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SWT to produce documentary on plight of colonia children

Date of release: 06/10/98

HARLINGEN, TEXAS — Production is expected to begin in July on a documentary that will focus attention on the plight of children and families living in colonias along the Texas-Mexico border. A project of Southwest Texas State University, the documentary is funded by a $994,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., to SWT. It was announced by SWT officials June 10 at a news conference in Harlingen.

Colonias are unincorporated settlements that often lack basic water and sewer systems. These neighborhoods are marked by high dropout rates, low incomes and health problems that include higher-than-average rates of hepatitis, tuberculosis, salmonellosis and shigellosis.

Colonias can be found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Texas has the largest number --1,400-- most located along the state’s 1,248-mile border with Mexico. “The children and families of the colonias are truly a forgotten people. Their plight has gone largely undocumented and unnoticed by policy makers. It is our goal to produce a documentary that will focus attention on the educational, health care and public resource needs of the colonias,” said project director Jaime Chahin of the SWT Walter Richter Institute of Social Work Research in the school’s Department of Social Work.

Chahin will team with Hector Galán of Galán Productions Inc. Television Films to produce the one-hour documentary, which is intended for telecast by PBS. Filming will begin in July, and the production is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete.

Award-winning photographer Allen Pogue will participate in the project by teaching colonia children to illustrate their living conditions using photography. In addition to the documentary, the project includes the creation of a virtual reality website to allow policy makers a live look at health, education and quality of life issues faced by the children of the colonias.

At the conclusion of the project, state and federal legislators will participate in a legislative summit to discuss policy issues concerning children and families in the colonias.