Ever have one of those moments when you hear about one of those atrocities happening in the world and suddenly think, I have to go do something (Like the story of the body of a tiny little 8 year old girl found abandoned, raped, and abused in the street with cables around her ankles, or the one about women rescued from the brick making “factory” where they had to make hundreds of bricks each day to repay the “debt” they incurred when they accepted $333 as a cash advance and were subsequently gang raped most nights all while barely being offered enough food to sustain them, or what about the girl who is raped by 3 neighborhood men and will never find justice because the police will only accept medical evidence from one doctor (in a city of 3 million residents, you can guess at how gently he will handle her case if he ever has time to see her.) Well. I have to go do something!
I’m leaving for Peru- you remember how much I loved it there the first time? The stories became too much. Or was it the stress of all the work left to do to finish the program. Would they really let me graduate anyways? I’ve kind of had a serious case of senior-itis these past weeks and really could not blame them if they cut me lose. So I decided to make it easier for them and just leave. I’ve got my room until the end of the month, but am hoping to have a flight to Lima before then. It will take a few weeks to sell all my things anyways. The group I plan to work with is called Paz y Esperanza. Hopefully my Spanish skills are not too rusty anymore!
Remember this photo? Huayhuash, Peru, I miss you!
Alright, y’all should know by now this is an April Fools! I’m definitely not quitting the program with only 29 days left until I am done. The true April Fools joke is that it feels like a millennium until Colloquium on May 2nd or even graduation May 12th.
One day at a time!
I could tell you all the projects left on my plate, but I’ll spare you. I’ve finished up my internship and am sad that I am leaving them, yet one of the students want to add me as a member of the Student Advisory Board so that I will stay involved. I’m not opposed! These kids are so amazing. I know I’ve mentioned it before, and I can’t help it. To consider the stigma mainstream society places on “homelessness” and to add that to adolescence when everything can be so much more impactful, it is no shock to me that there have not been as many students to access Cove services as we expected. The ones who come are those at the very end of their ropes or those who did not see themselves as coming to access services for Homeless Students. Because, duh, they’re not homeless. They would never make a cardboard sign and sit on a street corner. They might say “Things just got real” or “Life just happened” or “Things have been rough for a minute” but even those who have not had a stable place to live, would not identify themselves as homeless.
As I am coming into the final weeks and thinking back over the most significant learning I have accomplished in these past two years [perhaps because I have to present a presentation to the community that will be qualify for CEUs] I am aware of how much I have learned about homelessness, at-risk, poverty, victims, immigrants, suffering, vulnerable persons. I have learned they are just like me.
This semester has been full to overflowing. One thing that made it so was the fact that I did not choose to work this semester- instead I volunteered to co-teach a Community Practice Course. This course is about how to organize a community to help them generate changes they identify as most needed in order for that community to function better. As an example, remember that one time I was in Burundi and you all helped the Batwa become citizens through your donations so that they were humanized through those simple identity cards? THAT is organizing- the people needed ID cards, resources were collected to make the difference and lives were changed. (For anyone who did’t have $10 pulled out of their wallet when I came back in 2013, it’s not too late! The campaign continues and you can support it here: http://www.africanroad.org/east-africa-stories/identity/)
That was then. This is now:
This is my Social Work Team! We went to Laredo over Spring Break with Baylor Engineering to support a tiny little Calonia where the Engineers had built a well last year. Historically, Colonias are the places where people too poor to live in the city dwell, often because of a lack of documentation. This class studied community practice as applied to the City of Laredo and immigration. There is so much in the news about immigration right now [fake or not] that most people are not sure where to seek truth. Our class dug into the facts. Seriously dug. We met people with documentation, people who will never be able to receive documentation, people living in the United States without documentation, and lots of people working to eek out a living. And you know what? They are people, just like me, too.
Did you know that it is basically impossible for a person to legally immigrate in less than a decade (which only happens if you have family that are US Citizens) and only if that person has everything in order and only if the people in line in front of you do not have better connections that allow them access to those magic Green tickets. There are only ten thousand handed out each year with specifications on which country of origin, training, education, or (of course, because American is an equal opportunity, land of the free nation founded by people seeking independence from oppression, right?) if you know the right people.
There is a T Visa for victims of trafficking which allows persons who have entered the US and who would “suffer undue hardship” if they were forced to leave the country, yet that is a subjective decision made by a person who has numbers to be held accountable for that may or may not see the human story before them. And what if you are a woman who chooses to leave home, let’s say Mexico simply because of my current context. Your husband left 6 years ago to work in the USA and sends money back to support the family. Throughout those 6 years, you have been repeatedly robbed and you finally reached the breaking point when the perpetrators said they would have taken your small child if her crying were not so loud. Stay and face losing your child in addition to being robbed and abused or leave knowing you may not reach the destination and will not be welcomed if you do make it so far?
It is worth noting women understand they will be raped while on the train that will get you to the US border known as The Beast and that if they make it to the US Border, their fate is in the hands of whatever coyote they can afford to pay, if they have money left at that point… If they have not been killed. But hey, they’re just coming to steal jobs from Americans, right?
Ok, here’s where I should probably quiet down. I’ll just say that my Team was transformed from students who had started to learn things about immigration and the process and the ways policy changes have affected their personal relationships. We met people, heard stories, researched Executive Orders and how those are being practiced on the ground in Laredo, and saw the people being affected by those laws. We watched Border Patrol patrolling the border. We looked across the border to see coyotes watching us watching them. We watched trains coming over the border knowing there were people on the train who were entering the U.S. as we stood there. We learned so much about that Calonia which should have access to things like water, sewer, road maintenance and electric from the county…. except for the fact that they are all people of color living there. So the only time county officials are talking to them, it is because they are not paying enough for something or because a representative is out looking for votes.
While in Laredo, so much was accomplished by the Engineers. While the Social Work team was hard at work on the Community Practice thing that they didn’t completely understand, (“So, like, you went and made a questionnaire? It took you all day? And how many of you were working on it?”) they went out and dug a well, installed a pump and holding tank on a second well, built soccer goals, and built a chicken coop. You know, they Built Stuff.
Thank you to the team of Social Workers who conducted the interviews that resulted in the discovery of the community’s need for chicken coops (no one had an extra mobile home that was not being used. Share the space or build a coop?), soccer goals, and community events. Events like a party for the Mission Trip Teams!
There are two micro-enterprises in the community with Pastor Pedro of the church in the Calonia owns a snow cone truck and Pastor Lorenzo owns a pizza oven. So we were happy to also give them the opportunity to have a Community Event as well!
There could have been a year’s worth of learning just in that one week we spent in Laredo. I’m still not entirely sure that that was not the most significant experience of the entirety of my time here. To sum it all up: They are just like me. They love their family, want what is best for their family, and want their family and loved ones to be safe.
Fun fact. Did you know only 46% of Oregonians were born in Oregon? (Map of US Migration)
Also worth noting that the atrocious stories I mentioned at the beginning all came from the book Locust Effect. It’s co-authored by Gary Haugen, founder and president of International Justice Mission. IJM is “a global human rights agency that protects the poor from violence by partnering with local authorities and law enforcement to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. The largest organization of its kind, IJM has served thousands of survivors of violence” and Victor Boutros, founding director of The Human Trafficking Institute which “exists to decimate modern slavery at its source by empowering police and prosecutors to stop traffickers. Working inside criminal justice systems, the Institute provides the embedded experts, world-class training, investigative resources, and evidence-based research necessary to free victims”.
Wow. Let me tell you, it is a real book about the real world. Did you know there are the same absolute number of people living in the most extreme poverty as there were two hundred years ago? That is to say that there are 800 million people living on $1.00 per day today and were 800 million doing so in 1820. There are more people living off more than $1.00/day, yet the changed ratio just makes it easier for us to talk about global improvement and things like that.
I can almost smell the finish line. Almost taste the taste of completion. Almost hold that freedom ticket in my hand. And with that comes the hope for the next adventure. This Thursday April 6th at 8am I have my first interview. With IJM. Simply the thought of an interview with an organization I so admire is humbling. I don’t know how to pray for something that seems like such a perfect fit it must have been God-ordained. Because if not there, then where else? Is this what it feels like to find your soul mate and be waiting for them to ask you out on a date?
I wish this was where I segued into the story about my soul mate, but alas, that prayer has not been answered :]
Happy Easter Season to everyone and don’t forget to take a deep breath and appreciate that you have this one more day. You and I didn’t do anything to deserve what we have. If you are reading this, you have so much to be thankful for. And I thank God for the you that He has given me and the you that is reading this.
Thank you for helping me make it to Graduation. Could not be here without you.
Love to each one of you!