This is where you’ll find pictures and commentary from our Youth special projects and mission trips.
This week has definitely been one for the books. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of impact the people of Nogales, Mexico have had on me. Throughout the week, we went sight-seeing, played with children that came to the kids’ camp, and had dinner at many people’s houses. Two of the days were spent talking to migrants who had either just recently crossed the border or were thinking of starting their journeys. Two boys from Honduras had been on a month-long journey (they were cousins) with the ultimate goal of crossing into America and working in LA with their friend to eventually make enough money so that they could come back to Honduras and provide for their family. They explained to us that they had ridden on a train for a while and lost many of their friends along the way. Sometimes, they said, people fall off the train and lose their limbs. That in itself was hard to hear, but it didn’t really hit me until a man in a wheelchair came in with the next group of people. He didn’t have any legs. We asked him what had happened, and he explained that they had been cut off by the train when we fell off. He laid for 27 hours waiting for someone to help him. Many people walked by but decided against it. Eventually, someone made their friends stop to help this man. Sound familiar? This story parallels with the Good Samaritan.
On Wednesday we went on a 7.5 mile hike in the mountainous desert so that we could provide water to those trying to cross the border. Just being out there for 5 hours was enough for me. I can’t even begin to imagine how horrible it is for those who have to deal with that heat for days or weeks at a time.
If there is anything that I’ve learned on this trip, it is that these are real people. These are wives and daughters and sons and cousins and fathers and friends and so much more. Just because they live a different life than we do thousands of miles away, doesn’t mean they are any less entitled to basic human rights than we are. Tonight, in our final reflection of the week, Allison asked us what this week has changed our view of the world and how that had affected our faith. I learned so much this week about America’s involvement in the world, Mexico itself, and so many other things. My view of the world has changed tremendously. And because of this new view, and because of my tremendous experience here in Nogales, my faith has been strengthened. I now know even more that I am called to help those in need. I am so lucky to have been given the life that I have been given. The people here and in other impoverished places in the world strive to live half the life that I do. I am so unbelievably fortunate to have the money I do, the house I do, the clothes I do, and the overall life that I do. The LEAST I can do is use my resources for good and give back to those who aren’t as fortunate as I am. In the process, I hope to provide some kind of justice with the little time I have here on earth.
Compared to the other mornings this week, this one was probably the most easy-going. We started by going to shop at a curio shop in downtown Nogales. Most of the things we brought were for both ourselves and our family. I myself got souvenirs for my mom and dad. We all got the stuff that we wanted and decided to head to the Nogales Art Museum. The museum had a wide variety of exhibits done by two artists, Ricardo Santos Hernandez and Luis Diego Taddei, who were both on exibition. Both had some art that incorporated a 3D effect to it and both had artwork about the feelings of the Border. Taddei’s works were somewhat colorful, but serious. Hernandez’s artwork had a sort of hauntingly beautiful look to them, since a lot of his artwork included skulls or melding colors. We actually got to meet Hernandez while we were at the museum and talk to him about his life and art. He was raised on both sides of the Nogales border until he moved to Chicago to get a degree in art. Much of the art we saw had to do with the effects of urbanization in Lake Michigan. The first exhibit he talked about was a painting that was a response to the song “Bombs over Bagdad” by John Trudell. It showed the negative effects of the war in the Middle East. Afterwards, he showed us his works about the Border. “Caminante” depicts the struggles immigrants face in the desert, including the lack of water and food. There was also an artwork that showed a hunter holding a fox. The artist said it alluded to the vigilantes that work with the Border Patrol to capture immigrants on the US side, usually using lethal force. After taking with Hernandez more, we went back to the kids camp and played with them. It was around 95 degrees, so we played with water balloons and buckets to cool off. We found it interesting that while water was a limited resource, the kids were still allowed to play with it. After cleaning up, we had dinner with the rest of the HEPAC volunteers and had a going away party. As we said good bye for the nights, I couldn’t help but think of all we’ve learned from this trip. I hope that with the lessons we’ve learned and these posts we’ve made, there will be at least a little more change in this world for the better.
We started our day like most others this week. We woke up and ate breakfast not ready for the day. Our first stop was the Border where Jose Antonio was shot and killed for picking up his brother from work. We walked down the block to see where candles were painted on the bars of the Border as a memorial. A few feet from the memorial was a picture of a little boy and a donkey in the desert and the Grim Reaper behind him. That made me rethink more about the Border, especially after the hike we had yesterday. After that, we went to Grupo Beta. It is a place where migrants can go to get medical care, a shower, and anything else that they might need. There are also people from Grupo Beta that go out and find people in the desert and help them out. While we were there, we talked to some migrants. Some of them just wanted to go across to get some money to support their family. Others got deported when they were teens because they got in trouble with the law. The more I listened to their stories and how much a job meant to them to be able to support their family absolutely astounded me with their motivation. Some of them haven’t even seen their families for anywhere from a few months to a few year, and I couldn’t imagine not seeing my family for that long. At the kids camp I witch this kids play like they do not have problems. I just hope that these kids don’t have to cross the border and risk their lives to help get money for their family so they can eat and have a place to live. I hope at one point that that ways we treat people at the border will change for the better.
As we come to our final last 2 days we still have work to be done. Today as I woke up and got ready for breakfast, I saw a lot of ants working as a team to carry a piece of food back to the hideout. Just like the ants, migrants work as a team to cross the border. They help one another through the hot weather and keep each other moving. This morning we went to Grupo Beta, which is a Mexican government agency for migrants. What they do is help the migrants get back to their original hometown and help them get back on their feet. We got to talk to some of the migrants and hear & learn about their stories. I have noticed two major things about their stories. One is that throughout their journey they never lost hope. The Second is that they kept God in mind throughout their journey. I find this very important that the migrants kept this in mind because without hope and God I feel like the migrants would have given up. Not only did we talk to migrants at Grupo Beta, we saw where José Antonio Elena Rodriguez was shot. He was only 16 years old and he was shot by border control on October 10th 2012. Not only was it an unjust death, but it was also a sad one. The Border control said he was throwing rocks and causing noise. At that point in time border control had the right to handle any throwing of rocks with deadly force. This is not only disappointing but a big injustice. Another thing I found out is that for many folks we chatted with, when you move to Nogales you have to buy a plot of land, they often worked at the dump to find metal to sell to earn enough money to build your house. It often took a long time, but and sometimes folks would have to go through the winter without warmth or a source to stay warm. Not only is this incredibly sad but I feel like more people in the U.S should know the everyday struggle that people go through. But to end this blog I want to say I will truly miss Mexico and miss hearing people story and learning more about the everyday life and the culture.