Making all feel welcome

We are on our fourth day of work for Backpack Journalism Arizona/Mexico, but we sit and look at each other at dinner every night and say — “Has it really only been one (two)(three) days?”

We have packed a lot into a few days, spending most of our time at the border or in Mexico at the Kino Border Initiative.  We have walked along the wall, seen the “cattle chute”  that deported migrants must walk through. We have watched those mostly recently deported migrants come into the comedor,  the Kino Border Initiative’s soup kitchen, clutching their backpacks or plastic bags that hold everything. They look lost and scared and hungry. For a short time, in the midst of feeling lost, there can be a sense of belonging.The people who work there and the volunteers do everything to be welcoming. One example is Sister Alicia of the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, one of the partner organizations at the Kino Border initiative. She and other sisters work in the comedor and the women’s shelter. In the comedor, she never stops moving and never stops smiling.

two women laughing and smiling
Sister Alicia and Carol Z laughing over Carol’s attempts to fill salt shakers at the comedor

That smile, the movement all help to make the migrants feel at home, feel like people after a dehumanizing system has left them without a place.

Sister Alicia and everyone at the comedor work to make it a welcoming and warm place. The migrants are served the meals. Short presentations before the meal focus on dignity, rights, a song about hope. The volunteers or Sister Alicia lead the migrants in short hand exercises or cheer contests. It’s beautiful to see the faces light up with smiles and laughter.

There’s prayer too. One of the themes we are hearing likens the comedor to the Eucharistic table where gifts are prepared and shared. The power of hearing the familiar cadences of the “Our Father” — even in a language I don’t understand — brings tears to my eyes. Every time. I have been lucky enough to hear and recite that prayer in the Dominican Republic, in Africa and now at the border.

Carol Zuegner

About Carol Zuegner

I am a journalism professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. I teach writing, social media, media entrepreneurship, international mass communication and I am lucky enough to be a part of Backpack Journalism. I focus on interviewing, writing and being Mama Zoogs.

2 thoughts on “Making all feel welcome

  1. Loved reading your blog and wish I could meet Sr. Alicia and her awesome group. It’s amazing what a smile can do…..I can close my eyes and imagine her smiling which puts those at ease instantly. Thanks for sharing your blog, keep writing so those of us not with you, can learn through your experiences! Thanks again for investing in our young men and women, so glad our daughter is learning along side of you!

  2. Carol this is wonderful along with all the blog posts. I read them every day first thing.You guys are doing magnificent work and we are with you in spirit.

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