Thanks to your donations, prayers, and support, I was able to visit the Lower Rio Grand Valley on a service-learning mission trip with Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries. I departed Sunday afternoon December 2nd and returned home Friday evening December 7th. It’s amazing how big of an impact just one week can have! Those 5 ¼ days have changed me in ways that I’m not even able to fully process yet. While I have been involved in participating in mission trips to the Lower Rio Grand Valley and Mexico with SWGSM since I was about 13 years old, this was an entirely new experience.
A total of $6,528.09 was received in donations through the church, SWGSM’s online giving, my Facebook Fundraiser, and the Amazon Wish List. These donations were received from 26 different individuals/families from First Christian Church Garland, First Christian Church McKinney, and Northway Christian Church. MUCHAS GRACIAS!
These funds enabled me to purchase many immediate-need gifts while I was there (food for hot meals, snacks, toiletries,hats, gloves, socks, shoelaces, kids toys, diapers, wipes, shoes, jackets, gas for volunteer vehicles, etc). I was also able to provide numerous gift-cards to WalMart for Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries and Team Brownsville as they continue their faithful work and service. The remaining money was gifted to Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries to be used for refugee care and ministry.This is all in addition to the truck-loads of donations received by Mike’s Kids who are in the process of being transported down to the Lower Rio Grand Valley.
During my brief time I was able to learn from and work with many different volunteer organizations (Team Brownsville, Good Neighbor Settlement House, ACLU, Catholic Charities, SWGSM). It was beyond inspiring to see the ways that these volunteers selflessly give of themselves day in and day out. Many of the volunteers were working during all of their “free time,” in the moments before and after their full-time paying jobs, while many others were working around the clock.
We responded to many of the immediate-needs of people that are “camping” on the bridge in Matamoros, waiting for their opportunity to petition for asylum. We provided hot, home-cooked meals, healthy snacks, clothes for cold weather (hats, gloves, socks, jackets), kids toys, and blankets. I was able to offer basic medical assessment and care for those who needed it. We also met people at the bus stations in Brownsville and McAllen, where they are dropped off from the local detention centers, preparing to travel via bus or plane to their next destinations to family or sponsors.
Once again, we were able to help with some of the basic needs: assisting with reading maps, offering cell phones to call family or legal aid, determining transportation needs, giving backpacks (they carry their belongings in produce sacks), providing snacks, paper and pen, toiletries, etc. Those that were not departing until the next day were transported to local organizations where they are able to take showers, eat hot meals, receive clothing or other basic needs, and sleep overnight.
These are people from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Guinea, Cameroon…I can share all about the geography, logistics, legal processes; however, the most important and impactful aspects of my experience cannot adequately be described. It was the human-to-human contact, the ways that the struggle became real. It was not a news story, not hypothetical. The people were not just strangers from afar-away, unfamiliar country, but were real flesh and blood human beings with families and worries and needs and hopes.
I was overwhelmed with how many young children were there. The stories that they shared were indescribable and shocking. Some were so outrageous and devastating they were unbelievable; yet, they are true.Their journeys have been wrought with violence, rape, fear, illness, death, sex trafficking, drug cartels, gangs. These are not people that are bringing danger and threats to the U.S. (I never felt unsafe or threatened!), these are people trying to escape the very issues we want to avoid. In desperation, they do everything within their power to find a better, more secure future for their families, clinging to hope that eventually their journey will have some light, some promise, some future.
I hope to share more about my experience in the coming weeks and months. From the bottom of my heart, thank-you for the many ways you support these missions and ministries!
May God Bring Us Peace,
Casey Peters Tanguay