Day 1 at the Border

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Thanks to Woodson for giving me the opportunity to write some guest posts for this blog.  There’s a lot going on and my posts won’t be very long but here are a few observations from my first day of volunteering:

  • My colleagues and I worked about 9 hours sorting mountains of donations, handing out clothes and shoes and doing handyman work at the respite center in McAllen, Texas that serves asylum seekers after they get released from ICE custody.
  • Within just a few hours I met dozens of people who have traveled to the US for various reasons, mainly to escape violence and persecution in their home countries. Most of them were visibly exhausted after traveling for months and going days without sleep.  They were happy to have a shower, some clean clothes and something to eat….
  • A man shook my hand and thanked me repeatedly because I spent about 10 minutes helping him find some pants and a shirt that fit…
  • Some politicians stopped by to talk about how they “have everything taken care of” (they don’t).
  • Some of us also spent a couple hours at the bus station after dinner helping people figure out which buses to take to get to the cities where they’ll stay with sponsors while they wait for court dates, letting people use our phones to contact family members and handing out sandwiches, coloring books and stuffed animals to kids who were getting ready to spend the next several hours sitting in cramped Greyhound buses.  Watching the kids faces light up and listening to them show their parents their new toys brought a smile to my face.
  • Despite the hard work, 100 degree heat and long hours I didn’t want to leave.  I can’t wait to go back and do it again.

The respite center is run entirely off of donations sent to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and generally operates on a shoestring budget. Click here to make a donation.