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), Anaya went on to serve for thirty years before retiring from the United States Army as Colonel.

After a two year commission at Fort Benning, Georgia, Anaya returned to New Mexico and applied to become a math teacher at Silver City High School. With a masters degree from Western New Mexico University, and introduced to John Paul Taylor at a National Education Association (NEA) meeting, Anaya was again hired to teach mathematics at Las Cruces High School where he spent more than twenty-five years alongside continued active and reserves U.S. Army service.

Following retirement, Anaya volunteered at El Caldito Soup Kitchen and helped increase options to include Saturday “Sack-lunch” and a “Sunday meal.” Responsible for additional weekend meals, and more active volunteer help, El Caldito now offered daily food service delivery on the Hope Campus. With volunteer “Working Board” membership supported across the Las Cruces community, Anaya became El Caldito’s volunteer executive director in charge of the local Food Rescue Program, including scheduled “Gleaning” of donation foods from contributing supermarkets, bakeries, and hospitals.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

With El Caldito’s Empty Bowls fundraiser, sponsored by the Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces and Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church, Anaya helps to continue a cherished local tradition. With ticket purchase, patrons may select “from over twelve-hundred” hand-made pottery bowls, choose from a variety of specially made hot soups created and served by local restaurants, and together share a thoughtful meal as a community committed to ending hunger in New Mexico.

In 2020, Anaya’s role as El Caldito’s volunteer executive director changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 27th annual Empty Bowls became a “Soup-less event” with an online auction of Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces bowls and artwork available.



Narrator Gabriel Anaya

Hope Stories 12 –– 57m duration. Recorded at El Jardin de Los Niños en La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

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Posted in Las Cruces

El Caldito Dining Room Volunteer

Gabe Martinez grew up in the agricultural “Bread basket” of California’s San Joaquin valley. A veteran of the United States Air Force who, following “Retirement,” also served with the United States Air Coastal Guard, Martinez has helped people during times of distress, times of repair, and times of homelessness and hunger. Martinez was “Part of the 325th Bomb Squadron” on Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington; later studied Business Management at NMSU, and, more recently, commuted from Deming to Las Cruces, New Mexico to help prevent hunger.

Martinez volunteered at El Caldito soup kitchen to stay active, to give back to the community, and to limit food insecurity for the people of southern New Mexico. With kindness, respect, and collaborative problem solving conversation, Martinez visits with clients, staff, and volunteers to connect common interest through art, storytelling, or likeminded volunteerism, and to laugh and joke with the spirit of resiliency.

For places like Mesilla Valley Community of Hope to exist, Martinez describes geographically convenient Consolidated Services Models for homeless health and human services. To increase beneficial outcomes for those unable to reach the Hope Campus in Las Cruces, Martinez suggests an increase of community “Satellite” food pantry locations throughout Doña Ana County. 

The western train to Deming, New Mexico
The train to Deming, New Mexico

A keen lapidary artist, Martinez carves personalized, memorialized, and strikingly beautiful Yuca and Sotol Walking Sticks as gifts to military veterans. Whether unloading the big trucks of Casa de Peregrinos, or keeping the bread basket wagon stocked with gleaned donuts and bakery items at El Caldito, Martinez’s volunteerism brings people together to help one another address New Mexico’s poverty, homelessness, and hunger.



Narrator Gabe Martinez

Hope Stories 11 –– 1h 51m duration. Recorded at Jardin de Los Niños en La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

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Posted in Las Cruces

El Caldito Kitchen Volunteer

Rio Grande

Karen Currier studied Commercial Art in Dayton, Ohio, traveled to New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina; and, before settling in Las Cruces in the 1980s, lived on a kibbutz in Israel to learn Hebrew. An artist, Currier became fascinated with lapidary, decorative painting, and designing gourds alongside Avon cosmetic sales. Currier volunteered at Black Box Theater, joined book clubs, and explored New Mexico mountain peaks with Ocotillo Hikers of Las Cruces.

An early volunteer at Saint Andrew’s church original day-lunch program, Currier developed friendships that led to over five years of service with El Caldito Soup Kitchen. Many churches, local organizations, and students from New Mexico State University contribute to morning preparation and afternoon serving of El Caldito’s lunchtime meal. Volunteers are always requested to lend a gracious hand Sunday to Friday from 8 am to 2 pm for food service at 11:30 am to 1 pm.

Each Saturday, “To-go” sack lunch is available from 11:30 am to 12 pm.

Rio Grande
Organ Mountains from Rio Grande

Currier shares the concerns of many about maintaining consistent volunteer help, revising kitchen use of recyclable plastic containers, and serving clients the most nutritional daily meal possible. During busy summer months, El Caldito sometimes must work with a “Skeleton Crew” of cooks, lunch-line servers, and dining room helpers.

With compassionate service to those who visit, Currier speaks about the challenges of cooking from scratch from available El Caldito ingredients.



Narrator Karen Currier

Hope Stories 10 –– 1h 18m duration. Recorded at the narrator’s home in reference to El Caldito Soup Kitchen located on the Hope Campus

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Posted in Las Cruces

Camp Hope Outreach

Rio Grande

Jack Turney grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and La Habra Heights, California. In addition to food delivery with Meals on Wheels, Turney volunteered alongside family members during community Thanksgiving events, cooked with Saint Joseph’s kitchen to provide “Dinner in the Park” to the homeless, and participated in Tijuana Spring Breakthrough (TJSB) “Intentional Accompaniment” relationship building visits to Mexico with University of San Diego.

Involved with University Ministry, and ordained as a Eucharistic Minister, Turney later traveled to Alameda, California for the Mulvaney Immersion Communities for Action and Humility (MICAH) Summer Fellowship, an eight week program to inspire “Adaptive Leadership” with values of simplicity, community, social justice, and spirituality.

In August of 2017, through Border Servant Corps, Turney became Camp Hope Outreach Coordinator, responsible for direct contact with residents to promote Mesilla Valley Community of Hope resources and transitional housing opportunities. Like other faith-based organizations of Turney’s volunteer experience, Border Servant Corps hosts “Accompaniment-style immersions” in the Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; El Paso, Texas; and Las Cruces, New Mexico borderland regions. 

Rio Grande

As Camp Hope Outreach Coordinator, Turney helped facilitate The Great Conversation alongside Randy Harris, organized weekly writing groups, meditations, and confidence building activities with the original principles of Camp Hope “Self-Governance.” To increase the likelihood for trusting relationships between residents, clients, and staff, Turney suggested that the “Rules” form signed by all residents be reconstituted and renamed as Camp Hope “Agreements.” 

In 2019, with advisement from Yoli Silva, Turney enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at New Mexico State University. In collaboration with university departments and Las Cruces community organizations, increased awareness for year-round volunteer engagement alongside Hope Campus professional staff continues to be one of many responsibilities for the outreach coordinator.



Narrator Jack Turney

Hope Stories 09 –– 2h 5m duration. Recorded 20 July 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

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Posted in Las Cruces

Project Link Homeless Education

Yoli Silva helped New Mexico’s children as a Las Cruces Public Schools (Title 1– Education for the Disadvantaged) Social Worker for over twenty-seven years, including twelve years as Project Link Homeless Education liaison to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Silva worked as an investigator, a counselor for foster care and adoption with Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD), and advocated for community awareness of youth experiencing homelessness. An important perspective on the State of New Mexico’s foster care system, domestic violence, and its historic struggles with childhood welfare, the CYFD mission statement reads, simply, “Improving the Quality of Life for All Our Children.” 

Locally, accommodated by Project Link liaisons to promote enrollment regardless personal circumstances, Las Cruces Public Schools issues “Student Residency Questionnaires” to identify homeless youth and families in need of assistance. In partnership with Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Las Cruces started a fundraiser event for Project Link called “Linking Hands: Helping Our Homeless Youth” which raised over $36,000 in 2018, and more than $40,000 in 2019. 

Silva emphasizes regular commitment of student support to match the determination that youths need to create lasting educational schedules and routines. This includes community recognition that youth homelessness requires year-round attention, Silva tells us, and not just during holidays or over the winter months of the academic school year. 

A long-time partner to Mesilla Valley Community of Hope and collaborator with former executive director Audrey Hardman-Hartley of Jardin de Los Niños to provide students consistent access to educational resources, in 2018 Silva retired from Las Cruces Public Schools persistent to continue to seek funding sources for New Mexico’s unaccompanied youth.

A Las Cruces Public Schools web-link also shares the informative Community Resource Guide created and maintained by Jardin de Los Niños staff. From child care, to crisis intervention, to food and financial assistance, to emergency shelter information; this vital services guide signals the city-wide collaboration in the Las Cruces community’s history to combine public health with necessary crisis response.

Yoli Silva speaks about community collaboration with the organization after learning that two unaccompanied teen youths became temporarily homeless during the winter season.



Narrator Yoli Silva

Hope Stories 08 –– 1h 49m duration. Recorded 17 July 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

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Posted in Las Cruces

Amador Health Center

Pamela Angell grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut. With a Professional Writing degree from University of New Mexico, Angell wrote for a small newspaper in Grants, New Mexico, later relocating to work as a reporter for the Las Cruces Sun News writing about Borderland politics, New Mexico Colonias, and American Education. Angell went on to serve as director for Doña Ana County Humane Society in Las Cruces.

In 2001, as the executive director of Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, Angell advocated for Las Cruces homeless services and organized fundraiser events to increase community awareness. During this time, Angell earned a Masters of Public Administration from New Mexico State University. In 2010, Angell joined the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to deliver statements to the U.S. House of Representatives on the topic of “Providing Essential Services and Benefits to Veterans in New Mexico and Across America.”

In 2011, Angell became executive director of Saint Luke’s Health Clinic, during which time the Las Cruces community experienced increased cases of homelessness. Rather than prohibit overnight camping, Angell asked members of the homeless community to identify the resources they needed and wanted. This collaboration between Hope Campus leadership, the homeless community, and Las Cruces City Council resulted in temporary measures for the tent-city known as Camp Hope. Eventually zoned to address public safety concerns, and legally sanctioned by the City of Las Cruces, under the model of “Self-governance” Camp Hope offers residents Housing First transitional living with access to partner programs located on the Hope Campus. 

Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 14.13.42

In 2012, Saint Luke’s Health Clinic organized Cafe Salud, a weekly Harm Reduction Program event designed to support wellness and wellbeing with vital nutrition, exercise, and health triage information. During the first Cafe Salud, a New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) mobile clinic offered free HIV and Hepatitis screenings, personal safe-sex kits, and a needle and syringe exchange. The event also offered a Naloxone aerosol spray training session to advocate for the prevention of opiate overdoses.

In 2018, Angell helped orchestrate a campaign to renovate Saint Luke’s Health Clinic facilities and services. Rebranded by name, logo, and Hope Campus location, no longer considered an unsustainable “Free Clinic,” Amador Health Center increased behavioral and clinical healthcare opportunities with low-income sliding-fee billing schedules alongside Las Cruces community access for those covered by health insurance.

Important to make clear for the local community and Doña Ana County residents who access services in Las Cruces, New Mexico:

Amador Health Center’s new facilities are located on the Hope Campus at 999 West Amador Avenue  for healthcare provider services to both insured and uninsured patients.



Narrator Pamela Angell

Hope Stories 07 –– 1h 51m duration. Recorded 13 July 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

Amador Image Post
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Saint Andrew’s Church Hope

Dr. Nancy McMillan grew up in Las Alamos, New Mexico, an area known as a “Glow in the Dark” scientific community because of its history with radioactive elements and nuclear materials’ production. A youth member of Los Alamos Geological Society to spend time in the outdoors, McMillan established an appreciation for minerals, geology, and the natural environment.

Graduated from New Mexico State University in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in Geology, alongside a Bachelor of Arts in Russian language in that same year, in 1986 McMillan earned a Phd in Geology with an emphasis on Volcanology from Southern Methodist University. Awarded the Dennis W. Darnall Faculty Achievement Award in 2002 at New Mexico State University, McMillan innovated the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) portable Chem-Cam instrument to more accurately and easily analyze geological samples.

A Mesilla Valley Community of Hope cofounder, and board president from 1991-1997, McMillan credits Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church priest Father Jim Galbraith for inspiration to relocate the overburdened day-lunch program which later became El Caldito Soup Kitchen. With little available space for hungry clients visiting the church, including increased service needs at Saint Luke’s Health Clinic, McMillan and others organized, promoted, and fundraised a years-long effort to create an early version of the Consolidated Services Model.

The church bell tower of Saint Andrews

Locally controversial, the relatively experimental idea to relocate homeless services into one centralized area blossomed throughout the 1990s. An example for other homeless communities, according to officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope became possible after McMillan accompanied politician John Paul Taylor to New Mexico’s Legislature in Santa Fe to gather the initial financial support for design, construction, and staffing of the buildings today known as Hope Campus.

Today, access service locations continue to create risks for those without safe and reliable transportation. When experiencing homelessness, traveling on foot from one location to another is dangerous and exhausting, a terrible threat to life especially for youth and the elderly.

Dr. McMillan describes the geographic process of evolution for Health and Human Services fragmentation across the City of Las Cruces.



Narrator Nancy McMillan

Hope Stories 06 –– 1h 16m duration. Recorded 29 June 2018 at NMSU Public History Seminar Room, Breland Hall 258.

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Hacienda del Sol shelter

Raised in Appalachian West Virginia, and inspired by her mother’s belief in the power of education, Nancy Baker rose above the roots of poverty and into an academic career. Dr. Baker earned a PhD from Tulane University in 1989, joined New Mexico State University that same year, and authored numerous scholarly works about law and government in the United States, including two non-fiction titles on the office of U.S. Attorney General –– Conflicting Loyalties: Law and Politics in the Attorney General’s Office, 1789-1990, and General Ashcroft: Attorney at War. A Professor Emeritus with multiple academic honors, including two national teaching awards, Dr. Baker is a recipient of the Westhafer Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Dr. Baker helped establish “Hacienda del Sol,” a shelter for women and children located on the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus. Although the non-profit organization struggled financially and eventually closed in 2006, its history remains an important blueprint of the competing demands necessary to fund and maintain the day-to-day operational growth of homeless shelter services. 

A 2004 Internet Archive post from MVCH’s then homepage shares Hacienda del Sol’s mission statement, which read:

Assist families and women to become stable and self-sufficient by providing housing, support and guidance in a positive environment that promotes lasting change.

In support of higher education for non-traditional women, Dr. Baker created the “Over the Rainbow” scholarship, a Spring-Board fund with Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico. In 2015, to increase awareness and outreach efforts for those experiencing homelessness, Dr. Baker became a Development Committee member with the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope. 

Now a retired Mystery novelist writing under the name N.V. Baker, the book Vanished was published in 2016.

Dr. Baker concludes the following highlight clip with thoughtful insight about unsheltered men in Las Cruces, and the eventual creation of Camp Hope.



Narrator Nancy Baker

Hope Stories 05 –– 1h 35m duration. Recorded 15 June 2018 at NMSU Public History Seminar Room, Breland Hall 258.

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Las Vegas, Nevada’s CARE Complex

Glenn Trowbridge was born in St. Albans, West Virginia, and lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for over forty years. With service in the United States Air Force, study in psychology at San Diego State University and business administration at National University, Trowbridge became director of human resources in Clark County, Nevada from 1979 to 2001.

Trowbridge worked for a domestic violence non-profit organization called Safe Nest, served as Republican member of the Nevada Assembly from 2014 to 2016, and later became volunteer executive director of the north Las Vegas CARE Complex.

Originally an unsanctioned “Street feeder” program –– today discouraged and considered an unwelcome distinction of well-intentioned “Do-gooders” –– a group of advocates evolved their agenda, raised funds to purchase an abandoned drug house, and renovated the building into the Crisis Assistance Relief Effort or CARE Complex. Resources for those experiencing homelessness include a clothing closet, internet access computers, lockers to store belongings, a city bus-pass program, and services to re-establish important birth certificate and driver’s license identification documents. 

In 2017, the City of Las Vegas approved the “Corridor of Hope” project on Foremaster Lane and North Las Vegas Boulevard, located within immediate area of CARE Complex and other homeless services. 

With an intentional consolidated service area similar to Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, and modeled after San Antonio, Texas’ “Haven for Hope,” the “Courtyard” outreach approach seeks to create greater access to temporary housing, medical care, counseling, legal aid, and employment resources in conjunction with CARE Complex services.



Narrator Glenn Trowbridge

Hope Stories 04 –– 1h 36m duration. Recorded 19 April 2018 at the CARE Complex, 200 Foremaster Lane, Las Vegas, Nevada.

CARE Complex entrance; photo by Mat Ellis

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Saint Luke’s Health Clinic

 James Sassak was born in Pontiac, Michigan, moved to Las Cruces in 1986, and later attended college in Orlando, Florida. Sassak returned to Las Cruces after a 2011 winter storm known as the “Deep Freeze” threatened health conditions for both housed and unhoused people of the region.

With organizational support to help establish Camp Hope on Mesilla Valley Community of Hope Campus, and recover from personal experiences of homelessness, Sassak eventually became a Peer Support Specialist with Saint Luke’s Health Clinic. Peer Support Specialists work to strengthen relationships of trust by connecting Hope Campus clients to relevant resources, programs, and caseworkers.

An advocate for military veterans, Sassak and others proposed that mobile, rent-to-own “Tiny Homes” be built to increase shelter options for homeless veterans. To promote awareness, the Las Cruces Veteran’s Theater Foundation produced stage plays about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), drug and alcohol abuse recovery programs, and the destigmatization of being identified as “Homeless.”

With Sassak’s help, the Veteran’s Theater addressed the problem of illegal “Spice,” a deadly synthetic marijuana substance sometimes made available to minors through distribution by underground smoke shops.

In addition to Jail Diversion or “Homeless Court” programs on the Hope Campus, Sassak advocates for the consolidated services model to increase coordinated communications between the criminal justice system and City of Las Cruces resources, hospitals, and non-profit organizations working in unison to provide help.

Saint Luke’s Health Clinic, now called Amador Health Center, supports the core mission values of Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Excellence, and Service.



Narrator James Sassak

Hope Stories 03 –– 1h 42m duration. Recorded 29 March 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

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Jardin de Los Niños

Audrey Hardman-Hartley was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, raised in El Paso, Texas and Hilo, Hawaii, and returned to Las Cruces to attend New Mexico State University.

Twenty six years after completing a master’s degree, and following a career in the medical field, Hardman-Hartley again returned to NMSU to study Early Childhood Education and serve as Executive Director of Jardin de Los Niños from 2014-2018. A lifelong volunteer who has committed time to the board of directors for Las Cruces Public School and March of Dimes, Hardman-Hartley also fundraised for Camino de Vida Center for HIV Services’ events.

Recipient of the 2018 John Paul Taylor Social Justice Award, in this interview Hardman-Hartley advocates for children’s literacy through the Dogs Who Read program, the practice of therapeutic intervention developmental screening at Jardin de Los Niños, and increased need for Early Childhood Education in New Mexico. 

To outline 2018 health and human service resources available to children aged eighteen and under on Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus, Hardman-Hartley speaks about collaboration with Amador Health Center to open a pediatric clinic located at Jardin de Los Niños. Because best practices that concern young children remain stringent and subjected to continuous oversight from the State of New Mexico, the level of security at Jardin de Los Niños allows for respite and calmness unlike other spaces on the Hope campus.

While many people may be surprised that children are present in this setting, Jardin de Los Niños provides a vital function to parents and children experiencing homeless by allowing the time, space, and appropriate resources to recover from family hardships unseen by most.



Narrator Audrey Hardman-Hartley

Hope Stories 02 –– 1h 37m duration. Recorded 9 March 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

Jardin Front
Jardin de Los Niños on the Hope Campus

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The Great Conversation

Randy Harris was born on Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, studied history, social science, and communication, and worked in agriculture, media, energy conservation, and entrepreneurial creativity.

In 2010, Harris engaged Las Cruces citizens to participate in a series of civil and informed community dialogues called The Great Conversation. To focus on the homeless situation happening on-the-ground prior to City of Las Cruces legally sanctioned overnight camping, Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) asked Harris to coordinate and facilitate The Great Conversation with those experiencing homelessness.

A way to negotiate the needs of the homeless community through respectful dialog, and to make available timely opportunities to access local services, MVCH clients, and residents living temporarily at Camp Hope, meet to discuss a range of topics such as transitional housing programs, on-site options for healthcare, and reliable sources of food. Each Tuesday morning at 10 o’clock, The Great Conversation begins with an orientation session for those new to Camp Hope, a MVCH staff attended exchange of information and discussion about the progress of individuals seeking permanent housing opportunities.

In this March 2nd, 2018 interview, Harris spoke about 2011 origins of Camp Hope on the Hope campus, the importance of community dialogue to support collaborative problem-solving, and approaches to limiting short-term symptoms and long-term causes of homelessness. Since 2010, The Great Conversation has hosted approximately 1,500 dialogues in the Las Cruces community.



Narrator Randy Harris

Hope Stories 01 –– 1h 30m duration. Recorded 2 March 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.  

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Hope Stories Narrator Questions

Sunset from White Sands National Park

Questions design general outlines and intentions for the Hope Stories project, a working guideline to consider how a single interview might progress.

The Hope Stories Questions list seeks rapport with potential narrators, greater access of memory recall, and to prepare for the day of the interview. Individual questions change with each narrator’s background, field of specialization, and according to the personal story each narrator chooses to share. Suggested subjects, personal events, and specific questions for conversation are always encouraged.

For more information about working together, and developing questions for the story you would most like to tell, Contact me by phone or email.    

All recordings begin with a short introduction which details interview location, date, and anyone who may be present other than the narrator and the interviewer. In addition to the digital-file name of the recording, the interview begins when the narrator states:

Full name
Location considered hometown 
Current role or recent advocacy at Mesilla Valley Community of Hope


Will you share a story about growing up

Where did you go to school –– What career did you imagine for yourself

Talk about highlights of your personal biography before Mesilla Valley Community of Hope –– Education, Travel, Business, Volunteerism

Talk about the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope and Doña Ana County services that matter most to your work

Hope Stories

What is your perspective on finding and keeping long-term employment in Las Cruces

How did you first experience what today is commonly called a “tent-city” or “homeless youth” or “soup-kitchen” or “health clinic” or “food pantry”

Discuss differences between sanctioned and unsanctioned tent-cities

How can community support help or hinder success for the homeless

Talk about the benefits of transitional housing programs like Tents-to-Rents––            Complications

Discuss some of the challenges of maintaining health when experiencing homelessness

Which clinical services and healthcare programs help the homeless to access food and shelter

Hope New Mexico

Tell me about services and resources outside Camp Hope that work –– those that do not

How do access services to public housing differ throughout the State of New Mexico and the City of Las Cruces

What is your knowledge of poverty and hunger in rural areas of the state

Have you worked with Community of Hope clients from New Mexico Colonias

What is your knowledge about New Mexico’s transition between the traditional federal Food Stamp Program and today’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

In your experience, have programs like New Mexico’s use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) helped avoid homelessness

Hope Work

How do City, State or Federal funding programs play a role in your work

Can you talk about specific city or state institutional challenges of helping people who are living at Camp Hope

Discuss some of the challenges of maintaining health when experiencing homelessness

Which clinical services and healthcare access programs help the homeless access food and shelter

Are soup kitchens vital to the homeless community

Hope Care

In your own daily and weekly routine, what methods of self-care work best

What programs are you aware of that help to alleviate the stress that can occur for those working to help the homeless

Are there employer, city, or state systems which support your healthcare

Do you have a retirement program as part of your work

Hope Future

Do future programs show promise to help the homeless in Las Cruces

Name three of the most valuable contributions or levels of support, not present today, that would help the homeless in Las Cruces immediately

How do you envision the future of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope

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Mesilla Valley Community of Hope Stories

Doña Ana County New Mexico

This project explores human rights, access to services, and city resources as seen through the experiences of staff, community advocates, and city officials at Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH).  The New Mexico State University Public History based project seeks to document those who have worked to mitigate community issues including yet not limited to:

  • Poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Child Hunger
  • Public Health

My intention as interviewer at Mesilla Valley Community of Hope:

To collect oral history interviews of MVCH staff, advocates, and city officials who have contributed to the ongoing success of the community. Interviews are limited to 120 minutes, held in agreed upon and pre-scheduled settings, and voluntary.

To participate in the project, all potential narrators must be a current MVCH staff member or volunteer, or an approved community advocate whose work has directly contributed to the success of the five collaborating organizations located on the

Hope Campus:

Should time permit, MVCH contributing sponsors may be considered for short, 30 minute or less interviews outlining participation to the community.

Additional interviews may be considered for other contributing organizations in the area, such as the Las Cruces Gospel Rescue Mission and the NMSU Aggie Cupboard; however, the core of the project’s focus highlights the Hope Campus.

As a potential narrator, please review the following declaration of research documents which includes the required Informed Consent signature pages. A specific set of potential interviewee questions will be made available soon.

Please contact David Lee with any questions, thoughts, or comments.

Thank you for your kindness and patience in consideration of the Hope Stories project.

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Podcasts ‘R’ Us?

Podcasts pose challenges beyond the historical applications of analog oral history methodology.  Pre-interview etiquette, in-depth narrator research, closely monitored sound recording levels and interviewing techniques all continue to be valuable skills of born-digital oral history collection; however, as the Oral History in the Liberal Arts website points out: Choosing a Digital Tool to Visualize, Oraganize, and Publish Interview Collections is an important consideration at all stages of project development.  As every seasoned sound editor knows from too little planning too late: the sooner the better.

Douglas Boyd’s Survey of Oral History Podcasts —like most things Dr. Boyd has endeavored to share on the internet — is an invaluable link for those under the impression that widespread podcasting use has passed its prime on the internet.

It should be clear that both professional and amateur historians have access to the tools of podcasting.  As we progress into the future of New Mexico, like many other states, remember that such access is often dependent on digital literacy and Wi-Fi availability initiatives in rural and underserved areas.  It should not be a surprise that not everyone under the sun has access to the internet.  To learn more about broadband internet service in New Mexico, check out the New Mexico Broadband Map from the Office of Broadband & Geospatial Initiatives. 

Rising legions of storytellers, such as Humans of New York, continue to redefine oral history as a medium of the people.  Closer to home, Humans of New Mexico follows this lead with its own brand of community based public history.

Regardless my own lone-wolf tendencies, Oral History, like podcasting, truly works best from a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and open source approach.  It is crucial to credit everyone involved on a project, and especially to remember that positive workflow is contagious to future success.

Another insight: keep in mind that your own success may influence others to adopt certain aspects of your work— this is a good thing.  Use your workflow magic, or lose it.

Workflow is one of the most challenging aspects of collection and preservation of oral history recordings.  In order to develop a connection intended audiences, consider and plan how to display your interviews for others to listen to online.

One last note in time for America’s most contested holiday of privileged class leisure, the Story Corps Great Thanksgiving Listen explores oral history and podcasting on a macro level experience.  Despite recent reports of sound and production worker unionization after complaints of inadequate compensation, it is difficult to criticize Story Corps without recognizing its potential to democratize public history access, and to show how everyday people can record and document their own story.

Regardless postproduction funding and community support,  everyone should have access to oral history, podcasting, and storytelling from the heart.

Good Luck!

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NMSU Summer Archive Internship

Los Poblanos Open Space, September 2014

In the archive, avoid to-do “which” lists that include any list of chores, errands, or projects that cannot be processed by real human beings.  In the archive, and its companion library system, any number of misfortune, pitfall, or researcher led ghost-chase jeopardizes archivists who cannot work collaboratively to solve problems.  Simply — in the university archive — too many projects risk disaster without clear staff communication.

The lonely call of the shoestring budget; ever-dreaded project pushback hype (don’t believe it); monsoon season water leakage across your beloved collections’ corners; lost processing time and unforeseen side-projects; low, absent, even nonexistent staff morale across the institution: such mechanisms limit human health and conducive productivity (forget project production) and further risks academically fabricated curmudgeons of the house repository variety.

The worst-of-all list includes poorly communicated objectives and a lack of basic operational instructions. Avoid neglectful guidance practices for work-study employees, ambiguous internship tasks and goals, and generalized absences of diversified staff character and the project engagements important to the archive.  Does your university archive TO-DO list extend well into the future? Of course it does! We are archivists.

In the archive, today’s professionals debate, negotiate, and press forward to define what archival and collection management practices mean and, likewise, how the community responds.  Does your archive suffer unreasonably from a staffing, funding, or identity slump — ask yourself: how does the community support or hinder the workflow whereby the archive hopes to collect and organize itself.

Do your archive holdings generate a local or regional memory, perhaps a single geographic area, cultural perspective or favorite folklore inquiry such as Billy the Kid?  Who currently uses the archive, and why should researchers and patrons be interested in the collection of materials behind your research room walls?

These questions, and more, depend on the archivist’s message and methodologies shown through good policy, and met with staff driven information about the resources and materials available for research room display.  What holdings draw-on and share historic value for the community?

How can the archive relate to the present day, and whose story does the archive tell, and why, where, what, when, and who described these stories?  If these questions are not obvious: hire a library and archives public relations contractor immediately.

What more!  Where does the archive display itself: the front room, the first floor library display case, the swap-meet or versatile yet cumbersome pop-up storyboard-on-tour?  Francis Blouin reminds us that “historians usually come to the archive intending to tell a story or substantiate an interpretation.” Like it or not, the present day archive belongs to the user seeking information about the contents of a collection believed to be relevant.  That said, like the library, there are policies which archive users must follow in order to heighten their own respectful research experience.

Does your archive provide a clear message and accessible points of reference which help researchers to this outcome of success?  If the answer is no, your archive has problems.

        territory of the Summer archives

In the archive — of my perspective — the need for processing of accessioned material thrives when balanced between human labor, work-time, and the community’s desire to use research rooms vigorously, numerously, and responsibly.

The New Mexico State University Archives, located at Branson Library, holds the Rio Grande Historical Collection (RGHC) with public access on the 4th floor at the Caroline E. Stras Research Room, open Monday through Friday 9 AM – 4 PM during regular Fall and Spring semester.

A July 2017 article in the Las Cruces Bulletin details NMSU Archives department head Dennis Daily’s outreach and collaboration with “10 other historical repositories … to highlight the work they do to preserve local history and culture.”  NMSU Archives houses local memory through the Amador Family papers, the New Mexico Irrigation information, and New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, to name only a few.

The RGHC Information File features annotated description of these holdings while the RGHC Subject Index provides alphabetical listing of collection content.  The NMSU Library Digital Collections allow students and community patrons online access to past university activities, historical photographs and publications, in addition to helpful library guides which present sometimes distinctive, sometimes interconnected, histories of NMSU status as a Land Grant University.

The opportunity of the archives internship helped form many new projects, and further serves to codify much of my past archival experience. For example, collaboration with university staff during collection workflow and applied box and folder level processing techniques — digital management of audio recorded material especially — which, in turn, drives my fascination for collecting and describing the objects and intellectual property of the past and present.

My intention is to work with archivists within the field, and to make oral history collections, curations, and well preserved born-digital sound narratives.

This effort includes Public History and patron awareness of the archive as a place much more than a repository of papers, historical media formats, and ancestral community objects.  I believe explicitly that the function of the university archive should be to provide physical and digital open-access, well preserved records and papers, and Special Collection displays representative of NMSU students, staff, and alumni, and especially the widely diverse Las Cruces and southern New Mexico communities.

        processing + accessioning

This summer’s internship projects combined traditional categories of archival processing with slightly more modern enterprises of audio-tape to digital-conversion of oral history interviews.  The accessioned Aubrey L. Dunn Papers seek folder level description.  The Herman B. Weisner Papers comprise, in part, oral histories recorded on reel-to-reel tape, converted to audio tape, and now carefully converted a final time to WAV file format.

Dunn Papers processing will result in a finding aid in Rocky Mountain Online Archive (RMOA).  My primary task includes a short review of each box, and a ten-to-twenty word description of each folder.  This information is then entered into an old fashioned (hopefully soon retired) Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to await further review.  Data is then edited into what Archives Space calls, rather than a Finding Aid, a Resource Record.

A guidebook to my work, the Beinecke Processing Manual chaperones all levels of the archival process.  Likewise, Archives Space is soon capable of uploading a newer RMOA website, a promising development to bring collaborative, problem solving joy to librarians and archivists once NMSU Library user database migrate early in 2018.  An Archives Space webinar calls the process a “model in transition,” which quests to deliver higher patron access, and student engagement with NMSU libraries, archives, and special collections.

With a sure foot in both worlds, NMSU Library Specialist Jennifer Chavez introduced Archives Space, a web application for archives Information Management Systems (IMS) which seeks to categorize collection holdings.  As RMOA updates its online presence, Archives Space fills the gap between the physical past and digital present.  Its origins with the Archivists Toolkit, and container (box) management philosophy supported through Lyrasis, Archives Space holds the current title of preferred software for the next generation of archivists.  An obvious reason for this clear support: attention to Describing Archives Content Standard (DACS) and the claim of capable content migration from classic format standards such as EAD, EAC, MARCXML, MODS, and Dublin Core.

By offering to provide a macro appraisal of NMSU holdings, Jennifer works with Archives Space to migrate already existing collection data into Primo, the NMSU Library’s new user database.  These tools and collaborations, and more, are sure to be a part of my student employee position this fall semester in the archive.

         into the future archives

Present technologies do not remove the work (our energy-consumed human labor) necessary to provide physical access to the items available in the collection.  A noticeable difference between Dunn and Weisner collections ― because the Dunn Papers are currently accessioned without a linkable finding aid, the Weisner Papers present a good example of the future Archives Space resource record.

The purpose of a finding aid, according to the Society for American Archivists, is to create a records’ description for best practice activities and to promote “physical and intellectual control over the materials [and] assist users to gain access to and understand the materials.”  Without a finding aid or resource record, how will your patrons discover the archive collection?

Since NMSU archives seek to maintain a digitized workflow for analog cassette tapes to the digital WAV format, the opportunity exists to learn more about processes which rescue sound materials from technical obsolescence, the audio slave’s dreaded result of outdated media losing the ability to be recovered due to damage, missing status, or a lack of technological means for digitization to take place.  For instance, without a workable reel-to-reel player, audio holdings risk oblivion should they not be attended to by archives’ staff or, alternatively, outsourced to expensive private vendors.

A helpful guide to understanding this process, The Digitization of Audio Tapes – Technical Bulletin No. 30 (link now broken) detailed numerous potential by which analog and digital incompatibility complicated recovery of antiquated recordings.  Here at NMSU archives, and with help from campus Instructional Media Services (IMS – a local campus acronym), Herman Weisner reel-to-reel tapes may soon be available thanks to the initiative to develop workflow conversion methods and future practice.

My 2017-2018 internship works with archive materials through the above established traditional methods i.e. box processing and audio file preservation, yet also in a closely knit schedule (Thursday recordings) of oral history throughout New Mexico.

Especially important to me, a Las Cruces community project to identify and record the people and organizations who advocate for those experiencing poverty, homelessness, and hunger in New Mexico.

Now a full year of writing, researching, and preparing to voice the project to the community, Fall & Spring presents the opportunity to begin the initial recordings of narrator Historias and Narratives of New Mexico.

As I conclude my Summer Internship, and continue my experience as a part-time employee, a few questions about NMSU archival practice remain; namely, available documentation of current processing guidelines, such as More Product, Less Processing (MPLP), and archives’ staff interest to survey itself about institutional practices and university archives policy.

In light of changing technology, another important insight to research further: archives recommendations to accession born-digital audio recordings into the collection.  For instance, should oral historians solicit NMSU archives to house digital files, what criteria need occur for a successful project to unfold?

From earlier this Summer at a NMSU archives sponsored workshop: does the archive plan to implement WESTPAS, a disaster recovery network of archivists and library professionals who seek to limit the disaster and recovery impacts of natural and manmade damage to archival materials?  Perhaps establishing a communication network of “first to call” documents, or even a helpful Lib Guide, could help to prevent future threat to the physical integrity of NMSU and Branson library collections.

These ideas, and many more in mind, Fall semester guarantees processing engagement, archival scholarship, and — in the archive — the welcomed pace of Las Cruces

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Mesilla de Lluvia

Although the Town of Mesilla is some distance of about four miles, the Community of Hope in Las Cruces experiences the same rains and snows as other parts of Doña Ana County, New Mexico.

It is important to remember that inclement weather conditions impact transportation, potential indoor exposures during unexpected overnight “Deep freeze” events, and various difficulties related to urban terrain crossing elements.

Organ Mountains from southern Mesilla Valley near La Mesa

In Doña Ana County, drastically changed conditions of the natural environment impact anyone without adequate shelter. For some, circumstances are temporary. Like when winter weather may catch a homeowner or property renter unprepared. Cold-weather issues of exposure, dehydration, and a variety of health risks threaten those experiencing homelessness from October to March in the Las Cruces area.

An often overlooked fact about homelessness in the borderland region: extreme weather happens year round, and regardless an outsider’s perspective that the region is somehow easier to “Survive in” when you are outdoors and living rough.


Google Map Mesilla Valley Community of Hope Campus.


AM rain, thunder, and birdsong in Mesilla, New Mexico.


Rain, wind, and dust, even harsh sun storms that elevate dangerous ground level ozone, may severely limit access to water, food, and reliable shelter. Public transportation, personal vehicles, and unsafe driving conditions on city streets and roads prove to be dangerous obstacles during inclement weather.

New Mexico rain isn’t always welcome.

Sometimes, what housed people call a “Cozy rain storm” becomes an endangerment to anyone unhoused.

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Posted in Las Cruces, Sound


The Hope Stories Bibliography features titles discovered over the course of research in Las Cruces, New Mexico, initially intended to highlight source titles to be used for a final annotated version. While annotation did not happen, archive materials, both print and digital, exist for review upon request.

In collecting newspaper and journal articles, book titles and archival source material, even webpage screen-shots, it became clear that these research tasks required close, trim-and-cut, reading and writing.

Genuine Thanks and appreciation go to Circulation, Inter-Library Loan, and Archives and Special Collections at the NMSU Library in Las Cruces. Without support from Doña Ana County Historical Society, and the sixteen gracious narrators of the project who allowed me to repeatedly contact them between 2017-2020 about their contributions to the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, the project would never have been possible nor preserved for future research.

Take note that complete interviews and transcripts are available at NMSU Archives and Special Collections.

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Posted in Las Cruces
Las Cruces 2018
David Lee

David Lee

creates public history sound recordings, seeks reasonable workflow, and dreams of longterm digital preservation.

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