Nell just returned from Juarez where on behalf of The Off Ramp she took a tour of shelters for asylum seekers in and around Juarez, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from El Paso. Opportunities abound but there is work to do!
"There was laughter. There were tears. There were questions. There was deep appreciation. There was wonder. From children who had not been warm in weeks yet smiled and played to an eighty-year-old woman huddled under blankets yet rising to greet us, our hearts were touched by the situation these forcibly displaced people endured. Still, we were encouraged!
As Enrique Valenzuela put it, 'This is not a crisis! We just need to all come together and figure out how we can handle the situation.' To think crisis is to think negatively. These people thought in the positive, bringing to the table all the assets of each organization and individual. Result? Dignity and care for the forcibly displaced."
On day one, Nell and her companions crossed the border from El Paso to Juarez. On their way to the first shelter, they passed Migrant Protection Protocols (MPPs) living in tents. MPPS are those are were forcibly displaced who are not from Mexico. They then attended a ceremony of the opening of a welcome center at which the governor spoke and the sign read, "We are all Mexican."
They learned that the women in shelters are taught to make bags, dolls, and pillows and children are provided with an education complete with certificates and reports. At another shelter, they met a group of Cuban refugees who are incredibly skilled woodworkers. We are looking at opportunities for product development and potentially helping them build a small business. Still, many of the shelters were in poor shape, in need of heat (it gets very cold in the mountains!), basic appliances, and adequate ventilation. In fact, disease such as chickenpox and conditions such as asthma are common given their living conditions. As they left Mexico on that first day, they passed a wall riddled with bullet holes where, in the past, the cartels lined people up and shot them.
On day two, they traveled a couple of hours outside of Juarez near another border crossing to determine where another shelter can be placed after the previous one was closed for lack of funding. They've found a location but need help from the government, NGOs, and faith-based groups to get it renovated and opened. At the end of day two, they crossed back into El Paso but not before noticing that the MPPs' tents had been removed and their inhabitants forced to leave. Our partners on that side of the border are trying to locate them to ensure they are safe and secure in a shelter.
We will continue to update you on our partnership with groups along the border as we begin to get a clearer picture of how we can help and what we can do.
Want to get involved? The Off Ramp connects you with opportunities to make a real difference in the lives of forcibly displaced people both near and far. By partnering with The Off Ramp, you will see practical and positive change and know that you had a hand in making it happen. Send us a note if you'd like to get involved in this specific project or donate to it here. Have questions? Email us or get in touch on social media.