The joys and sorrows of Volunteering

Rosa Basada (right) with a volunteer at the US-Mexico border. - Photo: Rosa BasadaRosa Basada (right) with a volunteer at the US-Mexico border. - Photo: Rosa Basada

Because of the surge of migrants coming to El Paso, on the US-Mexico border, I started volunteering with various shelters. Mostly, I cooked for the migrants in the shelters and visited them in their tents to give them food and toiletries, and blankets during winter. I also did intakes to process the migrants to be with their sponsors, families, and relatives and assisted them in doing calls to their next shelter of destination. Some of the migrants didn’t have sponsors, so we needed to find them a place to stay. But while I was doing all this, I was also getting divided support from friends.

Some friends tried to discourage me by saying that if I helped these people, I would not be promoting life but rather making them dependent. Worse, if they stayed in the USA without the language and adequate education, they would become a problem to society, and many of them could even die. These words kept echoing in me. But then I would point out to these friends that the migrants were already in the USA, and all I could do was help with little things or share the time I had. It is wonderful when we can just help people without prejudice and judgment.

When I got frustrated with the whole situation, I would turn to friends and volunteers who were very supportive and even offered to volunteer with me at the shelters and reach out to the migrants seeking asylum. As a Columban lay missionary at the US-Mexico border, I know that getting mutual support is very important. This is my personal experience. I know how asylum seekers and refugees struggle with their day-to-day life.

I know the migrant crisis will never stop as people will always move to seek a better life and sanctuary. Being able to voice my opinion and be listened to is very important to me. And having people around me who will listen and not judge is always encouraging and life-giving. And so, at the end of my stay at the border, I am grateful to so many people, including Columbans, religious, friends, and others, who have been part of this wonderful journey.

Columban lay missionary Rose Basada lives and works at the US-Mexico border.

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