In June 2019, the SolarSPELL team visited Naco Wellness Initiative (NWI) – a revered initiative in the Naco community that provides medical and wellness services – to brainstorm different ways the SolarSPELL digital library could be used in Naco, a census-designated place along the United States-Mexico border. 

Upon arrival, the team was treated to a warm welcome by Tom, the benevolent President and Executive Director of Naco Wellness Initiative (NWI), and impassioned members of the community, who kindly offered their specialized knowledge and perspective. Through their expertise, each community member was able to recommend content areas that could meaningfully impact the Naco community and surrounding areas. For example, Tom highlighted the community’s interest in organic gardening topics, including all phases of the gardening process such as soil preparation, planting, seeding, maintenance, harvesting, and preserving. 

After giving an overview presentation of the SolarSPELL Initiative’s history and technology, Dr. Laura Hosman, SolarSPELL Director and Co-Founder, with support from Sara, SolarSPELL’s Library Specialist, assisted community members in connecting to the digital library for the first time! Community members were able to explore the library contents to gain a better understanding of the type of content available on the library, and an understanding of the endless possibilities that exist for further content curation and local use. 

In addition to providing the SolarSPELL team with a delectable lunch, Tom and Lupita, NWI’s Directora de Casas Saludables, provided the team with a high-level overview of NWI’s programs and activities. NWI offers various educational health and wellness-based programming to community members, including the Ninos Garden Project, Family Garden Program, Diabetes Management and Prevention, Health Fairs, and much more. Through this discussion, NWI and SolarSPELL brainstormed multiple ways the digital library could be used to benefit the Naco community!

After a productive and enlightening discussion, the SolarSPELL team was treated to a tour of the community by Tom. The team had the pleasure of seeing the large vegetable garden at the Naco Orphanage where kids participate in all phases of the gardening process, with the goal of providing healthy foods for the kids throughout the year. The team was also able to view the school garden project at the elementary school in the Colosio community, which incorporates all phases of the gardening process into the regular academic curriculum. Students tend to the garden, and simultaneously learn about climate, math, geography, and other science topics! The gardens are beloved by the community and are lovingly cared for by students, NWI garden staff, school teachers and administrators, and parents. 

During the tour, the SolarSPELL team was introduced to various members of the community; all of whom clearly demonstrated their admiration for Tom and the work of Naco Wellness Initiative. It was incredible to feel the love every community member has for one another, and to witness the bond of the Naco community. 

Tom, along with the SolarSPELL team, shared excitement about what’s to come from the collaboration between Naco Wellness Initiative and SolarSPELL. With the help of ASU students, the SolarSPELL team will continue developing and curating content for the launch of version one of the Latin American digital library, and begin the initial research necessary to introduce the SolarSPELL digital library in the Naco community. 

Thanks to Tom and the Naco community, the SolarSPELL team had a great time, and are looking forward to many more visits in the future. Stay tuned for what’s to come!