Since 2013, the violence in Juarez has decreased and the city itself is doing it’s best to rise above the ashes. But broken windows, empty homes and orphaned children are just a few of the reminders of the devastation that the violence wrought.
Seeing a need in the Guadalupe Districto Bravo, Chihuahua – or the Valley of Juarez which runs parallel to our own Lower Valley – missionary Steve Brewer of El Paso, took it upon himself to build an orphanage for these children called The House of Gems, through his non-profit Tapestries of Life. And Josh Webb, a documentarian from El Paso, has chosen to highlight his works in the film, “Shadows of the Valley,” in an effort to raise awareness.
The documentary has been entered into the Seed and Spark Untold Story Crowdfunding Rally. The winner of the competition will receive $20,000 in matching funds, distribution of their documentary into 100 million homes through cable, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime and other digital platforms; and $5,000 in storage.
As of Sunday afternoon “Shadows of the Valley” had raised the $10,000 and 653 followers. The competition ends Wednesday.
“We want the film to become a catalyst so that it can go all over and create awareness and help finish this orphanage,” Webb said. “So we are making it to inspire people to say, ‘Hey I want to go help them finish and help them feed those kids,” and that’s the goal.”
Webb said he wants to gain more than 800 followers so the documentary can be in the running to be selected as the top 10; and later hopefully win so that millions can hear Brewer’s story and hopefully assist him in his dream to open the orphanage after overcoming so many hurdles.
“I specifically remember driving by UTEP on I-10 and thinking you have Anapra on one side, and UTEP on the other side (of Juarez) and I remember thinking, ‘Wow these two worlds couldn’t be more different and they are holding hands basically.’” Webb said in a recent telephone interview with the El Paso Herald-Post.
“And I remember thinking there’s got to be something I can do to help. And that’s when I thought of Steve and the work that he’s doing. I mean here’s a guy that is risking his life to do this and not in a position to necessarily do that.”
The two met for lunch and began to talk. Brewer told Webb about his ongoing mission to build The House of Gems in Guadalupe – and Webb decided that he could contribute by telling the missionary’s story in the hopes of raising awareness.
In 2011 there was an estimated 10,000 children orphaned as a result of the cartel and drug wars, according to Distintas Latitudes, or Different Latitudes, a digital information platform run by a team of journalists and political scientists.
The orphanage, now 90 percent complete, is 50,000 square feet and comprises of 200 beds, bathrooms in each room, a cafeteria and a 30-foot indoor waterfall. The cafeteria, Brewer said, is about 40 percent complete and needs to be completed before it can be opened.
About $7 million has been invested in the project, Brewer said.
“We have the resources to build – but to help put it into perspective – we are about $800,000 away from completion,” Brewer said. “If I can get a check tomorrow for that amount I could bring the children home within six months.”
Before the violence in Juarez had reached its peak, Brewer said he had between 25 to 30 groups a year that would help with resources and volunteer work to build the orphanage. Then, as the violence increased, a lot of people became wary and the groups he had coming to assist him dwindled to five.
According to the 2016 Crime and Safety Report from the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security gang and cartel related homicides have dropped from 1,900 in 2011 to 312 in 2015.
Although the violence has diminished and the city has become calmer Brewer said the children are still in need of a safe place to stay.
“Some are with other families and some are with pedophiles, some are under the bridges and they are all over,” Brewer said. “What hurt me was my first boy – he was only 3-years- old and got passed around. And these kids are going to be passed around from home to home. And eventually someone broke his femur bone. Then there was a little girl and the pedophile she was living with raped her. And my goal is just to bring these children home (to the House of Gems).”
To support Webb and his documentary visit www.Shadowsofthevalley.com and click on “Follow” by Wednesday. To contribute funds to the documentary project click on support.
Brewer said donations of new clothes or supplies are welcome.