Friday, January 18, 2019

McAllen days 2, 3 & 4...Wednesday/Thursday/Friday

Folks are stressed out. I get that. I went into the women's clothing room and it was a disaster. I worked to reorganize, size, and fold while it was fairly quiet and I had help from another volunteer. But tomorrow it was be a disaster again.

I could get frustrated and feel like I'm spinning my wheels but it isn't that. Over 220 arrived in the afternoon, men, women, children of all ages. They ALL need clean clothes. In the women's room, one volunteer helps one person at a time so there is inevitably a line, and there is a sense of needing to hurry. So clothes may end up in the wrong pile or tossed on a chair. Further, they need everything--underwear, socks, tops, pants, and so on. So it is inevitable that things will end up all over and disorganized. That's just the way it is. I don't blame anyone. I just get back to work sorting and organizing.

The process went smoothly yesterday, though I am sure it feels like a lot of waiting for the refugees. They are given numbers for their intake interviews and in the meantime, it's soup and tortillas, clean clothes, showers, hopefully the interview (at which families are contacted and bus tickets arranged), and then dinner and sleep. Kudos to the center for keeping things flowing as well as they do!

Before and after pics of the women's clothing room later....

also....3rd day here and I got it! I'm very proud of myself. I can get to the respite center and back without the gps. 3 left turns there, 3 right turns back.

Friday....yesterday the universe was working hard to teach me that what other people say or do is not about me. I get a little sensitive, perceive disapproval or criticism where perhaps there is none. I can't say I learned the lesson well but I will try to remember it....but this morning, walking into the Respite Center, I got spontaneous hugs from small kids and many expressions of gratitude from departing refugees. Of course that made my day,

The afternoon was different, however. There was exhaustion, frustration, need, and way too many people needing attention and far too few to help. It's understandable. Sadly, I am a morning person and as the day goes on, I start forgetting my Spanish and just getting more stupid....therefore less effective. But I tried to remember that these folks traveled over 2000 miles, have been in a frigid detention center without showers or hot meals, and still aren't finished with their journeys. Being kind isn't difficult or costly and it goes a long way toward helping people feel that they matter.

Perhaps tomorrow morning this group will be refreshed and feeling better. We'll see.

Walking down the halls is difficult. If you don't make eye contact, you aren't connecting. If you do, multiple someones are likely to ask for something or ask a question. Unfortunately the system in Latin American is traditionally the squeaky wheel, so if you answer one, you'll find two or three more asking and it's quickly rather overwhelming, trying to remember---A needs diapers; B wants a toothbrush; C needs to know if the clinic is open; D wonders if it is cold in California and can s/he have a hat and gloves? (California is sort of a large long state and they rarely remember what city!).

So it's important to be kind but firm--I can help you, you need to ask so and so, you need to wait here until I finish the first task. It's great solving problems but one has to keep in mind what the priorities are for the center.

Back in my room, I empty my pockets. It's helpful to carry a few things so as to avoid running back and forth all day. So I had 3 sets of shoe laces, one chap stick, a package of baby wipes, a pen, and a hair tie. I need bigger pockets...

and by the way, we don't have a cleaning crew that comes in after hours. WE do it. We sweep, we mop, we take out the garbage, we recycle the cardboard, etc etc. Only a few are paid staff members; the rest of us are volunteers.

ay ay ay,,,,over 400 arrivals yesterday, Getting 400 people through registration, clothes, showers, meals is daunting. What happens is we don't. Which means that today we will have some number of people still needing clothes. Which means we will be helping them rather than sorting/organizing/restocking,,,which means that we're in trouble when ICE drops off another 200 or 300 or 400 or more this afternoon....

We were fortunate to have a crew of 8 or so new volunteers midday yesterday. Yes, we had to give them some directions but they were smart and hard working, got everything set and helped out a lot until leaving around 2. Grateful for their help! Would have loved another 4 hours of it....

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