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Who we are.

WHO ARE WE?   

Casa Digna is a community of people who want to help those who could use a hand up in an economy that cannot support their basic needs.  While doing so we are cleaning up the local area by taking advantage of a resource readily available to us in abundance, Old Tires!

Yes, we are building Dignified homes out of recycled tires and clay-based dirt.  The result is a well-insulated home that will last, we believe, forever. Not a house that will need constant maintenance.  We are providing everything needed to build each home and managing every step of the building process.

Who are we? We are people with heart!  These mostly women and children, packing tires with red dirt, to build fences and walls for their community, have heart too!  A community they so desperately need. They know that one of these homes will be theirs and that this will be their neighborhood.

The Port of San Felipe also suffers from an extremely high unemployment rate. A whole lot of people need jobs and these families need homes!

In building homes with old tires for single mothers and vulnerable families, we are doing three things for this community. We are Recycling, Providing Jobs and Helping Families who desperately need a home. A nice lady on face book made a comment that we are “helping people with a hand up, not a hand out.” That statement describes us well.

Melody P. Ashley, Founder

Our Story

Meet the Founder of Casa Digna Inc., the Community President of Casa Digna in San Felipe, Mexico, and the Board of Directors 

Melody Ashley

Melody was born and raised in Little Rock Arkansas, and a graduate of Mount Saint Mary Academy. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree with honors in Geography, with a focus on Waste Management.

Melody also received a master’s degree in Ocean Studies from the University of San Diego on full scholarship. Unable to find employment in her area of study, she moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she developed and managed a landscape business, and remained a resident of Fayetteville for 18 years. After selling her landscape business in 1998, Melody sought other areas of interest, including metal art; real estate investment; home construction and remodeling, which led her to building the first recycled tire home in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico.  This effort later led to the creation of Casa Digna SF A.C. in Mexico, and of a 501c3, Casa Digna, Inc, in Arkansas.

Karina Calderon – Community President 

I was Born in Mexicali Baja California, Mexico. I am a single parent and the proud mother of three beautiful children. I have been greatly blessed and long to help others in my community. I like to help others and work hard to help my family move forward in life. I like for all the families of Casa Digna to live in harmony and to always be willing to achieve a healthy environment for all the people around us. 

Note from Melody Ashley – Founder – Karina is a born leader and has been an instrumental part of the success of Casa Digna.  She is a role model to many and repeatedly sets the standards of what is achievable at Casa Digna.  I have the utmost respect for her and appreciate her dedication to the community and its members.  Karina wholeheartedly believes in Casa Digna and has worked tirelessly to keep things moving forward. Karina is a true inspiration to me and many others. 

Jessica Ireland – President 

I was born in Calgary, Alberta Canada and spent most of my life in Canada, until relocating to Phoenix, AZ in 2011 to attend college.  Although I vacationed in Mexico several times over the years, I was oblivious to the poverty until I began visiting San Felipe, Mexico.  After becoming acquainted with the little fishing village situated along the Sea of Cortez (and only a 6 hour drive from Phoenix), I also became aware of the need for help.  

In 2013 I founded a registered 501(c)(3) called Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.  Breaking the Cycle of Poverty’s mission is to ensure vulnerable children are provided with the tools necessary to obtain the education they desperately need.  Through this work, we are able to identify a greater need with low income families and incorporate additional projects to reduce some of their burdens.  

My long term goal was to assist families with obtaining safe and affordable housing, to ensure the children had a safe and stable environment to thrive and grow.  When I heard about the incredible community of Casa Digna, I became intrigued and wanted to know how to help.  Having built relationships with several of the families in the community of Casa Digna, I have spent a substantial amount of time in the community with them.  Seeing firsthand how Casa Digna has made a significant difference in the lives of single mothers and vulnerable families, I reached out to the founder, Melody Ashley, and committed that Breaking the Cycle of Poverty would donate a playground to the community of Casa Digna.  In March 2021, the playground was installed and my commitment to helping the community and the people has grown exponentially.  

It’s an honor to be involved with this incredible organization that has already done a tremendous amount of work to create, build and maintain the community of Casa Digna.  I have been extremely impressed with the ingenuity of repurposing recycled tires to help the environment, while building strong, secure and lasting homes for the families in the community. I look forward to continuing to help break the cycle of generational poverty and providing single parents and vulnerable families with the opportunity to live with dignity in a community that supports growth, security and stability.  

Annette Gary

Annette Rogers Gary. Born and raised in Little Rock, AR.  A product of public and private schools in Little Rock,1978 Graduate of Mount Saint Mary’s Academy. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Philander Smith College. Retired from Arkansas Children’s Hospital after 32 years and currently works as Project Coordinator/Assistant to Dean Skip Rutherford and Associate Dean Susan Hoffpauir at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. I have been married for 14 years and have 10 grandchildren, ages 9 to 2 years old. I have served as President of the Arkansas Catholic Business Women’s Club and President of the Christian Mothers Sodality.

Suzanne G. Whitener

A 1978 graduate of Mount Saint Mary Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, I am a classmate of Melody Ashley, Founder of Casa Digna.  Currently, I work for an NGO, Winrock International in Little Rock, as an accounting specialist.  For 25 years I was a bookkeeper for a company in the water and wastewater industry and served on the school board of the East End School District (Perry County) as either president or secretary between the years of 2003-2006. From the years 2009 to 2019, I also served as treasurer for my local church, as well as serving as president of the Church Council three years prior to that time. I live outside of Little Rock on Wye Mountain enjoying the God given beauty of the great outdoors. My children and grandchildren are my pride and joy and genealogy, blogging, and my love of Bible study is what keeps most of my attention during my off hours.