"In heaven, will God ask for papers?"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Beautiful Reunion

Today I got a glimpse of a family reuniting after being separated for a month because of legal immigration reasons.

A mom of one of our 6th grade girls came into homework time today. I saw her and was taken aback a bit because this was one of the moms who we usually saw around the center all the time, but hasn't been for the last couple of months. I quickly thought, "oh, I haven't seen her in awhile," and was super happy to see her again. It wasn't until her daughter ran up to her with a huge smile on her face that I realized this was also the first time she had seen her mom in awhile.

They shared an embrace. Full of joy. Reunited. Together.

The mom has been spending some time in Juarez to renew her visa. She told me that she was given one day to cross the border and chose to pick up her daughter (and probably her son, too) to spend time with her, even if just for a day.

Even though some families are separated for years rather than only a month because of legal requirements, this reunion moved me. It was the first time I had actually seen families come together in a moment of bliss after being separated by the border. It was beautiful, joyful, and sad, all at the same time.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ironic School Projects

Maybe it's the potential loss of their innocence that makes me uncomfortable with the fact that my 6th graders have been researching the Holocaust during homework time all this week.

Maybe it's the fact that I've seen similar photos that have popped up on their Google images searches in pieces about the violence in Juarez right across the border. Bodies that no longer breathe life but that echo the death of not only of the Holocaust, but also of the modern genocides happening all over the world.

Maybe it's just the fact that the Holocaust was so... horrible.

I asked the girls today, "So why are you researching the Holocaust?"

"It's for our English class, Miss. We have to do a project on the Holocaust. We've been reading about it."

Another girl responds, "I think they want us to learn about it so it never happens again."

Gas chambers, swastikas...and peace signs. Those were our most popular photos that the girls printed off today for their project display boards.

Even though it's gruesome to think about and the pictures disgust me, these girls (or maybe their English teacher) are reminding me of the importance of remembrance. Painful remembrance, yes. Necessary,  I think so, too.

However gruesome it is, I still find some hope in the girls' comments and how much they get disgusted with their research.

"The Nazis were such bad people. How could anyone do that?"

I wonder if some day we will look back at the violence in Mexico, the war in the Middle East, the millions dying of starvation, and think, "How could anyone do that? Let's make sure that never happens again."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Our mom says we can't go to camp."

These past few weeks at work have been full of preparing for the summer and figuring out which kids to choose to fill our 40-ish spots for out-of-town middle school camps. Because we're limited in spots, we try to give the opportunity to the kids that have attended our program the longest and most consistently. But two of those kids won't be going to camp this year. Two kids who come to our program everyday. Two kids that never get to leave El Paso. Two kids who won't experience "the best week of my lifetime!" because they don't have "proper papers."

In the meantime, my friend who is from Iowa, but now attending school in California, is trying to figure out if she should apply for camp staff in North Dakota or South Dakota.

Once again, legal status stands in the way of an amazing opportunity for our kids. While for my friend, even though transportation might be tough, she still doesn't have to think twice about working at a camp halfway across the nation because of her (lack of) citizenship status.

Another kid might not be able to go to camp because her parents are not happy with the way she's been behaving at home--being rude and mean. She is mean and disrespectful at our program some days, but I still think a week at camp would be great for her. How do I tell her somewhat close-minded parents about her bad behavior when all she wants to do is get away from home (and I want her out of that potentially destructive place)?

The simplicity of applying and preparing for camp has gotten complicated...for me making phone calls, double-checking forms, and organizing fundraisers. But also for our beloved kids, who are facing obstacles that they shouldn't have to face. Gosh, world, just let them be kids and go to summer camp.