So, we haven’t hit the road yet (just a couple more days!), and that is probably what you are here to read about, BUT we have already done/seen some awesome things that I can’t help but share.
After leaving Annunciation House, Eric and I went our own ways for a few months and we reunited in late July in El Paso just in time to pack our bikes and catch a bus to Tucson. In Tucson, we received orientation from No More Deaths where we committed to volunteer for the month of August.
No More Deaths is an organization which is known primarily for putting water in the desert for migrants. This is certainly the driving work of No More Deaths, but there are several other things NMD does, including human rights abuse documentation, a We Reject Racism campaign and aid stations in Mexico. Their mission is "to end death and suffering on the U.S.-Mexico border through civil initiative."
We spent most the month of August at an Aid Station on the border south of Tucson. We lived in Nogales, Arizona and we would cross the border into Nogales, Sonora, everyday to offer services to people who had just been deported and others who were preparing to make the trek northbound through the desert. Our primary service was offering phone calls to the U.S., Mexico or Central America. Lots of people who were deported needed money to get back home and many of the people headed north had not spoken to their families in weeks. We saw around 10-20 new deportees every day and most had been living in the United States for many years and were leaving behind spouses, children and/or other family members. Most the people heading northbound were from Central America and had spent about 4 weeks traveling already. (Did you know that 500,000 Central Americans migrate to the United States every year?! 150,000 of them from Honduras!)
Besides offering phone calls, we documented human rights abuses (NMD just released a huge report called A Culture of Cruelty--more on that soon) and tried to get people back their possessions that were confiscated by ICE/Border Patrol/Customs and Border Protection/etc. The volunteers who were qualified also offered medical services, mostly treating dehydration and doing blister care--those traveling north often are often dehydrated and have foot problems, but also those who have been deported often were crossing the desert just days before and very often do not receive any treatment in Border Patrol custody.
A huge part of the work, between dialing numbers and swatting flies, was accompaniment. This can be a hard task for folks like me who want to make a To Do list and check it off. But one of the most important things that we can do is just sit down next to someone, listen to them, be with them, find some commonality and hopefully a way to lighten the mood and laugh together. (And I admit, to ease my own conscience, I often felt it necessary and right to express my disdain for the actions of my government, the consequences of which were strongly felt by those with whom I was conversing.)
Similar to my experience at Annunciation House, people at the aid station in Nogales were, for the most part, really trusting and open to sharing with us. And we had the fortune of hearing some really hard stories, some harsh realities, but we also played soccer, told jokes and laughed at whoever was attempting to play guitar at that particular moment. It was a real privilege to just be with such a vulnerable community.