Jimena and volunteers unpacking boxes of hygiene products

“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there. None of us come to work imagining that.”

Thus spoke the Fire Chief of San Antonio after he peered inside the tractor trailer that had sat on the side of the road, only to find migrants from Mexico and Central America dead (mostly) or dying. They baked inside a truck in oven-hot temperatures with no access to air or water.

Lately I feel surrounded by the sadnesses and personal losses of family and friends, but none of that’s like this. I’m 72 and healthy; what’s ahead is common to all beings. I feel so sheltered, so cocooned from horrific deaths taking place in other areas around the globe. Watching a cardinal trying out the hummingbird feeder just outside my window, I feel like I’m quarantined from true disaster. I’m not in the middle of an earthquake in Afghanistan, not at the Mexican border, not in the flooded areas drowning villages in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and so far nobody is sending rockets at our two malls in Hadley, MA.

At least, not yet.

Luckily, I had supper with Jimena Pareja the night after reading of the terror in San Antonio. We hadn’t met in a long while. I was away on account of my mother, and when I got back, she was very busy with end-of-year school projects, not to mention some of her medical challenges. Schools here are closed, but Jimena spends the summer season working full-time for the local Catholic Ministries, reaching out to some 200 immigrant families, helping their children learn English, helping them negotiate life here.

She told me of Rosa (not her real name), mother of three, whose husband just got deported. How?

“They were coming home from working on the farms, Eve. Now they work 12 hours a day, every day. A group stopped at the gas station for gas and sat at a picnic table. Next to them was another group of men drinking. Suddenly that group started to fight and the police were called. But when the police cars came, they told everybody on the megaphone to stay where they were, and then they brought everybody to the jail even though this group didn’t do anything, they were just sitting at the table and resting. They found a deportation order for him from 20 years ago, before he was married, before he had a family, and they deported him immediately. His family had no chance to say goodbye.”

Now three children depend on their mother for everything. She works at the farm, she can’t take care of them, her wages aren’t enough. She qualified for subsidized housing, but she needs to put up rent for first and last month by July 1.

“How much?” I ask.

Jimena checks her notes. Whenever she asks me for emergency funding, she brings the paperwork with her. They need $1,379 by Friday. Our Immigrant Families account can handle it, I tell her, and promise to get her the money before Friday; in fact, I did that today. It seemed like such a small thing to do for a family that lost a husband and father so quickly and abruptly.

We all go through small things in our life: a flat tire, a locked door and I don’t have the key, a credit card that suddenly doesn’t work. I mutter and scrape around, annoyed that life isn’t going my way. I don’t get deported and leave a family behind, not knowing if and when I’ll see them again. It was a no-brainer to help Rosa and her children.

Something else came up. Jimena asked if we could send 6 young children for 3 weeks of day camp. Both parents of these families work in the local farms, this is the time when there’s lots of work and long hours, to compensate and help them save up for the winter when often there’s no income coming in at all. But these kids are young, 5-8 years old, and can’t be left at home on their own.

Camp Kee-wanee is ready to take six children for their second session, beginning on July 25, and gave us a discounted price of $525 per child for all three weeks. The hours are 8:30 – 3:00 in the afternoon. This includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day, and of course bus transportation. It includes swim classes and free swims in two outdoor pools, arts and crafts, performing arts, and special themes like: Sensational Sunglasses Day, Favorite T-Shirt Day, Creating with Clay, Silly Sock Day (I’m attending that one), Dress in Your Favorite Color Day, Pen & Ink Drawing, and a Family Night with a show—all in 3 weeks.

It comes to $175 per week per child, which covers all the above. I think that’s a steal.

We have to let them know to reserve those spots by the end of next week, and I’d love to do that. The total for all six children for 3 weeks would be $3,150.

If you could do a small donation using the Donate to Immigrant Families button below, excellent. If you could do a bigger donation, excellent.

We’re talking about 6 scholarships and more help for Rosa, if possible. That’s 7 families. Not 70, not 7,000. Seven families. Six little children for scholarships to day camp for 3 weeks, and 3 children who just lost their father. Seven families, nine children.

It’ll change their lives. It’s changing mine, maybe yours too. Why? Because we belong to one another, and that’s the truth.

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You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.