Looking for a way to be useful and practice my Spanish, I asked around for a place where I could volunteer. La Posada Providencia, in San Benito, Texas, was recommended and I was welcomed with open arms.
I stayed 19 days, helping to teach English, drive clients to and from appointments, shop for groceries, cook, clean and hang up laundry. I heard the stories of 17 people. Many were heartbreaking, and I shed tears hearing them. These included stories of abuse, murder, the loss of children, the sad distance of children left behind, female circumcision, threats to life, life on the streets, and harrowing escapes from near death on the seas.
The personalities were varied, reflecting in almost every one the resiliency of the human spirit, but also shock, anger, depression, and sometimes regression after finding themselves cared for, often for the first time in their young lives. Some arrive after months and sometimes more than a year in adult detention, rigid and bent after having sat for days on end.
The poverty the clients have experienced is beyond the understanding of most educated and well-fed Americans. These immigrants often have no experience with bedclothes, modern plumbing, and some forms of hygiene that we take for granted. All of these are provided and explained.
Seeking ways to distract minds from troubles, I introduced some crafts: knitting on looms, beading, carving and drawing. I also lent an ear, providing the kind of moral support needed in the educational communities where I, a school psychologist, work.
The 19 days went by, filled with meaningful work, revelations, and fun. We went to Fourth of July celebrations. We went to the beach. And we made lasting friendships. The Sisters and I shared company, stories, and friendship. I miss La Posada and look forward to returning during my next summer vacation.
~ Janet Marcus