Case Study #1: Bridge-building through neighborhood clean-ups

The challenge: Misconceptions about immigrants were causing division in FM4 Paso Libre’s neighborhood.

The solution: The organization brought together long-time residents and newcomers for a mutually beneficial project: neighborhood trash clean-ups.

Why it matters: This example of bridge-building is a great model for communities that want to combat biases and build connections through Welcoming Week events.


FM4 Paso Libre in Guadalajara, Mexico is a nonprofit that provides humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum-seekers. The organization was small until 2015, when they moved into a large former warehouse to run a shelter for over 100 people. The neighbors around the building were unhappy and rumors spread that crime would rise due to migrants receiving services from the shelter.

To both address their neighbors' concerns and a real need in the neighborhood — to clean areas around unmaintained tracks — FM4 Paso Libre began organizing Saturday morning clean-ups. Though this event didn’t stem from Welcoming Week, their event models a strategy to combat biases and build connections among diverse community groups.

In the early months, staff, volunteers, and welcoming residents door-knocked to meet neighbors, answer questions about the shelter, and invite people to the clean-up events. Through the Saturday morning clean-ups, staff and volunteers use the time to build bridges between the shelter residents and neighbors and to dispel myths about the migrants and asylum-seekers.

Event logistics

FM4 Paso Libre hosts the neighborhood clean-up events bimonthly and regularly gets more than 100 staff, volunteers, shelter residents, and neighbors to attend. Volunteers pick up trash, remove tires and other large items, and cut grass.

According to Lina Yismeray Gómez Navarro, coordinadora incidencia política y social (political and social advocacy coordinator) at FM4 Paso Libre, the events do not cost much. The staff coordinate with neighbors via WhatsApp message groups, and by email, social media, and attendance at neighborhood meetings.

Lina said that the clean-up events work best when there is an organized schedule that is communicated to volunteers via their various outreach channels. She also recommended being prepared for clean-ups with trash bags, work gloves (especially important!), and any other materials that may be needed. FM4 Paso Libre sends out a questionnaire beforehand to know how many attendees to expect so they can plan lunch and clean-up materials accordingly.

Building partnerships

The neighborhood clean-ups started in partnership and with funding from Amnesty International’s office in Mexico. They have built and deepened relationships with schools and universities, and hosted a local tech company’s staff volunteer activity. Next, they hope to deepen partnerships with local and state governments.

More examples of bridge-building events:

Catholic Charities community clean-up events in Louisville, Kentucky, Growing Together storytelling event in Columbia, Missouri, food festival in Portland, Maine, Uberdentellerrand community dinner events in Germany.

Thank you to Lina Yismeray Gómez Navarro, political and social advocacy coordinator at FM4 Paso Libre, for sharing insights about this event.