Case Study

Pedacito de la Tierra

Pedacito de la Tierra transforms migrant shelters at the U.S./Mexico border into sustainable, supportive environments. It provides socio-emotional support, education, and community activities.


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Pedacito de la Tierra, meaning "A Little Piece of Home," represents a transformative initiative aimed at creating sustainable, human-centered spaces for migrants at the U.S./Mexico border. This case study examines how a diverse coalition of partners, including Alight, Burning Man Community, Catholic Sisters, and notable figures like Ronald Rael, Lina Plioplyte, and Kai Schoenhals, have come together to address the humanitarian crisis affecting thousands of families seeking asylum in the United States.


Migrant families fleeing gang and drug violence in their home countries often face prolonged waits in shelters along the border while their asylum cases are processed. The conditions in these shelters have been deteriorating, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Migrants, yearning for safety and a sense of normalcy, struggle to find the basic comforts of home and community.



Pedacito de la Tierra was conceived as a response to these dire conditions, aiming to transform existing migrant shelters into welcoming, sustainable, and supportive environments. The project kicked off at Casa de la Misericordia in Nogales, Mexico, and is set to expand to other shelters in Matamoros and Tijuana.

Key components and activities

  1. Radical hospitality and human-worthy services
  • The initiative focuses on creating spaces that offer socio-emotional support, workforce development training, and community-building activities. The aim is to provide migrants with opportunities for solitude, joy, and healing.
  1. Community and sustainability
  • The transformation includes practical education services, healthcare provision, childcare spaces, gardens, computer labs, and recreation areas. These additions help build a sense of community and sustainability among shelter residents.
  1. Traditional hornos
  • Designed by Ronald Rael, traditional adobe ovens (hornos) were constructed to provide a sustainable way to cook food. These ovens symbolize community, resilience, and cultural heritage, fostering a sense of belonging among the migrants.
  1. COVID-19 response
  • The project included a robust COVID-19 prevention and response plan, supplying shelters with protective equipment and culturally resonant public health messaging to educate and protect residents and the larger community.

The role of partners

  • Burning Man Community: Provided resources and volunteers to assist with the transformation projects.
  • Catholic Sisters: Offered spiritual and emotional support, embodying the core values of empathy and compassion.
  • Ronald Rael: Contributed architectural expertise and the design of traditional hornos.
  • Lina Plioplyte and Kai Schoenhals: Documented the transformation and human stories, raising awareness through a short film.
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The initiative has significantly impacted the lives of migrants by creating spaces that are not only functional but also inspiring and joyful. The collaborative efforts have fostered new friendships, a sense of accomplishment, and a deeper connection among shelter residents. This holistic approach allows migrants to breathe, reflect, and rebuild their lives.

Alight plans to expand this model to other shelters along the migrant route in Mexico and potentially to the Mexico-Guatemala border. The goal is to scale the impact of local partners and create more sustainable, supportive spaces for migrants in transit.

Pedacito de la Tierra exemplifies how innovative, empathetic approaches can transform the lives of migrants at the border. By focusing on community, sustainability, and human-worthy services, this initiative not only provides immediate relief but also builds a foundation for a hopeful future. Through collaboration and creativity, Pedacito de la Tierra continues to offer a little piece of home to those who need it most.



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