Thursday, November 29, 2018

Testimony from Sr. Bertha Flores on Ministering to Migrants in El Paso, TX

There are no words to describe what a shelter is. Only when one is a witness of the relief provided to so many people, can one value and appreciate a shelter in all its magnitude. We were blessed recently to be part of the solidarity shown to immigrants at the St. Charles Shelter in El Paso, Texas, and to see how it attracts, as a magnet, the unity of other people and institution. We arrived at the shelter on Monday, November 4, 2018. The staff toured the facilities with us and explained the policies and daily procedures.
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in El Paso, TX
The Saint Charles Shelter operates with a team of volunteers, most of whom are women 50 years old or older, who provide services to the migrants related to food, lodging, laundry, and telephone connections with their relatives or with those who will receive them. They also provide transportation services to bus stations or to the airport. Ten full-time volunteers live at the shelter.

The maximum capacity at the shelter is 100. Thirty to forty migrants arrive daily; at times this number increases to sixty or seventy. They come from Honduras, San Salvador, Guatemala a, d Brazil and stay for two or three days.

Volunteers cook and serve breakfast. Lunch and dinner are prepared by different groups from parishes in El Paso and neighboring places. Towels and sheets used by the refugees are washed daily; blankets are disinfected with spray.

Every day, a bus drives people from Migration Detention Centers to the eight different shelters in El Paso. Most of them are detained at these shelters from four to fifteen days where they receive only one meal a day and can bathe only once during their stay. The temperature in the Detention Centers is kept low, so when the immigrants reach the shelter, they are exhausted, and most of the children have colds. Most immigrants travel with one or two children, and some bring babies.

Many experience various forms of stress. One afternoon, a woman who traveled alone with her five-year old child fainted while she was waiting to take a shower. The child was very scared and cried. He feared that his mother could die. Those minutes seemed like hours to us until his mother, a 24-year old woman, recovered.

When the immigrants arrive at the shelter, after we welcome them, they register and contact by telephone the people who will receive them in this country. They call across the country – to New Jersey, Maryland, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, California, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Texas, New México– and because they have no money, they ask their contacts to buy tickets for their trip. They are always hungry when they arrive. It is very moving to see how the babies “devour” food. If they drop a piece of food, they pick it up with their little hands and put it in their mouths. Sometimes the pieces of food are so small that they could be considered crumbs. It is difficult to hold back our tears when we see this. The babies are not the only ones who do this; children and adults do the same. After dinner, the atmosphere changes and they begin to feel the effects of the warm welcome and hospitality they have received.

Before their departure from the shelter, we give the migrants clothes suitable for the places where they will go. We also provide them with a backpack for their use during the trip containing items for personal hygiene, a towel, a blanket and a pillow.

But why do they come here?

Most of them are escaping from extreme poverty conditions and from the violence of organized crime which is increasing in Central America. Yesterday, a couple with three children arrived from Guatemala. They had to run away because two armed men, covered with hoods, demanded the payment of a fee for the small business they have there. Because they did not receive the fee, they shot the husband six times, at point-blank range, and they left him, presuming he was dead. Fortunately, he survived. He still has the marks of the six bullets around his waist and heart. One of the bullets broke a bone in his arm and he is wearing a metal support with six screws. Thanks be to God he is alive.

Yesterday, we received three small girls with their heads full of lice. They were very frightened and were crying. Thank God we had an excellent medicine cabinet so we could give them the first treatment. Word spread that I was excellent in treating this problem and I was told that others who needed attention would be referred to me!

Some of the immigrants arrive very ill with colds and other ailments. Yesterday, a boy and a girl with chicken pox came to the shelter. A doctor, who visits every day after work, immediately took the necessary precautions. The mothers take care of the smaller children and those who are ill.

The children are a living lesson of resilience. They arrive exhausted, sad and nervous, but the next day they are outside playing football and are happy! Usually, their parents join them.  Many mother care for the smallest ones or those who are sick.

As the days go by our energy is exhausted, and after a week we must take a pause and rest to recover strength and energy.   .

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Walking Towards Hope: Advent Resource

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s Holy Days and Holidays committee has developed a series of eight prayers, Walking Toward Hope, which can be used throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. Each two-page reflection guide includes a brief reflection on the scripture of the day, the story of an immigrant or refugee, suggested actions, and a list of additional resources.

This year, we invite you to join the spiritual journey of “Walking Toward Hope,” by participating in the 8 part series focusing on the following themes:

1. Week One, December 2 - Walking Away From Family Detention 
2. Week Two, December 9  - Resisting Negative Rules & Exclusions 
3. Week Three, December 16  - Welcoming Asylum Seekers 
4. Week Four, December 23 - Defending Families Facing Deportation
5. Christmas Eve, December 24 - Celebrating Reunions & Protections  
6. Holy Innocents, December 28 - Alternatives to Detention 
7. Feast of the Holy Family , December 30 - Root Causes of Refugees  
8. Epiphany/Dia de Reyes, January 6 - Walking Together at the Border

We hope you find these reflections helpful as we prepare to celebrate the feast of God’s love incarnate and strive to make room in our hearts and communities for all those who are “walking toward hope”.

You can download the prayer-series from the IIC's Holidays and Holy Days web page.

Daily Reflections and Actions for 16 Days Against Gender Violence

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is a global campaign to raise awareness about violence against women and its impact on a woman’s well-being.
The campaign commences on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and concludes on 10 December, Human Rights Day.
This year (2018), the UNiTE Campaign has the overarching theme, Orange the World: #HearMeToo 
Last year, the Future We Need group (Ireland), of which MIA-MGA is a member, produced a series of leaflets, one for each day of the campaign. These have been re-edited for this year and re-uploaded in time for the start of this year’s campaign
28/11- Day 4: Children Caught in Prostitution
29/11 - Day 5: Cyber Bullying
30/11 - Day 6: Child Brides
1/12 Day 7: Harassment and Violence in the Work Place2/12 - Day 8: Girls Deprived of Education
3/12 - Day 9: Human Trafficking
4/12 - Day 10: Rape as a Weapon of War
5/12 - Day 11: Widows and Property6/12 - Day 12: Women's Vulnerability to Climate Change
7/12 - Day 13: Femicide
8/12 - Day 14: Ownership & Objectification of Women9/12 - Day 15: Patriarchy in the Church10/12 - Day 16: UN International Human Rights Day
Days 1-16 complete set (32 pages)

Stop the Assault on Asylum Seekers

Article by Fr. James Martin S.J. published in America Magazine November 26, 2018

Yesterday the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency fired tear gas at migrants trying to seek asylum in the United States at the border crossing at Tijuana. How did our country reach the point where we are tear-gassing mothers and children? One reason is because of the widespread myths about these brothers and sisters of ours.
Myth One: They are “illegals.” First, no one is an “illegal person” and seeking asylum is widely recognized as a universal human right. Current international agreements about asylum stemmed from a desire not to repeat the fate of Jews during the Second World War, who were denied entrance to many countries. And one requirement for asylum is to be physically present in the United States, which is exactly what these men, women and children from Central America are trying to do. In fact, it is illegal to dismiss asylum seekers without hearing their cases. In other words, they are trying to follow both international and U.S. law.
Myth Two: We cannot afford them. Many people believe that the United States and many European countries shelter a huge amount of refugees. This is false. The majority of the world’s refugees live in poor or middle-income nations. Eight out of 10 of the world’s refugees are sheltered by developing countries. In 2016, for example, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon hosted the highest number of refugees, a combined total of 5.4 million refugees. Of the 15 million refugees worldwide, 86 percent reside in developing countries. By contrast, the United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, is allowing only 30,000 refugees in next year. We can afford it.
Myth Three: They are mainly criminals. Claims that these migrants are criminals, that this exodus harbors terrorists from the Middle East, are unfounded. Are there a few criminals somehow mixed in? No more than with any other group in the past and that would include the immigrants that came to this country in the last 200 years: Italians, Irish, Germans and on and on. People fleeing Honduras, for example, who are mainly women and children, face some of the worst violence, inequality and corruption in the world: criminal gangs, rape and persecution, on top of poverty. There is a reason that they are risking everything to come here. They are fleeing crime, not bringing it. So before you dismiss these people as illegals, as too expensive and as criminals, know the facts. And even if you want to dismiss these facts, remember what Jesus said about welcoming the stranger. He did not say welcome them when they had the right papers. He did not say welcome them when there was zero risk. He did not say welcome them when you could afford it. Jesus said, welcome them

Hemispheric Meeting of Religious Networks Against Human Trafficking

Article originally published in Global Sisters Report by Soli Salgado
After Sr. Angélica Segoviano, an Oblate of the Most Holy Redeemer, wakes up at 5 a.m. and gets dressed for the day in Guatemala City, she goes to the chapel for an hour of silence. Here is where she restores her mind and heart, she says, a form of self-care and preparation for what awaits her that day.
Then she visits the brothels.
Introducing herself as a social worker to the man in charge, Segoviano is able to visit the women who are prostituted, gaining their trust before they open up to her about their lives and worries. They often ask her to pray with them so that they get clients that day, which to them means being able to feed their children or care for their sick mother.
"They give me the money and say, 'Buy medicine for my son, buy his diapers, buy him milk,' " Segoviano says. "And I say, 'What about for you?' 'No, nothing. For my children. Take it, please.' "
Though Segoviano's typical daily ministry is done solo, the Central American anti-trafficking network of women religious, Red Ramá, provides her and other sisters in this ministry with training and formation, including news and information on the issue in her region.
Similar networks of women religious combating human trafficking dot the globe, united under the umbrella of Talitha Kum, an intercongregational network of networks that facilitates collaboration between consecrated men and women in 76 countries. (Next year is its 10th anniversary.)

Displays from every country and network provided brochures and contact information throughout the anti-trafficking conference in Cleveland. (GSR photo / Soli Salgado)
At a Cleveland retreat center Oct. 24-27, the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking network brought together women religious throughout the Western Hemisphere to connect on their shared ministry. Presentations from all the networks, survivors as guest speakers, virtual classes, and group reflections allowed participants to share best practices and strengthen connections across borders.
"You can talk to them on the phone, that's one thing," said Margaret Nacke, a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia and a co-sponsor of the U.S. network. "But what this has given us is a flavor, to look at who we are together in this hemisphere and how we can help one another."
Crossing borders, in the same room
Sisters and guests took the fabric butterflies on their tables and clipped them in their hair, on sweaters and nametags — a symbol of crossing borders to engage with one another. Headphones were linked to interpreters in the back of the room to bridge the four languages present: English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
With every network presenting the realities from their regions — their efforts, their resources and approaches — a common theme among all, from Canada to Argentina, was the tie between trafficking and migration. Having roughly 60 sisters in one room meant neighboring countries could brainstorm ways their networks could collaborate.
"The trafficking networks are extremely well-organized, so we have to maintain our connections and work in networks. Otherwise we won't get anywhere," said Joanne Pundyk, a sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Pundyk ministers in Masao, Brazil, a country whose border spans 10,500 miles and touches 10 countries. Much of what it borders is pure Amazonian forest with no population, let alone policing, making it "more susceptible to trafficking," she said. Brazil's anti-trafficking network is Um Grito Pela Vida (A Cry for Life).

During the cultural celebration on the conference's final night, Sr. Joanne Pundyk of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary dances the "quadrilha" from the northeastern region of Brazil, where she ministers. (GSR photo / Soli Salgado)
And with Brazil's new far-right president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, whose pro-torture and bigoted stances concern proponents of human rights, Pundyk anticipates a "harder time getting our work done," particularly with his antagonizing women, indigenous and LGBT people, who are most vulnerable to trafficking, she said.
"Some who are trans[gender] and want to have an operation to have physical changes, they're often lured, they're trafficked," she said. "They're being told they can earn a lot of money and have an operation, and when they get there, they're put into prostitution."
Sisters in Brazil and Colombia are both witnessing an influx of Venezuelan migrants crossing their borders and becoming easy targets for traffickers. Divine Savior Sr. Sandra Hernández, who ministers in Bogotá, Colombia, said this is one of the biggest challenges for Red Tamar, the country's network. It works to absorb into civil society the thousands of ex-combatants who, before the 2017 Colombian peace accord, had been living in forests and jungles.
"There aren't favorable conditions within education or health care because those resources were instead directed to weapons and state violence, exacerbating our social problems and especially for migrants and ex-soldiers," she said. "We have double the task."

With four languages in one room, sisters used interpreters and headsets for all the presentations. (GSR photo / Soli Salgado)
Hernández said human trafficking is easily manifested in institutions for education, with children being high-risk targets due to frequent teacher strikes and protests that put students on the streets instead of keeping them in class.
With the risks of trafficking increasing "within a migratory context," she said, her network lately has been focusing on the new arrivals from Venezuela who come with health problems, injuries or unmet basic needs, "as they're usually led into prostitution that's masked as opportunity."
But labor trafficking remains a prime concern when it comes to Venezuelan migrants, who are often paid half the Colombian minimum wage. "It's a challenging job because we're dealing with a number of forms of human trafficking that can be as invisible as the extraction of human organs or as contentious as the rehabilitation of children soldiers, who we consider victims of trafficking."
Ministering in El Salvador, Guardian Angel Sr. Carmela Gibaja Izquierdo said that one challenge is maintaining the connection between all the countries that belong to Red Ramá. This is because they're all countries of origin, transit and destination for traffickers. And while parishes and bishops' offices are involved in the issue of migration, she said trafficking "is still secondary" and has "not yet been deeply penetrated" as a problem.

More than 60 sisters traveled to Cleveland from all over the Western Hemisphere for the gathering on anti-trafficking ministries Oct. 24-27. (GSR photo / Soli Salgado)
Adopting an "intercongregational, interinstitutional" approach to tackling human trafficking, Gibaja said, "is the only way to respond to the complex problems; the response can't be simple" — a stance that all who spoke to GSR shared.
A three-year project in Uruguay provided training and awareness-raising among locals, with the help of Red Kawsay, the network that includes Argentina, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. "The idea was to generate trained actors to be able to respond to the situation," said Oblate of the Holy Redeemer Sr. Sandra Ortiz. The network's goals in the coming year, she said, are to tackle borders and provide more service to victims.
"Participating in [this conference] helps strengthen what's being done in our networks, whether we're few or many," she said. "It's important to listen to different experiences and to be able to think about where one is and how we approach our realities, even if other places seem much more advanced than us or have different opportunities. It always helps to share."
Sometimes the network can feel like "a tiny little dot in a country so big" like Argentina, said Missionary Social Service Sr. María Silvia Olivera. Partnering with lay and civil institutions can be a way of covering more ground — an approach she was keen on learning while at the conference. "Maybe we can't copy exact prescriptions, but it helps to be exposed to how others do things."

Each table wrote down their reflections following presentations by networks, then displayed them for everyone to read throughout the three days. (GSR photo / Soli Salgado)
The sisters in Canada, who belong to the network CATHII, indeed are considering adopting what the U.S. sisters shared in a presentation on training doctors and medical attendants to spot signs common among victims of trafficking.
"I think with CATHII we could do something like that," said Holy Names of Jesus and Mary Sr. Lise Gagnon. "Just as we already visit hotels, maybe we can visit emergency rooms, too, especially since the material is already there."
Why the sisters do what they do
When she was 14, Marlene Carson's middle-class family in Columbus, Ohio, welcomed a new couple moving into their neighborhood. Fully trusted by their neighbors, the couple's house became a hangout for kids after school; they'd invite Carson and her friends on little field trips, with each outing getting farther and farther from Columbus. When they invited the girls to New York City, Carson's mother said no, multiple times, until she finally caved, distracted by a family tragedy.
"We sang Christian songs all the way to New York City," Carson recalled of the drive.

Sisters visit with Marlene Carson, center, after Mass Oct. 26 for pictures and hugs. Carson spoke during the anti-trafficking conference of her experience being prostituted as a young teenager. (GSR photo / Soli Salgado)
After a day of shopping and tourism in the city, the girls were told to be back at the hotel at 8 p.m. to get dressed for a Broadway show. But instead, they were greeted with racks of see-through lace dresses, pasties and thongs.
When one of them protested, the man smacked her. That's when it dawned on 15-year-old Carson that they had gotten into something beyond their comprehension.
"That weekend, I was sold 27 times as a virgin girl raised in the church," she said. "That very first act, every dream, every desire, everything in me died that day. I never thought I'd be standing here telling anyone how great God is when something like this happens."
Carson and her friends were trafficked on the streets, in brothels and at professional sporting events.
Since escaping (the details of which she left out of her presentation), Carson founded Rahab's Hideaway, a restorative housing program for victims of human trafficking.

Flor Molina shares with the group her story surviving labor trafficking on the U.S.-Mexico border, where she was forced to live in a sewing factory. She has since worked with the sisters to pass legislation around this issue. (GSR photo / Soli Salgado)
When asked the highlight of the conference, the unanimous response among all who spoke with GSR was hearing Carson and Flor Molina, a victim of labor trafficking who now works with sisters on this issue. It served as a reminder of why they do what they do, they said, particularly in a field where one doesn't necessarily see the fruits of their work or a happy ending on the other side.
For Kathleen Bryant, a Religious Sister of Charity who is on the board of the U.S. sisters' network and was on the event's planning committee, the gathering helped the group become "sisters among sisters in the hemisphere."
"What I love is the recognition that we're all about the same mission and we're angry about what's happened to children, to women, to boys, to men in labor trafficking, and that we really are convinced that we can make things different and create change," Bryant said.
The fact that just two sisters from Mexico pioneered Red Rahamim and were able to organize on this front reminded Bryant that "as Americans, sometimes we think we have to have everything first organized with a mission statement and the budget and all the rest." As one Mexican sister emphasized during their presentation, creating and sustaining Red Rahamim with little underpinning was possible because it was an "obsession."

The final night of the gathering was a cultural celebration. Here, Mexican sisters — many of whom work in other countries — sing a Mexican song together. (GSR photo / Soli Salgado)
The international coordinator of Talitha Kum, Comboni Missionary Sr. Gabriella Bottani, said that networks are also important for "bringing joy to a dark topic," as their respective communities tend to be unaware of the harsh realities these sisters witness in their ministry.
She noted that a crucial advantage in their coming together was "to recognize the diversity of charisms, to trust in one another [so we] can really share our experiences and our challenges and our suffering in these activities," she said. "But at the same time, [sharing] the hope and the ideas we have and the projects we're developing, supporting each other."
The last night of the Cleveland gathering was a cultural celebration, with every sister or group of sisters representing her country with food, costumes and trinkets, and demonstrating local dances or songs.
Bottani, however, was the sole sister from Italy, so she called on every attendee to dance with her as she demonstrated basic footwork and established a rhythm for all to follow. Her dance, in a way, was emblematic of the network she leads, bringing together sisters who moved together with her guidance, as laughs and trips and improvisations punctuated their efforts.
"We are writing the story of Talitha Kum together because we are many stories," she said.

LCWR Calls for the Welcome and Humane Treatment of Arriving Migrants

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is deeply troubled by President Trump’s continued denigration of those fleeing untenable situations in their home countries. These are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who have been forced from their homes by unimaginable violence and insecurity; runaway corruption; and droughts and floods linked to climate change. These are women and girls fleeing intolerable situations of domestic violence. These are young men and women who have no access to quality education and no hope of economic opportunity.
These are courageous people who have rejected cultures of corruption and exploitation. They are traveling the same road trod by our forbearers who fled tyranny and violence in search of the American dream. They are people of hope and promise who only want the opportunity to contribute their toil and talent to this nation.
We reject the president’s rhetoric of fear and policy of division that poisons our politics. We choose instead to embrace a dream for America that is filled with hope for a nation united in service of the common good. We stand with Pope Francis who calls us to “promote the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor and the excluded of society, those who are abandoned, immigrants and those who suffer violence and human trafficking.”
We urge the administration to manage refugee arrivals humanely and in a manner that respects their dignity and rights under US and international law and to:
  • Allow migrants to approach our border and ask for protection in the United States and to be admitted for processing in a timely manner. 
  • Ensure that asylum seekers have access to legal counsel and receive a fair resolution of their claim.
  • Guarantee that parents and children stay together after they are apprehended. Holding families indefinitely in detention or detaining parents while releasing their children violates the values of this nation and the standards set forth in the Flores settlement.
  • Eschew detention of those awaiting adjudication of their asylum petitions in favor of alternatives that are more humane and more cost efficient.
  • Direct Homeland Security to cooperate with faith-based and humanitarian organizations who are prepared to assist asylum-seekers.
The United States has a long and proud history of welcoming immigrants and sheltering refugees. Women religious have been blessed to be able to accompany and serve migrant communities across this country for a very long time. We will continue to welcome them as our national history demands and our faith requires.

Bishops Issue Joint Statement on Climate Change

The heads of six continental bishops’ conferences have signed a rare joint statement urging political leaders to solve climate change.

The bishops’ call is clear:
We call for ambitious and immediate action to be taken in order to tackle and overcome the devastating effects of the climate crisis. These actions need to be taken by the international community at all levels: by persons, communities, cities, regions, nations.
The bishops’ statement is aimed at world leaders who are preparing for a UN climate summit in Poland this December. We pray thanks for the bishops’ leadership. Now, it’s our turn to respond.
We invite you to take three minutes today to share the statement with your pastor or another leader in your community. We’re all in this crisis together, and we’re all called to respond with the clarity and urgency the bishops have demonstrated.
  • The full statement is here.
  • A short email to your pastor or other leader is here: Dear Pastor, I’d like to share a statement that was recently signed by the heads of six continental bishops’ conferences. It calls all of us to take action now to protect our common home from the crisis of global warming. It is being covered in the press, such as in this article.  It is a powerful document, and I encourage you to read it in the light of our faith. With my sincere thanks,
  • If you’d like to tweet the statement at your president/prime minister, please find his or her Twitter handle here. Be sure to use the hashtag #TheClimatePilgrimage
The bishops say that “there is no time to waste.” I invite you to set aside a few minutes today to share this statement with your pastor or another leader.
Thank you for your witness and the witness of our Church!

Reflecting on the Life of Peacemaker Betty Reardon

Incarnate Word College hosted Betty Rearden, a leader in peace education in 1986. IWC, now the University of the Incarnate Word, continues to deepen in peace education (See recent events at:  

In Betty Rearden’s 90th year of life, we can learn from her pioneering work and carry that forward.

“Issues and Themes in 6 Decades of Peacelearning: Examples from the Work of Betty Reardon (Post #1)
Unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop or to reduce armaments, or – and this is the main thing – ultimately to abolish them entirely. – Pope John XIII, April, 1963

…our primary long range interest… is general and complete disarmament designed to take place in stages permitting parallel political developments to build new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. – Pres. John F. Kennedy, June 1963
Contemporary Commentary By Betty Reardon

The 1960s have been recorded as a turbulent divisive decade as will the one we live through now. Two of those years had particular relevance to the theme of this series, 1963 and 1968. 1963 was the year of the promulgation of the Papal Encyclical Pacem in Terris, the delivery of the “American University Speech,” Toward a Strategy of Peace, and the deaths of their authors Pope John XXIII and US President John F. Kennedy, losses that dimmed the hopes for peace kindled by the common message both had put forth to the world. Yet, it was also the year of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that emerged from the movement that in 2017 brought the UN to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Indeed, in these events are the roots of the current global politics we seek to illuminate in our practice of peace education, and inspiration for the renewal of action on disarmament. . .

Betty Rearden helped shape many ideas which have grown into Global Citizenship Education: (English)  and (Spanish)

Testimonio de El Paso, TX por Hma. Ceci Zavala

Mi experiencia en el albergue de El Paso fue muy dificil por el sufrimiento de los/las migrantes y sus luchas.  La mayoria de los/las migrantes (madre e hijos/as o padre e hijos/as) llegaron sin dignidad por las condiciones de su viaje o su tiempo en los centros de detencion en donde se lo perdieron.  

Pero fue una alegria verles recuperar su dignidad en el albergue y tenerlo de nuevo cuando salieron.  Por eso el servicio del albergue es simplemente ayuda HUMANITARIO. 

Tambien me disfruto ver el equipo de muchos, muchos, muchos voluntarios trabajar juntos.  Las donaciones (ropa, comida, tiempo) de muchas personas me dieron ESPERANZA; la esperanza en la buena voluntad de personas, y la esperanza que otro mundo sea posible... 

Por Sr. Ceci Zavala, CCVI 

Hermana Ceci Zavala, CCVI

Testimony from Serving Migrants in El Paso by Sr. Ceci Zavala CCVI

My experience at the shelter of El Paso was very hard because of the migrants’ suffering and struggles.  Most of the migrants (mother and child or father and child) arrived without dignity because the conditions of their journey or their time at the detention center made them to lose it.

It was also a joy to see them recover their dignity at the time they left the shelter.  That is why, the service at the shelter is simple HUMANITARIAN help.

I also enjoyed the team work of many, many, many volunteers. The donations (clothes, food, time) of many people gave me back HOPE; hope in the good will of people, hope that other world is possible…

By Sr. Ceci Zavala, CCVI 

Sr. Ceci Zavala CCVI

Testimonio del Albergue San Carlos por Hma. Bertha Elena Flores CCVI

Memorias del Albergue San Carlos del Seminario de El Paso, Texas para los/las Inmigrantes Centroamericanos.

No hay palabras para describir lo que es un albergue, solo cuando se es testigo del alivio que otorga a tantas personas se alcanza a valorar y apreciar en toda su magnitud. Que bendición tan grande es formar parte de la solidaridad con los migrantes y cómo atrae cómo un iman la solidaridad de más personas e instituciones.

El centro de Saint Charles se mueve con un equipo de voluntarias en su inmensa mayoría mujeres 
mayores de 50 años que cubren los servicios de alimentación, hospedaje, lavandería, servicios de conexión telefónica con los parientes o personas que los recibirán, y servicios de transporte a las estaciones de autobuses o al aeropuerto.

Seminario San Carlos de El Paso, TX
Somos 10 voluntarias de tiempo completo, que vivimos en el albergue. Los voluntarios de alimentos vienen al mediodía y en la noche, y cubren algunos desayunos.  Nosotras llegamos el lunes 4 de noviembre a media mañana, e inmediatamente nos empezaron a mostrar las instalaciones y a describir las políticas y procedimientos de cada día. Nos explicaron que cada día llegan al albergue entre 30 y 40 personas, pero hay días que llegan 60 o 70, nuestra máxima capacidad es para 100. Vienen de Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala y Brasil y permanecen en el albergue dos o tres Días.  

El desayuno se prepara aquí, y las voluntarias cubrimos el trabajo de cocinar y servir las mesas. Las comidas y cenas los preparan diferentes equipos de las parroquias de El Paso y lugares vecinos. Todos los días se lavan de 50 a 80 o más toalllas, y las sábanas de todos, las cobijas solo se desinfectan con spray. 

Un autobús trae a las personas todos los días de los Centros de Detención de Inmigración a los 8 diferentes albergues qué hay en El Paso, Texas. La mayoría de ellos pasan de 4 a 15 días detenidos en el Centro. Allí solo reciben un alimento al día y solo pueden bañarse una vez durante toda su estancia. La temperatura la conservan fría, así que cuando llegan al albergue vienen exhaustos y casi todos los niños llegan resfriados. La mayoría viajan con uno o dos niños, algunos con bebés.
El estrés varía de acuerdo al carácter de las personas. Una tarde una mujer que viajaba sola con su hijo de 5 años se desmayó cuando esperaba su turno para bañarse, el pobre niño lloraba y gritaba asustadisimo, por miedo a que su mamá pudiera morir. Fueron minutos que sentimos como horas, hasta que la mamá, una joven de 24 años recobró la conciencia.

Cuando llegan al albergue, lo primero que sucede después de darles la bienvenida, es pasar a registrarse y a hacer contacto telefónico con las personas que los recibirán en el pais: llaman a New Jersey, Maryland, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, California, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Nuevo México, para que les compren el boleto para su viaje, pues ellos llegan sin dinero. Cerca del lugar al que viajan deberán ir a la Corte.

Luego se les da ropa limpia y adecuada al lugar a donde viajarán, una bolsa con todo lo que necesitan para su aseo personal, una toalla, cobija y almohada y se les invita a que pasen a darse un baño con agua caliente, esto los ayuda a relajarse y a descansar, de ahí pasan a cenar. Siempre llegan con mucha hambre, conmueve hasta el alma ver como los bebés “devoran” la comida. Si se les cae un pedacito de comida con sus pequeñas manos lo recogen y se lo llevan a la boca, a veces pedacitos de comida que podrían ser considerados migajas...., es difícil contener las lágrimas cuando se presencia esto. No solo los bebés también los niños y los adultos. Al final de la cena el ambiente cambia y se empieza a sentir el efecto de la acogida fraterna y solidaria.

¿Y por qué se vienen?
La mayoría vienen huyendo de condiciones de extrema pobreza y de la violencia del crimen organizado, que sigue aumentando en Centroamérica. Ayer llegó un matrimonio de Guatemala con tres hijos, tuvieron que huir porque dos hombres encapuchados y armados exigieron que se les pagara la cuota por el pequeño negocio que tienen, al no recibir el dinero que ellos deseaban le dieron a él 6 balazos a quemarropa y lo dejaron por muerto. El trae las marcas todavía recientes de 6 balas que entraron y salieron de su cuerpo, así que tiene 12 cicatrices, 10 de ellas alrededor de la cintura, y del corazón, una de las balas rompió un hueso del brazo, y trae una placa y 6 tornillos. Vive por la gracia de Dios.

Ayer llegaron tres niñas con sus cabecitas llenas de piojos y liiendres, las tres estaban muy asustadas y lloraban. Gracias a Dios tenemos un excelente botiquín y había un tratamiento, así que pudimos dar el tratamiento inicial, se corrio la voz de que yo era excelente para tratar este problema! Y quedaron en mandarme a los clientes en caso necesario.

Todos los días hemos tenido casos de resfriados, algunos llegan muy enfermos. Ayer llegaron un niño y una niña con varicela. Inmediatamente el doctor tomo las precauciones necesarias, pues todos los días se da una vuelta después de su trabajo.

Los niños son una lección viviente de lo que es la resiliencia, llegan agotados, tristes, nerviosos, al día siguiente, los vemos jugando fútbol, en el jardín seco de invierno del seminario, Felices! Riendo! Generalmente se les unen los papás. Las mamás cuidan a los más chiquitos y a los enfermos.

Los días se pasan y las energías se agotan, a la semana hay que hacer una pausa para recobrar fuerzas.

Escrito por Bertha Elena Flores CCVI