Monica Schroeder is barely in her 30s, but she has already found her "life project." As founder of the border nonprofit organization Tijuana Te Quiero, she's dedicating her time and efforts to dignifying the border and showing a city it matters.
In 2010, Schroeder collapsed on the floor of a Tijuana hospital. The hospital staff was wonderful to her and nursed her back to health. Yet, the first reaction she got from many people when she told them about her stay was that Schroeder better have her blood checked, coming from that "dirty city."
"But how can you judge a whole city like that?" Schroeder thought.
She saw Tijuana as an inspirational city, full of people who deserve to be loved. She took a concept from her father, Roberto, who is working to improve border infrastructure, and started Tijuana Te Quiero (TJTQ) which means, "Tijuana, I love you."
"It's really about a message—hey, I love you," Schroeder says.
Schroeder and her team "create space for human interaction" at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The average wait in line is 1.5-3 hours, out in the hot sun with no amenities. She started asking people—what do you want? She took complaints and turned thoughts into actions. Now there are shade structures and water coolers. There is community artwork and places for kids. The TJTQ team is working with governments (a lot of agencies have their hand in the border) to place trashcans and bathrooms. Schroeder is also developing a fashion line for TJTQ to become a social entrepreneur.