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My Experience In Tijuana – First Part

Sister Ercilia, CND (Hna. Janet)

Dear Sisters and Associates, I want to share with you the first part of my reflections on my service in Tijuana.

I left on June 24th, the feast of Saint John the Baptist and the National Day of the Province of Quebec. I went as a migrant, which is to say with a small backpack and everything needed to live this experience.

We know that this is how our migrant brothers and sisters travel when they set out. I arrived in Tijuana at around nine o'clock in the evening.

Father Pat Murphy, C.S., received me with joy.

I left to Tijuana, to the unknown. That is, without knowing the place, without knowing anyone. I left with my backpack full of hope, with my heart ready to serve and to listen. To be the presence of God who consoles and visits the excluded, the ones who suffer. God understands and accompanies the migrants since he also lived migration. The Lord who accompanies people in need of his presence and grace, He is the one who came to meet me every day!

I arrived at the Casa del Migrante (migrant’s house) in Tijuana where the Lord was waiting for me!

They gave me a schedule to provide services and help as a volunteer.

I must tell you that my name, Ercilia, was a little difficult for everyone in the migrant’s house, so they called me by my middle name... for everyone, I was hermana Janet.

I was asked to serve on three different shifts:

The morning shift starts at 5:30 a.m. We start by turning on the lights, waking the migrants and preparing breakfast. Later, we make the list of the cleaning chores for the morning. We have to receive the people who come to the door, answer the phone calls, and receive the donations. We also have to organize the room where each migrant is given blankets, sheets, pillows, pillow covers, and towel. We organize soap, toothbrushes, razors, combs, shampoo, lotions, toothpaste, etc. In other words, leave everything ready so that the volunteers who come at night have everything ready for the migrants. We also have to clean the kitchen, check the vegetables, remove from the pantry what will be used for the evening meal, separate the donations received for the kitchen, keep an eye on the kitchen and the door, and organize the clothes that will be distributed at night.

The afternoon shift in the kitchen begins at 4:00 p.m. and finishes at 11:30 p.m. We have to check the blackboard to see what is still pending; help the cooks prepare the food and something to drink. Then we have to prepare soap and water to wash the dishes and the stove, have ready towels to dry the small and large dishes. We open the door at 5:00 p.m. so that the migrants can come and eat; we pray and organize the cleaning chores to leave the kitchen clean and tidy. Later we cook the beans for the following day, prepare the coffee, and cut the vegetable that will be used the next day. After dinner, we have informal talks and read the rules. At 8:00 p.m. we distribute blankets, sheets, etc., as well as clothes needed by the migrants and help to interview the new migrants who arrived at the house.

The other afternoon shift, at the door, starts at 2:00 p.m. and finishes at 10:00 p.m. for the people who work in the different offices, such as the lawyer, psychologist, and social workers. The migrants start arriving at 3:00 p.m. Each of them has an identification card to enter the shelter. We distribute food tickets, turn on the TV, invite the migrants to the formation talk, read the rules, open the rooms and bathrooms, distribute clothes, answer telephone calls, and receive and register donations. We also provide services so that the migrants can call their families by telephone or using the computers.

We receive the migrants arriving for the first time, either deported in official vans or arriving on their own and looking for a place to stay. We interview them to obtain the information of each person and fill out the form that is later taken to the social worker´s office.

During my stay, I also had a shift to take care of the children.

The Migrant’s House has been a house for men since other shelters receive women and children, and families, etc. However, due to the current migration crisis, the house was opened to receive also women, children, and girls.

During this time, we were 13 volunteers, five young men and women from the United States, two seminarians from Haiti and Vietnam, a young Belgian woman, five Mexicans from different places, Father Pat and I.

As you can see, this has been a rich intercultural experience. Every morning we have our morning prayer or Eucharist. We shared and took turns for breakfast and lunch… Some good challenges, deep experiences full of life, riches, and sharing. During the meals, the volunteers spoke three languages, Spanish, English, and French. As I told you at the beginning, God was present in every encounter.

I leave you for the moment and will come again to continue sharing this rich experience of God and going out on a journey of life, hope, and faith, of challenges, questions and reflections.

With deep gratitude to my sisters of the General Council and the Congregation for allowing me the opportunity to live this life-giving and challenging experience.

 

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