The following request for action and support was circulated by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, based on information from the Sisters of Loretto Nazareth.
October 2014 -- The need for volunteers to help with arriving refugees in El Paso remains. But as the flow of refugees has evolved and changed, so has the way that volunteers are needed changed. The following explains how volunteers are needed and what volunteers can expect while serving at one of the temporary hospitality sites that was set up to receive refugees being released on their own recognizance by [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE.]
BACKGROUND: In June and July, Border Patrol sent plane loads of refugees from South Texas to El Paso and the majority of these refugees were released by ICE on their own recognizance. As ICE released the refugees, they were sent to the temporary hospitality sites set up by Annunciation House. Almost 100 percent of the refugees released were reunited with family in different parts of the U.S. Once Border Patrol stopped sending planes, four of the five temporary hospitality sites were deactivated because the flow of refugees declined significantly.
REFUGEE PROFILE: During the past six weeks, ICE has been releasing 60 to 100 refugees per week. The majority are mothers with small children and pregnant women. Here and there ICE releases a family that includes the dad. The refugees being released continue to move on fairly quickly. The refugees have family in the interior of the U.S. and these families purchase bus tickets for them, and the refugee families are then on their way. To receive these families, the [Sisters of] Loretto Nazareth temporary hospitality site remains operational.
Many of the refugees arriving in El Paso are from Mexico and more specifically from Michoacán. All of these families are seeking asylum and are presenting at the various Ports of Entry along the El Paso border. Thus far, ICE has been releasing on recognizance the majority of these refugee families, probably because they have no detention space where to detain them. Before ICE releases anyone, the individual is processed, run through an extensive security check, charged with illegal entry, released on recognizance, and then sent to the temporary hospitality site.
THE WORK: The Loretto Nazareth temporary site is operated completely by volunteers and offers to help are welcomed and needed. But it's extremely important that individuals willing and able to help understand the present reality well. This includes:
1.Very fluid reality - The number of refugee arrivals is totally unpredictable with day having zero arrivals and another day 50. How quickly refugee families move on is also unpredictable with some families leaving the same day they arrive and not even spending one night. During the past month, there have been nights when all of the refugees have left and the site is empty and so it is closed for the night. Then there have been other nights when 70 refugees spent the night. For individuals coming down to help, this means that one day there are not enough hours in the day and on another day volunteers have no refugees to respond to.
2.All inclusive work - Whether there is one family or 25, the site staff want to ensure that all basic needs are taken care of. This includes meals and clean up, toiletries and towels for showers and cleanliness, clean bedding, assistance in making travel arrangements, rides to the bus station, travel care packages with food on the bus trip, possible medical needs, communication with family in the U.S., etc.
3.Mundane work - A great deal of the work is very down to earth. It includes preparing meals and washing up after the meals, cleaning bathrooms, showers, hallways, dining room, etc., doing laundry, sorting clothing, doing intakes when refugees arrive, organizing activities for children, teens, and moms, listening to tons of stories, etc.
4.Language - The population is 100 percent monolingual Spanish speaking and volunteers need to understand that if they do not speak Spanish, interaction will be very difficult. This does not mean that there is not a role for non-Spanish speakers only that for non-Spanish speakers, their role will be with the physical needs at the site.
5.The 24/7 nature of the need - So long as there is one refugee at the site, there must be a volunteer present. This includes overnight presence with volunteers spending the night at the site. So it's a 24 hour volunteer presence and a schedule of who is on "shift" is made so that volunteers know when they are "on" and needed.
SPECIFIC VOLUNTEER DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES
•Site coordinators - A Site Coordinator is needed from 6 AM to 10 PM every day that the site is operational. This means that one volunteer may be on from 6 AM to 2 PM and another from 2 PM to 10 PM. The Site Coordinator is the person with overall responsibility for the operation and supervision of the Loretto Nazareth Hospitality site during their shift. This volunteer must be very responsible, bilingual, trustworthy, dependable, mature, with organizational skills and initiative.
•Security volunteers - A Security Volunteer is needed from 8 AM to 10 PM every day that the site is operational. The Security Volunteer is the person who staffs the desk at the entrance door of the Loretto Nazareth Hospitality Site and screens and checks in everyone - refugees, volunteers, etc. - who comes in and out of the site. This volunteer also assists in the supervision of the clothing room.
•Travel and transportation volunteer - A Travel and Transportation Volunteer is needed 3-6 hours per day when the site is operational. The Travel and Transportation Volunteer is the person who makes the travel plans for the refugee families and then arranges for a transportation volunteer to pick up the family at the appropriate time and transport them to the Greyhound bus station or airport This volunteer also assists with the care packages and ensures that a care package is provided each person as they depart for the bus station.
•Kitchen and cook volunteer - A Kitchen and Cook Volunteer is needed from 11 AM to 7 PM all seven days of the week. The Kitchen and Cook Volunteer is the one responsible to put out food for lunch and prepare dinner for whatever the population maybe on any given day. This person also sees to it that the kitchen is left clean, all food refrigerated and put away, and breakfast supplies are ready for the following morning.
•Laundry, Cleaning, and Supplies Volunteer - A Laundry, Cleaning, and Supplies Volunteer is needed every day from 6 PM to 9 PM. The Laundry, Cleaning, and Supplies Volunteer is the person who sees to it that all linen, towels, etc. are washed every day, that cleaning supplies are stocked & ordered when needed, and assists in organizing and supervising the daily cleaning of the site by the teens and adult guests staying at the site.
•Health Care and Needs Volunteer - A Health Care and Needs Volunteer is needed to be on-call whenever there are refugees in the site to respond to health needs that may arise. Examples of these needs include pregnant women, guests with fevers, infections, lice, flu, etc. Any health emergency is responded to by calling 911. And when in doubt, 911 is called.
DONATIONS: The work with arriving refugees continues to be made possible with the help of spontaneous donations and generosity of individuals, groups, churches, congregations, etc. The use of the Loretto Nazareth building site has been nothing short of an incredible gift. The need is to help offset the utilities being used. Donations to help offset utilities should be made out to: Nazareth Living Care Center, c/o Sister Buffy Boesen, SL and mailed to 1300 Hardaway Street, El Paso, TX 79903.
Donations for food, transportation, janitorial supplies, prescriptions and medical supplies, etc. can be made out to Annunciation House and mailed to 815 Myrtle Avenue, El Paso, TX 79901.
Individuals wanting to volunteer MUST be in good health and thus able to do the work.
There is no way to know how long the flow of refugees will continue. But at this moment, volunteers are needed. It's important to keep in mind that volunteers must be individuals who have time to offer and who are able to make a commitment for a minimum amount of time. Given the above outlined responsibilities, it is NOT helpful to have a volunteer come for one or two days. The amount of time that must be invested to train a person for one of the above roles is simply too great to continually be having to train someone on how to run the kitchen or operate the washing machines, etc. The need is for volunteers who are able to make a commitment for several weeks or months.
IF YOU ARE ABLE AND WILLING TO HELP, please email Ruben Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org providing information about yourself, language capability, detail your availability dates, etc., or call Annunciation House (915-545-4509) or Annie Brashear, Loretto Nazareth site director (303-885-6284).
I WAS A STRANGER AND YOU WELCOMED ME - STANDING WITH THE REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT