LUCY CARDET OSF - It has been a little over two weeks since I arrived and began assisting as a volunteer at the Catholic Charities of Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center. Another Franciscan sister and I are living with Sr. Mary Hroscikoski OSF in a residential neighborhood about 10 blocks from the respite center. This area reminds me of the section in Miami called Little Haiti.
Mary’s kind hospitality to volunteers makes it possible for us to be of service without incurring hotel costs.
I am grateful for this opportunity that God, through our congregation, has provided for me. I am also grateful for the prayer support of so many, especially our sisters at the Motherhouse in Allegany.
The migrants that we assist are en route to join family or other sponsors where they will continue in the asylum process. Volunteers sort and give donated clothing, new or “like new,” toiletries, diapers, deodorant and other items. Some prepare sandwiches and snacks while staff assist with travel arrangements and maintaining order. Others help in preparation of hot meals. It may not seem like much but every bit helps.
Recently we were able to provide a change of clothing to over one hundred people, mostly to young families. Most of my time is in the “ropero” (clothing room). Mama Mia - it gets a bit hectic! Seeing the individuals, not just statistics, can be heartbreaking at times.
The volunteers are from all over the U.S. and of different age groups. Some, including Sisters, go shopping for items that are in greatest demand. Not all volunteers speak Spanish so we help each other out. So much has reminded me of my own childhood and family.
For those who question our service to recent migrants at our Southern border, I have two suggestions: “come and see” and “humbly bring the gift that you are”. For me, this has been an experience of being one Family. Keep those prayers coming, for these young families and all who seek to treat them with dignity. Thank you.
KATHY MAIRE OSF - “So, how was it?” That’s the question I’ve been asked over and over again since I returned from San Antonio to volunteer with the unaccompanied youth who arrived at the border. Even after a week, I still struggle to answer the question.
There are moments that come to mind. For example, the sinking feeling when I walked into the dorm at the Coliseum and first caught sight of the thousand young boys all dressed in grey, masked, and sitting on their cots. They had been there for at least six weeks and were still waiting - for family, for a sponsor, and for a chance at a new life.
Then, another image, of the pods as they were called, being marched to meals, to showers, to Covid testing, to mental health, to outside recreation, and then back again to their cots. The noise could be deafening - a violent movie being blasted from the front center of the arena, the clopping of the plastic shower clogs the boys had been given in lieu of shoes, the reminders to wear masks correctly and the calling of names to report for interviews, meds, or visits with case workers.
The most touching images were of individual boys- one kneeling beside his cot, his head resting on an open bible, sobbing his heart out. Other boys were kneeling at the makeshift altar to Our Lady of Guadalupe, praying for family they had left behind, and other lucky ones packing their meagre belongings into a duffle bag and preparing to meet family or sponsors.
There were lighter moments, of course. One boy asked me what was the matter with the eggs. Here they were watery, while back home, the eggs from his grandmother’s chickens were firm and had a better taste. Another struggled to understand how shower gel could be soap which came in the shape of a bar. Others were baffled by shave gel, especially since they didn’t need to shave, nor did they razors.
Then came the emptying of the dorm, as busloads were sent to other shelters to further wait for families or sponsors, for missing paperwork or travel tickets. For me, there was the nagging question of what would happen to them when they arrived at their destination and faced new challenges of language, education, and court dates.
So, in answer to the original question, I admit that I still don’t have an adequate answer.