haven't written anything in a while....having coffee with a friend reminded me that for my own sake, I want to record events.
The center runs on fumes, not enough staff, not enough volunteers, not enough resources in general. Once again have to move, this time to a larger downtown location. Just heard that the move has gone on the past few days and is largely complete. I will be there next Tuesday.
As one of several long time volunteers, I know the systems and priorities. Of course they aren't always followed, depends on who is there to keep things in line. With large numbers of detainees it has been hard to keep things going in a reasonable matter.
Tote bags with toiletries. The idea is to greet each family with a tote bag for their papers etc, and some toiletries. Some times we don't have tote bags & have given toiletries in baggies. Other times we have tote bags and have a small assembly line: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, whatever we have.
Some times we are really lucky and have toiletry kits already made up. Then we just toss one in each tote bag and ready. These come in as donations, from the Red Cross and others.
So last trip we had some pre-made toiletry kits, pretty full ones. A boss comes in and says Four toothbrushes? we rarely have more than 2 in a family so let's take out 3 (we then go down the line giving toothbrushes to others in the family). Ok, I'm ok with that. I don't like waste and it's easy to open the bag, take out 3, toss the bag in the tote.
Then the boss says....there are two hand towels in each kit. Two aren't needed, let's take one out. I weigh the time required to remove the 3 toothbrushes, 2 folded towels, extract one, put kit in tote. Also do we need that extra towel? It's not a bath towel and we don't use hand towels for anything. So I think no, leave the towels. Time is more important.
Then the boss says....why a bar of soap? We keep soap in the showers. Let's take that out.
so it's grab a toiletry kit, remove 3 toothbrushes, 1 towel, and a bar of soap. Hmm. Do we need those bars of soap? We're moving to a new location--what we have has to be moved. Do we NEED bars of soap? Actually we have many hundreds of bars of soap already that are just taking up space. So my deal is ok, take out 3 toothbrushes, leave the rest, toss in tote and ready.
I go on to other tasks and the next morning come in to check on totes. There are many ready for the asylum seekers. There's a big tote of hand towels and another of bars of soap. Sigh. But ok, so what.
Except later, we have volunteers and the boss puts them to work with her guidelines. I stop by, checking on volunteers, suggest my way. Oh, the woman laughs, too many bosses! But I explain and she agrees and we agree that if Boss shows up, do it her way. Otherwise, do it mine.
Later that afternoon.....lines of asylum seekers waiting to be processed....all with tote bags....and the Boss going down the line and TAKING OUT soap and towels from their totes. omg. Really?
So back to the original--we need more bosses but we need better bosses, too. There were two full afternoons when I was the only person at the main desk. I do what I can--hand out razors, extra toothbrushes.....help with sending folks to the buseta to get to the train station or airport....answer what questions I can. But I'm just a lowly volunteer and there are plenty of problems needing attention. One family--dad and son had papers, mom was released from detention without any. These papers, from ICE, give them legal standing and allow them to travel. They are absolutely vital. I don't know what to do to get this woman her documents from ICE. Where is a boss?
and here's a guy whose bus leaves in 15 minutes....leave the desk unattended? I guess so, gotta get this guy to the station. Come back and find a woman whose plane leaves in 40 minutes. Run her out to the airport (as the minibusses are going back and forth but there's no time to wait for the next one). Desk is unattended. Discover people are not taking mini-bus on time because Boss is neglecting to call them on the loudspeaker. Bus drivers plot a boycott.....disappear for a while, Boss wonders where they are and finally starts calling people to the front. Wow.
Next move, btw, we will be across from the bus station but still need to drive folks to the airport.
Out of order, but speaking of the airport....time to head back to Iowa & as usual, run into asylum seekers waiting for the same flight, or so I thought. Love buying them good coffee! and we chatted. One of the other things we do, as a priority, is create bags of food for them for the journey. I notice one has a bag of snacks but no sandwiches and the other (each mom with one kid) has no bag at all. So I've got a few snacks I don't expect to eat and so distributed them. One woman, so sweet! says But what about you? What will you eat? Very kind of her but I didn't really need anything.
We find another small family waiting and scoop them up. At boarding, turns out the two moms and kids are on the NEXT flight...so I'm glad I gave them something to eat. I added a $20 to each, knowing they will transfer to a larger and final flight in Dallas and likely won't need much.
The mom/dad/toddler board with me & at the end of the flight, we find out they have to go to a different terminal for their final flight. That requires the train....but I have time so we navigate the airport, take the train, and I deliver them to their gate before heading back to my own. And then having my usual Time to Breathe, sad to be leaving, hope they all make it without trouble moments. It's actually a tough time because I know how much is needed, yet I am leaving. But of course I know I will be back....
Couple of hospital incidents. We had a nurse volunteering and she thought a woman's ear infection required the ER and was looking for someone to take her. I did not, because I don't know the town and it was late enough that I didn't want to get caught driving after dark. I don't know who she found. But later I got a text from like THE best organizer/volunteer/local...she asked if I had been the person who took the woman to the hospital, because they were trying to find her. I said no, but as I thought about it, who would take an asylum seeker to the hospital and just drop them off? Yes, there are likely Spanish speakers there. But it's a completely foreign place, she doesn't know rules/routines, what to say, etc etc, how to get back to the Respite Center...and someone just dropped her off! I think that's very unkind and one reason I didn't take her is because I knew I would stay to see her through--and perhaps get stuck driving after dark (I have macular degeneration and can't drive at dusk or night). Good grief. All the people working there are supposed to care!
Another event was a woman and daughter at the desk....they'd been released from detention but her husband had been taken to the hospital from detention. She didn't know why, what was wrong, where he was, how to find him, etc etc. We put a staff worker on the job and she followed through. I wish I knew the end to both stories....