San Juan, TX

Site Leaders

Ned Flanagan

Martha Gallagher

Type of Service

Human Services

Site Partner(s)

Proyecto Azteca



Departure Date


Return Date






Site Leader Description #1

Ned is a second-year from Chevy Chase, MD and intends to study Leadership and Public Policy and Global Development Studies with a minor in Economics. He was a participant on ASB San Juan 2019 where he completed a Baireuther Grant project, and he enjoyed the trip so much that he wanted to return as a trip leader with the legendary Martha Gallagher. Ned also serves as the Service Learning Chair for the ASB Exec Board and loves engaging in conversation about work with service partners and the impact of organizations like ASB. In addition to ASB, he works with The Haven and Sin Barreras through Madison House, loves playing any kind of pick-up sport, and is always up for a long hike or bike around C-Ville. He can’t wait to return to San Juan to see our incredible service partner again and engage with border issues firsthand alongside a new group of UVA students!

Site Leader Description #2

Martha is a third-year from Alexandria, VA majoring in Leadership and Public Policy in the Batten School with a minor in Spanish. One of the most rewarding experiences of her life was going to San Juan last year with ASB, so she and the one and only Ned Flanagan decided a couple days into last year’s trip to lead the same trip this year. In addition to ASB, Martha is involved in Team One Love at UVA, Class Council, and Greek life. You can usually find her either watching UVA basketball, being a TA in an Engagements class, trying every restaurant in C-Ville, laughing unbelievably hard at Vines, exploring new hiking spots with friends, or whipping to class on a Bird scooter. She can’t wait to introduce new friends to all the beauties and complexities within San Juan this upcoming Spring with the help of our amazing partner organization!

Trip Logistics

We will be staying at an awesome AirBnB in the broader San Juan/McAllen area! We will get the chance to not only taste some incredible, authentic Mexican food out on the town, but also save some dough by showing off our own culinary skills in our kitchen with pairs each preparing dinner for the whole group once (always a blast!). In general, we will make breakfast in the morning and pack lunches to bring to our work site with Proyecto Azteca, then either make group dinners or eat out.

Our trip will start Friday afternoon (March 6th) when we will drive to Martha’s house in NoVA and spend the night there before flying out of Dulles Airport into San Antonio early Saturday morning. We will then rent a van to drive roughly 4 hours to San Juan and we will spend the week exploring the Rio Grande Valley and working with our awesome service partner, Proyecto Azteca. We will leave San Juan for San Antonio Friday night and spend the night there before leaving early Saturday morning to fly from San Antonio to Dulles. We will leave directly from there to drive back to Charlottesville so everyone is back by Saturday night.

Participant Requirements

Although there are no specific requirements for this trip, participants should be enthusiastic about serving marginalized communities, open to new perspectives, and excited to spend the week serving in whichever capacity Proyecto Azteca finds helpful! Due to our work with recent immigrants and the bilingual nature of border cities, spanish language abilities would be very helpful, but are by no means necessary. More than anything, we hope participants are enthusiastic about ASB’s mission and ready for a great week of service and adventure!

Service Activities

Throughout the trip, we will be working with Proyecto Azteca. Proyecto Azteca is a non-profit self-help construction company located in San Juan, TX that serves low-income families in colonias and other rural areas in Hidalgo County. We will spend the bulk of our time working on houses that Proyecto Azteca in the process of constructing, logging “sweat-equity” hours for those home-owners who can’t help build their new home due to age or other disability. In addition to construction, we will most likely spend one day serving in a respite center (run by the infamous Sister Norma Pimentel) for migrant families in the process of seeking asylum in the U.S. and helping with other community building projects run by the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network (RGV-EVN).

Last year, we spent one day learning about the issues facing the area and went on a walking tour of the border, three days volunteering with Proyecto Azteca where we helped construct homes alongside the new homeowners, one day volunteering in the respite center, and one day serving dinner to locals in a San Juan soup kitchen.

Recreational Activities

San Juan is packed with a ton of activities and sites to see. After each hard day of work, we’ll be exploring the area and adventuring. Potential activities include hiking through Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, learning how to dance Salsa at a local Salsa Club, visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, visiting the Gladys Porter Zoo, and visiting the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse for walking trails and bird watching during the day and then live music and great food at night!

Community/Area Background

Hidalgo County, TX sits right on the U.S.-Mexico border, in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, which has become one of the busiest stretches of the border in recent years for illegal crossings. Hidalgo County also contains more than 1,200 colonia communities, housing a significant portion of the estimated 400,000 persons living in colonias throughout Texas. Historically, many colonias have lacked decent housing, physical infrastructure, such as access to potable water and sewers, and basic amenities, such as electricity and paved roads. In 1991, Proyecto Azteca was created to respond to the housing crisis in Texas' Rio Grande Valley Colonias. In the first year, Proyecto Azteca organized self-help construction with just four families. Today, Proyecto Azteca is a nationally recognized, community-directed, self-help housing organization that has financed and trained more than 600 families in the construction and first-time ownership of their own sustainable homes in over 150 colonias and rural areas.

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