For the past two weeks, Sister Ann Clark and I volunteered in El Paso, Texas. El Paso is located at the southwestern corner of Texas with New Mexico to the west and Mexico to the south. At various ports of entry into the United States, each day Homeland Security is admitting hundreds of people to the United States on a temporary basis. These immigrants and/or refugees have a sponsor person in the United States. Around El Paso there are at least five shelters, most of them affiliated with Annunciation House. These shelters are organized to move the people from the immigration detention centers to their U.S. sponsor.
Sister Ann and I were privileged to be part of this well-organized volunteer program, volunteering at the shelter located in the Diocesan Center. For me, being engaged in a very real “grassroots” movement was so significant. Everyday our Center received between 40 to 60 new guests and, therefore, everyday about the same number of guests moved on. At the shelter, the guests were received with pleasant welcomes, good meals, clean clothes, warm showers, arrangement of their travel ticket through their sponsor and a ride to their mode of transportation. Both of us were assigned to the “intake” detail, making sure that all was in order with their papers and that their needs, such as medical, were taken care of.
Besides that, Sister Ann and I made numerous trips to the airport and the bus stations. At the airport, most of the time we were permitted to escort the guests to their gates since this was a first-time air travel experience with change of gates and with the language barrier. Can you imagine how many volunteers there were each day for all the above activities! It was amazing and inspiring to see young adult long term volunteers, volunteers in charge of each of the areas, parishioners from different parishes bringing in meals two times a day. Their generosity was heartwarming and the expressions of gratitude of the guests was overwhelming!! For us, this was real “grassroots” in action, responding to the need at hand.
By Sister Marita Beumer, CPPS
Assembly Directive: Network with other individuals, agencies and groups to be effective in our current reality.