how you can help with the humanitarian crisis at the u.s. border

Making friends, San José, Costa Rica, June 2014.

Making friends, San José, Costa Rica, June 2014.

I wanted to share a really cool thing that some friends of mine have organized, and while I looking for an image to include in the post, I came across the image above in my archives. This photograph is from five years ago, taken in Central America. I traveled as the trip photographer for a mission trip taken by the youth groups of two churches here in Houston. These high schoolers helped to refresh a pre-school that was located near a slum in San Jose, Costa Rica -- painting, doing some light maintenance work, that sort of thing.

It's always amazing to be a trip photographer: if I do my job right, people forget I'm there, and I watch relationships blossom. On the flight back to Houston, when I asked our high schoolers what they enjoyed most about the trip, not a single one mentioned the ziplining they got to do, or the soccer game they played against other youth groups, or even relaxing in the hammocks at the end of the long days. "The kids," they said, to a person. "I loved playing with the kids."

And none of our high schoolers spoke Spanish, and none of the pre-schoolers spoke English.

It was beautiful.

But I digress. This is what I wanted to talk about:

If you have a heart at all, you’ve been horrified by the stories of the treatment of children and their families at the concentration camps at the southern U.S. border. I’ve donated to RAICES (a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to help separated families, detained families, unaccompanied minors, and others who are seeking asylum in the United States, and have been doing a helluva job), but I wanted to do more. I just didn’t know what.

At the same time, I watched as my friend Jill Krause (who lives in San Antonio) try to donate goods like diapers, soaps and other necessities to the concentration camps, and be repeatedly turned away. She expressed her frustration on her Facebook page, and a woman responded. This woman volunteers at the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, and while this organization doesn’t help people who are currently in custody, they do help those refugees who have been released from federal custody while they await their asylum hearings. From VVBHC’s website:

As refugees approach our southern border, they are processed through the local authorities and then released to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. They are then given a court date and told to report to their sponsor’s city within 10 days. Because these families come through the border with only the things they can carry, they need a lot of support.

While they are in Del Rio and the surrounding area, we feel it is our responsibility as the citizens of this county to provide these refugees with access to the things they need to move on to their final destination.

Through the generous support of our community, we are able to provide these families with access to phones, restrooms, showers, laundry, warm meals, and more. We also do our best to arrange transportation to the city in which their U.S. sponsor lives.

Jill began working with the woman who volunteers with this organization, as well as my friends Laura Mayes and Meredith Walker, and together, they put together an Amazon Wish List of the things the families need once they’ve left federal custody.

And here’s where you come in.

If you’d like to help, please click here or the button below to purchase items from the wish list and have them sent directly to VVBHC at the US Border. They’ve already received so much, and they need so much more. It is a tangible way to ensure that you’re helping families through the trauma of traveling hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles with nothing but what they could carry, and help them get a more solid footing on their future ahead. (Be sure to send directly to their gift registry address; if it doesn’t come up, the shipping address is 1401 Las Vacas, Del Rio, TX 78840.)

And then please share this post on your social media, and like and follow Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition on Facebook for updates on the amazing work they’re doing.

San José, Costa Rica, June 2014.

San José, Costa Rica, June 2014.

Thanks so much for helping make light at the border, friends.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead