by Carol Wagner, RDC
Refugees arriving at Casa Alitas in Arizona are mostly women and children from Central America, but also families arrive from South America, Africa and other areas where poverty, oppression, violence and other disasters send them running for safety and their lives.
We were welcomed with open arms by Casa Alitas staff and volunteers, and were quickly absorbed into whatever need arose hour by hour, day by day… stripping and making beds, cleaning rooms, unpacking clothing donations… Those who spoke Spanish were quickly whipped away by volunteer doctors needed their help assessing the medical needs of the new group of 30 that arrived just after we did… The rest of us distributed water and hot soup, or went on our way to clean rooms and cover mattresses with new sheets for the new arrivals.
We learned there was a system – border control or ICE would call and say they were bringing anywhere from 10-30 people at any given time - and we would come out to greet, clap and welcome the frightened families being left at our door… We would usher them into the room with old church pews, to offer them water, watermelon, and hot soup… and bring stuffed animals to the children as they sat in fear - wondering who we were, where they were, and what was happening. We spoke whatever Spanish we knew, and bonds and relationships formed quickly, as they felt safe and at home. We helped them to find their rooms and showers.
And then to find new used clothing and shoes for the journey forward.
Questions for each and all of us to reflect on:
1)What tugs at my heart?
2)How can I use my voice to take down walls, and build bridges of understanding and compassion?