Ken Hoegger, Dr. Claudia Quijano, Jim and Roberta McLaughlin are leaving for El Paso on Wed. May 22 to help with intake of the refugee families, connecting them to their families via phone, driving the van( (Ken) to the airport and bus station and washing sheets and making beds at the Casa de Refugiados. Karen Duderstadt will be join us in early June. Many thanks for you kind contributions to the fund to rent the van. You may still donate by giving something to Karen or send a check to Maryknoll Lay Missioners, Mission Account, Heidi Cerneka. ( Heidi is a MKLM immigration attorney doing her mission work in El Paso.) $760 is such a high amount for renting a 12 passenger van. Maybe we can get someone in El Paso to donate one! As always this community is so supportive and we will carry SJOG to the border with us.
Please keep us in your prayers and of course, the refugees. A fifth child just died while in detention. And Maryknoll Sister Lil said two babies were born last week at Casa Refugiados!
Checks to Maryknoll Lay Missioners ( memo line Van- Heidi Cerneka Mission Account) PO Box 307 Maryknoll, NY 10545-0307www.mklm.org
Imagine walking into a huge warehouse with close to 500 men,women, children and crying babies. Separate areas are set up for intake,( refugees sit patiently waiting their turns so a form can be completed. Then they go to another are where a volunteer contacts their sponsor to arrange bus or plane tickets with strict information that the time of departure must be between 10 am and 10 pm. Then the families are issued a towel and toiletries.they then get one set of clean clothes and go outside to a big truck to take a shower. Many for the first time in 3 days. Salvation Army serves rice and beans and provides breakfast, lunch and dinner. Jim, Claudia and I will work the split shift as those as the busiest hours. So we start tomorrow at 7-11am, break and return at 6-10pm. We will be in the Communications Center receiving phone calls from the sponsors indicating if they bought tickets from El Paso to all 50 states. We record the Confirmation number and very names. I started doing that today for the phones kept ringing and there were no volunteers around. Felt a little nervous because I did not want to make any mistakes. Claudia May start in the clinic We also said we would each take one night and sleep there in the loft as the only emergency person there. Jim said he’d stay on my night so I would not be alone. There is so much work to be done and not enough volunteers. 18 students are coming for 10 weeks in June and July. We need help now. Ken will drive a van from 7:30 to the airport till 11 and then return at 6-10 pm. It’s late now so must end. Met Ruben Garcia the ED. Impressive work he has done.Paz
Yesterday was day 10 for us. Last day for Claudia and Ken. We all started at 7am for our shift to 3 pm. We never leave on time. Always too much to do and not enough volunteers. Here’s a rundown of the day.
5:30 am wake up
6:30 am leave the house. Jim drives us the 30 min to CDR.
7:00 begin answering phone calls from families who have bought tickets for our refugee guests. We note bus or air on the travel slips. Get the confirmations number so the passenger can get their paid for ticket at the counter. Sr Penny waits at the airport and escorts our guests to the appropriate ticket area. Then checks their tickets and notes the layovers on a sheet for each person. “Please help me find my gate. I do not speak English.” Unfortunately sometimes we find that the tickets are issued to depart from San Antonio. On our phone calls with the ticket buyer we try to prevent this from occurring. At the bus station the volunteer driver goes in with travelers to the counter, checks the ticket and show them the departure screen. Some have a long wait and buses get delayed even more. Trips to Portland, New York, South Carolina everywhere. We have one page maps that we give to everyone at Intake showing their destination. They all marvel at the expanse of our nation.
7:15 am phones keep ringing. We note departure times and confirmation codes, making sure departures are from El Paso and not San Antonio. Too many mistakes like that. Then a guest knocks and needs diapers, powdered milk or Kotex. Those are the only three items that I will stop for and walk to the Hygiene Room to retrieve. Not enough volunteers. Then someone asks for a bus and airport count. The day before enough travel bags were prepared and labeled but there are always newcomers so we go to the Care Package room. Those volunteers usually don’t get there till eight am so I find the extra prepared sandwiches and make up new bags. L2,2,3,2, ( long for bus rides- 8 PB&Js, snacks fruit with Help me slipstreams! S 2, 3,2,2, ( short air or bus rides to places in Texas)
Phones are ringing. Answer and help get info about tickets that have been purchased.
Enter into the computer so guests can see their name and departure schedule on the big computer monitor. Then post the travel slip in the correct area so drivers and food handlers can get an accurate count.
Back to the phones. They hardly ever stop ringing. I created two “cheat sheets”. Eg Buenas dias,La Casa del Refugiado. ( difficult word) Did another with the alphabet. B Bueno, G de Gato, D de David, M Mama, P Papa, S etc.... helps avoid some common errors. The new 10 week interns use the sheets. Most have decent Spanish.
Well today is Sunday, June 9 and I’m just getting back to this update.
I’ve had a bad cold and incessant cough. Now Jim is coughing and is hoarse. Most volunteers get sick. Ken and Claudia left on June 4 and Karen arrived June 5. Karen replaced Sr. Penny at the airport. Sometimes she gets to be in the clinic but there is no one to do the vital airport greeter person. Karen is a very qualified nurse practitioner with fluent Spanish.
At 11:30 am the first buses arrive with a total of 220 people. They are brought in from detention centers in Las Cruces and Deming. So they are hungry and tired and all want a shower. We welcome them and invite them to eat before the existing 130 plus guests who have not yet departed. We hold off on doing their intake till after their lunch of Salvation Army hot dogs or hamburgers. On Sundays we get chicken breasts. There is always enough food for the volunteers too. We try to bring our own sandwiches instead. The volunteers who stay at CDR and do not have a car feel trapped. We too 9 people to dinner in our huge 15 seater van and one said,” I feel like I just got out of prison.” It is rewarding work but very tiring. More volunteers and more systems in place would help. Two key people who had SUVs , MJ and Paco, left and that has left a big hole in the driving to bus stations and the airport. An NGO has helped with a bus for driving but more needs to be done. Our generous community at St John Of God and other friends has raised enough funds ($9600) so we could buy a 2014 Ford that seats 15. So when we leave insurance coverage will be changed so that other volunteers can continue to drive a big load. Thanks to all who contributed. You are very generous.
Look on YouTube for an April 2019 video on Casa del Refugiados. click here
I’ve only shared part of the story but must end and go to sleep. It is so hot that it is hard to get a good nights sleep.
I did start a 3 ring binder with job descriptions so that a new person could see best practices and not have to reinvent the wheel. We need someone specifically to work on getting food donations. 80 loaves of bread a day and jam and peanut butter cost a lot. Jim has made countless Costco runs. We keep running out. Need a supply and inventory person. We miss all those volunteers who were here and contributed so much. Jeff and Karin, Anne F., Brenda, ken, Claudia. Come back!
Blessings on all.