Wednesday, January 16, 2019

McAllen January 2019 Day 2

I'll try to keep these posts a bit shorter....

We had over 200 detainees arrive yesterday; another over 200 today. They are exhausted and wait in rows for their intake interviews. Meantime we feed the young children soup, tortillas, and juice. I am always amazed that they trust us with their children. Sure, it's in the same building but it's out of their sight line....and the children trust us enough to come with us. I was kind of hungry so after bring 3 very young kids down, I sat and ate with them. 

NJ and I met up early, around 830 or so, checked in with a regular, and agreed on our strategy. There are volunteers coming and going and I don't know what they know...and sometimes they know how to organize shoes but they don't have a sense of the bigger picture. In contrast, the 3 of us (the regular who lives in the area and is there much more often) not only know how to do most of the tasks but we know how to triage them. And recruit and instruct refugees to help us. We really aren't special. We're just adults, and we know how to organize, and we have common sense, and we can figure things out pretty quickly. I look forward to working with them for another week.

Met another two staff members I hadn't seen yesterday; hugs and smiles all around.

Common sense is not wearing lots of jewelry, make up, and fancy clothes to work with refugees who have nothing at all.

On the subject of volunteers who don't speak Spanish: That's cool, there is plenty of work that doesn't require it. And I'm not embarrassed to ask for help if my Spanish "no alcance" (doesn't reach). A young man asked for a pill but I didn't understand what it was for, so I found a nearby native speaker and had her check, then found the right pill for him. My Spanish is usually enough. I don't understand why a volunteer, however, would do a task that requires interaction. It just doesn't work. I guess I applaud them for effort and decry them for a lack of common sense.

Worked today sorting donations into major categories: men pants, men shirts, boy pants, and so on. These will move to a storage room and be sorted more specifically, arranged on shelves as men shirts large/medium/small and so on. Then, as one works actually helping find new clothes for someone, and notices a category that is low, one can go and immediately get more of the size needed. Cool.

In the past, I've cleaned showers and done laundry; this trip, the shower is a mystery. We don't know who is doing what there.....but tomorrow I will check it out. Laundry is being done by a woman in conservative dress with head scarf and a suspiciously evangelical look in her eye....

While I did a variety of tasks today (sorting, fixing, cutting grapes, serving soup, problem solving--one detainee had been given the wrong recharger and it was about to go dead, thus signaling ICE to come after her), I especially worked in women's clothes, which is frustrating because they are all American sized clothes for Central American sized people.

To borrow from Garrison Keillor, "That's the news from McAllen, Texas, where the women have 40D+ bra sizes, all the men are absolute giants, and all the children are over 5'10" before they are even teenagers."  At least that's how it seems in the sorting room....

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