Sister Joan Gallagher, Janet Kinney and Susan Wilcox joined other members of the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation in El Paso to work with families seeking asylum.On the first day the group helped to set up a new shelter Casa del Refugiado.
They are divided into two shifts to cover the various ebbs and flows of the shelter.Trips to the airport are made using a 15 passenger van. That is a very moving experience as people prepare to meet their loved ones on the other end. At the airport there are lots of hugs and ‘gracias’ as people leave. Barely any have ever been on a plane before and need an explanation of everything.
Joan, who has some Spanish has been doing intakes. Susan and Janet are doing transportation. Transport is done in pairs – one person goes in with the families and walks them through the process, while the driver goes back to the shelter for the next round of families.
After people pass through intakes, they go directly to the ‘transport room’ where volunteers start calling their relatives and ask them to arrange their trip tickets within 24 hours. The goal is to get everyone moving within a day, or max 48 hours. Transport bulletin boards are set up – and so there is a pending board, and then they move to the active board and lists are made for different time slots – for example, 8 am airport run, 10:30 am Greyhound bus terminal, etc. It is a challenge to be sure you get everyone to their respective transportation hub on time!
Volunteers help with everything – from the intake process to preparing care packages for their trips to relatives, to hygiene kits for when they arrive at the shelter, to helping with meal service (Salvation Army does the food prep) making phone calls to relatives to make travel arrangements, monitoring the clothing room, etc.
There are many other sisters in/out too – Congregation of St. Joseph, Franciscans, a Maryknoll sister. As some leave others come and the work \continues.