Sunday, January 20, 2019

Weekend at the Respite Center Sat/Sun

well, Saturday threw me for a loop. A lot of folks showed up to volunteer but they didn't know what to do and didn't get a lot of direction. Another volunteer and I started "culling" them, take them in 2's and 3's to various areas to sort and organize clothes, handle donations, help in the kitchen, and so on. A priest with a crew of teens came and cleaned the center quite thoroughly, wiping down each and every mat, sweeping, mopping, and so on. There was a strong and not unpleasant scent of Lysol all day....

but it was a lovely day, not too cold or hot, a bit breezy, windows and doors open, and a treat for lunch. A small crew with a huge grill came and grilled chicken with rice and beans for everyone so it was something like a picnic on a sunny day, just fantastic.

Midday an older man was walking around handing out toys...not the usual procedure but who am I to tell him that? And what difference does it make? If a staff member insists on following rules, let them say something.

In the morning there were a few young teens who were still waiting to leave and sort of wanted to shop through the used clothing, We were trying to sort and organize, and we'd already given them clothing the day before. But I took a step back and thought, "how long has it been since these kids had the chance to shop?" So as long as they put things back where they found them, I let them browse.

The new group arrived around 230 and again, for the most part gracious and grateful people. That two year old reminded me of my grandson, NO to everything, crying, refusing to cooperate. But he was 2. And likely exhausted. He was with his very patient dad but his mom was still in detention. So actually he had plenty of reason to act out, unlike my grandson.....'

Oddly, I came across a 4 or 5 year old girl, sobbing because she couldn't find her mom. We looked around the showers and bathrooms, dining area, made an announcement...and nothing. Finally one of the staff members found her waiting for her intake interview, not far from the main desk. She had to have heard but didn't want to lose her place? Actually, they each have a number for their appt so she wouldn't have lost her place. How did she ignore the calls to pick up her daughter? I don't think she was mean or heartless. I think she was overwhelmed, and had that learned helplessness that being held in detention causes.

Not long after a woman passed me in the hallway, walking really fast, looking for her son. This is unusual but.....200-300 people a day, in various parts of the check in process, with tempting toys in the back can be a challenge.

I have to say we have never lost anyone...we have their names, know their family members, their destinations, and EVERYONE keeps an eye on EVERYONE'S children. We are all responsible for them, right? We are the village.

SUNDAY.....and hardly any volunteers. But us 6-7 regulars got a LOT done. With help from a tall couple, I was able to empty two closets, sort, repackage, label, and put back in an organized way. Did my soul good.

We had two families in trouble...with bus tickets for one member but not the kids. In one case, the woman's brother refused to buy a ticket, though he'd previously promised. And he refused to even lend her money for it (she can't legally work, though she could help with child care of clean houses, which she is more than willing to do). What does the brother think she can do? Stay at the shelter indefinitely? Or.....ok, we came up with donations to cover it but still.....I am not sure what the story was on the other woman but she was devastated, crying quietly, watching her kids play. Imagine traveling over 2000 miles, being detained, being finally released, and having to stay at the shelter because one of her kids didn't have a ticket.

We had a couple of mid to late morning volunteers, which was lovely. I believe we might be able to empty Apt 1 and get all that stuff sorted and organized and placed. Maybe this week....The bus, with 180 people, arrived around 2:45 this afternoon. We got them organized, took the kids to the dining area for soup and tortillas (everyone will get a real meal later), and soon the parents were done with their intake interviews and began coming for clean clothes (not NEW clothes; we don't have any). Just as the first few trickled in, a group of 6 volunteers with experience!! showed up and I took advantage of the opportunity to leave a bit early.

I have explored exactly none of McAllen. I have no sense of direction, the car says we are always going south, and the GPS doesn't know about the construction areas. But I didn't come here to go to the mall or check out the movies. If I were to do anything, it would be returning to the border to see if anything is going on, perhaps crossing into Reynosa. But I was happy to return to my hotel and catch up on a book and movie and a few computer word games.

Tomorrow is another day, as they say in Spanish.

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