I recently traveled with a group of Thistle Farmers to the border towns of Mc Allen, Brownsville and Harlingen TX. We visited nonprofits and foundations, talked with judges and local families and led an all-day workshop for community leaders. What I learned there has prompted me to think about how the Thistle Farms Global community might work to effect change for more just solutions to the current crisis on our southern border.
Economic Stability and Safety are driving concerns for non-profits, cities, citizens, and immigrants. Families leave their homes due to lack of employment and poverty.
Parents fear for their own safety and for the safety of their children. If people make the decision to leave their homes, and communities to embark on a long and dangerous trek, one must ask the question, “What other options are available to them?”
We met a family living in a border town where one spouse works at a nonprofit while the other works for border security. This couple works hard to provide for their children. Good people on all sides are trying to figure out how to be on the side of compassion and justice while keeping communities safe and sustainable for all.
Imbedded in conversations about how to best serve asylum seekers is the acknowledgement that communities are struggling to meet the needs of their neighbors - challenges like homelessness, hunger and the lack of health care. Recognizing the overwhelming needs of asylum seekers who have, in many cases, spent months walking, has put a tremendous strain on resources for shelter, food, transportation and medical care. In this exchange, we must recognize that there is a strain on both the givers and the receivers.
Trauma informed care for asylum seekers is the goal at the Reception Centers receiving women, men, and children from Detention Centers. They want to bring compassion to the services offered. For instance, they are sensitive to people who have walked for weeks and then suffered detention who may need just soup at first so as to not overwhelm a body suffering trauma and exhaustion. They keep mothers and children together as long as they can knowing that the violence and vulnerability of the journey is sometimes unspeakable.
There is beautiful work going on at smaller long-term shelters, as well as at the overnight reception centers where people stay for a day or so before they travel by bus to their host families across America. Kind and compassionate volunteers, pastors, medical staff and social workers address people’s mental, spiritual, physical well-being and safety. Knowing how to respond is hard for both those providing direct services and for those who want to be supportive.
Pictured below, scenes from the Ozanam Center in Brownsville, TX, with director Victor Maldonado. They offer beds, showers, food, and other essentials, but it is in dire need of an upgrade and better services for women.
Here are seven calls to action that matter:
First: A call to activism that demands more just federal laws and sustainable policy.
Second: A call to support asylum seekers as they pass through or relocate to your community. through meeting buses, providing substance and gift cards, and volunteering with local groups.
Third: A call to provide financial support to organizations who provide legal representation and advocacy on the ground.
Fourth: A call to donate dollars, volunteer hours, or in-kind gifts to those doing the day to day boots-on-the-ground work at the border. including the catholic charities groups and the smaller not-for profits.
Fifth: A call for social media advocacy /influencers to raise awareness by sharing stories of the heroic journeys of the families and the people responding to them.
Sixth: A call to those of all faiths to remember the wanderers of this world and God’s special care for them.
Seventh: A Call to use our purchasing power to support entrepreneurial women artisans who did not or could not flee their communities.
Love beyond Borders: the Thistle Farms Global Team Response
The response of the Thistle Farms Global team is to rally support and investment for women survivors so they can invest in their own communities, eliminate physical and sexual violence in their families and move from shadowed fear to agency in their own lives.
This year we will pour time and resources on 10 existing Thistle Farms partnerships in Central andSouth America with an emphasis on creating new jobs and supporting safer communities. We will help build the first long-term free housing for survivors in Belize.
We will begin conversations with a group entrepreneurial needle-pointers who live near the border and expand our projects in Jalisco, Mexico and in San Eduardo, Ecuador.
We will support non-profits along the Texas border and encourage their leaders to bring their whole, idealistic hearts and souls to the work.
We will offer our experience, talents, and platforms to promote love beyond the border and work to ensure dignity for all.
All research points to the undeniable truth that, while it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a woman to heal that same village.
Creative Justice will challenge the old ideas in the non-profit sector that bigger and faster is better, that economics and lavishness in services are polar opposites, that in the midst of great need we will burn out, and that we are powerless to change the world with love.
— Becca Stevens