Hi All - I would love to know if you have any questions I can answer. The news is kind of overwhelming, so let me know if there are things you particularly want to know. I don't know much, but I can share what I see.
El Pastor's daughter works in one of the detention centers, and he is in communication with people in the detention centers pretty regularly. His sense is that the conditions in the detention centers here are not awful. Mind you, the food is bad, the centers are too crowded, and people don't have much chance to bathe. I think sleeping conditions are pretty much on floors. But it is not the horror we are hearing about around El Paso.
Today, I went to Iglesia Bautista in Brownsville. They are one of two organizations operating respite centers for refugees who are paroled from detention, but have hours or even a day before they can catch a bus to their next destination. An awesome woman named Gabi Zavala is running the show at Iglesia Bautista. I think this respite center just kind of organically grew - not totally sure. They are open 6AM-2PM every day, and get about 6 drop-offs of people during that time. I delivered baby food, paper plates, napkins, coloring books and crayons. There were about 30 people there when I was there. They rigged up this pretty awesome outdoor shower in the parking lot, using tarps to create "walls" for privacy. I saw a little guy getting washed by his mom. I know many of you are using words like "heartbreaking" to describe what is happening - and there is much that is. But I have to tell you that it is actually very heart-warming to see people taking care of each other with warmth, care, and dignity. And that is happening here - through the work and attention of lots of volunteers. They are very dedicated.
Yesterday, I went to the Good Neighbor Settlement House respite center in Brownsville, which has been around for a long time primarily as a shelter for homeless people. The city called GNSH to open and host a respite center because of the inflow of people and how their needs were not being met at the bus station. Since March, GNSH has served 6,500 people. This is a small operation! Fueled by small donations and lots of helping hands. I delivered about 15 pair of women's pants, belts, baseball hats, toilet paper and paper towels. While I was there, a mom and daughter brought in a box of pastries and a small tray of hot food. This is a serious loaves and fishes situation. The GNSH wishlist as of yesterday is here:
I had a tiny exchange with one boy named Abner today in Iglesia Bautista - a sweetie with a warm smile. But I haven't talked to any other refugees since the mother and son I wrote about a couple days ago. I have been talking to people who are organizing delivery. I have been in three respite centers, but am not taking photos of the people who are waiting. It feels intrusive, and they are on the journey of their lives. What I see: they are tired, dead tired. They have children. They have these tiny bags, provided by the respite centers, and nothing else. The respite centers are mostly overflowing with clothing - but it is very hot here. Long pants and long sleeved shirts are not so awesome. And people don't want to carry alot, I don't think. I have gotten warm and thorough tours of the centers from the people who run them. I don't know where these wonderful people find the patience. Raise their names in your hearts: Gabi Zavala, Marianela Watson, Andrea Rudkin.
Tonight, I plan to go to Brownsville to serve a dinner at the bus station, provided by Team Brownsville. (https://www.teambrownsville.org/)
Peace to all of you - and enormous thanks for your support! Every "like," comment, response is fuel for me. Every donation you all are giving is so welcome and so needed.