Opportunities to volunteer at the border

We all know the desperate conditions and challenges immigrants face at our border, and we know that some of our Amigos have already traveled down to the border or are planning on going soon.  If you would like to join the effort, Mary Nell Cummings, a volunteer member of Casa’s Emergency Response Team, and a Pittsburgh attorney and law professor, is coordinating  arrangements.  Please see the information below if you would like to join them.  

If you are interested in volunteering at the border, please contact Mary Nell Cummings (mncummings@mncummingslaw.com) and let her know the location you would like to volunteer (if you have a preference), whether you can spend one week or two weeks, the date range, and whether or not you speak Spanish.  She will be in contact with you and let you know options.

We are in contact with shelters in three different locations in Texas:

    1. McAllen, Texas

McAllen Humanitarian Respite Center:  The Humanitarian Respite Center, overseen by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.  This is a collaborative effort made possible by Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, the City of McAllen and countless volunteers from all over the U.S. and other countries. The number of immigrants assisted can vary from 50 to 200 a day.   You can learn more about needed supplies and make a contribution at: https://www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/donations.aspx.

  1. San Benito, Texas

La Posada Providencia is an emergency shelter for migrants sponsored by the Sisters of Divine Providence and located in San Benito, TX. It provides a stabilizing support system for immigrants and asylum seekers. We are confirming their need for volunteers, but if you are interested, let Mary Nell know.  They too are in need of contributions to meet the needs of those seeking shelter. You can donate on line at https://lppshelter.org/waystogive/.

  1. El Paso, Texas

Allan’s account describes the work at Annunciation House. Our friends at Annunciation House are working hard to try to find ways to continue to offer hospitality to all those in need. In order to do that, they need funds for housing and supplies, and volunteers to staff the shelters and distribute provisions. As you can imagine, they are in desperate need of all kinds of supplies. You can donate online.

Allan Willinger, who has been volunteering with Annunciation House since early January, has been writing to Mary Nell about his experiences there and gives a good idea of what it’s like. Excerpts are below:

“When ICE is ready to discharge families from a detention center, ICE calls Annunciation House and asks how many people can it take.  In 1 busload ICE dropped 38 people at Mesa Inn around noon.  The volunteers checked them in, called their sponsoring families to advise them on purchasing plane or bus tickets, showed them to their rooms, and helped them pick out and a change of clothes.  Breakfast is at 8 served by the volunteers.  Lunch and dinner are brought in by other groups.

Many of the volunteers speak fluent Spanish.  I’m not one of them unfortunately.  However, there is still useful work I can do – transportation, preparing food packages, showing families to their rooms, and other things.

The guests are often tired when they arrive, but very glad to be here.  They are mostly 1 parent with 1 child (sometimes 2 children).   Annunciation House is far from a 5-star hotel, but the guests are provided with heated rooms, beds, hot showers, 3 healthy meals each day, a change of clothes, and telephone assistance in arranging their sponsors to purchase bus or plane tickets.

I don’t think Annunciation House could operate without their huge network of volunteers to provide meals, service, rides, clothes, other supplies and financial donations… I can’t tell you how nice the guests are – friendly, appreciative, and helpful.  After saying goodbye to 1 mother I drove to the bus station, she pointed her finger up – I assume she was saying she is in God’s hands.  Sadly. I saw four guests with ankle bracelets.  1 mother carried a 10-month-old and had 4-year-old.  She looked weary.  Nearly all the guests at Mesa Inn this week have been from Guatemala.”

Learn more:

Podcast:  “Dispatches from the border: we joined our colleagues as they set out for a trip of nearly 2000-miles along the US-Mexico border”, Michael Barbaro, New York Times’ The Daily, Jan. 14.

“Actually, the Numbers Show That We Need More Immigration, Not Less”, Shikha Dalmia, New York Times, Jan. 15


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