Tag Archives: #compassion

That’s a Wrap!

Many of my blog posts have reflected on my experience in Arizona and Mexico in a deeper, more analytical way. To say that I am grateful for this experience would be an understatement.

I never expected to “be changed” by this experience, but I think there have been little moments where I’ve stopped to think, “Wow, I never would have thought this way before,” and I’m glad those moments made me step back and realize that this experience helped me appreciate many things in my life.

I have gained a better understanding of a major issue facing our country and I think this understanding came from the migrants we interacted with and the people who give their time and energy towards helping migrants better their lives each and every day.

I am more confident in my abilities as a journalist to tell the stories of others through film. I am humbled to have experienced my faith in a way I haven’t before, through seeing God every day in the migrants who hold such hope in their hearts, even after everything they have gone through.

I am content in telling the story of the migrants, but I am not content with the way immigration is handled in the United States and Mexico. There is so much that needs to be done in both governments, and I hope one day there could be a solution, one that includes treating migrants with the respect and dignity they deserve.

The biggest question to wrap up this experience is what I can do differently based on what I learned. I think there are many things I could do, from grateful for everything in my life – the big things and the little things, to telling others of my experiences and what I encountered in the two weeks we spent in Nogales. While I’ll undoubtedly incorporate this into my life, I think the biggest take away is to approach every individual and situation with a sense of compassion, to look at things from their perspective, and to never underestimate the humanity of our world, the good and the bad. It’s too easy to focus on the negativity that exists in the world, but centering on the positive moments in our lives is something that I believe outweighs all the hardships.

I hope audiences view our documentary with an open heart and open mind. It’s impossible to replicate our experiences in Nogales through film, but I think our documentary explains the human reality of migration and puts a face and life experience to the issue. I could not be more appreciate of this experience, for many reasons, and I know there is still much to be done, but I’ll use that motivation to tell the stories of others in the future – stories that give a voice to the voiceless.

Not a goodbye, but a see you later. So happy I worked alongside such gifted and compassionate individuals who put their hearts and souls into this experience and documentary. Couldn't have asked for a better group of coyotes to "hoo-yip" through the desert with, gracias CU Backpack Arizona!
Not a goodbye, but a see you later. So happy I worked alongside such gifted and compassionate individuals who put their hearts and souls into this experience and documentary. Couldn’t have asked for a better group of coyotes to “hoo-yip” through the desert with, gracias CU Backpack Arizona!

A Recipe for Compassion

This past week I stopped by my favorite coffee shop to write my theology paper due for this class. I ran into a close friend I hadn’t seen in too long and we sat and talked for two hours catching up. I explained to her what Backpack Journalism was, where we went, what I learned, and what we were doing with what we had learned.

She and I had a wonderful conversation about migration, the legal system, what possible solutions are and what could be done. She explained that she was really proud of me and I let that sink in for a minute. I feel as though it’s not me she should be proud of, but the migrants. I’ll put my thoughts into an analogy of what we are trying to accomplish for Backpack Journalism through tortillas, a staple Mexican food.

Tortilla Time
The notorious tortillas we spread out every day and fanned until they were cool enough to store until it was time to serve them.

The migrants and others we interviewed and interacted with gave us the ingredients to use for our documentary, all of the elements that otherwise wouldn’t make the story what it truly, uniquely is. I, along with everyone else in our group, are simply putting all of these ingredients into one concoction (a tortilla if you will) and we’ll put the finishing touches on our documentary (or tortillas) and present it to audiences to enjoy (much like tortillas).

I felt this analogy fit the context in which we served as Sister Alicia so lovingly prepared the tortillas every day for migrants in the Comedor, making sure they were warm and delicious for everyone who enjoyed them. I believe we are preparing our documentary in a similar fashion to how Sister Alicia goes about preparing tortillas: with compassion. Without the migrants, there would be no story, and without the migrants, there would be no one to enjoy the tortillas. Now go get yourself a tortilla, I’m sure you’re craving one by now.

Family Ties

As we continue to edit and piece together our film, major themes are rising to the surface, particularly the meaning of family in regards to immigration. This theme holds a lot of meaning to me not only in the film but in my personal experience in Nogales as well.

A woman we interviewed, Daniela, is the daughter of migrants and is a nursing student in graduate school at the University of San Francisco. Daniela spent several days with us and it was a joy to get to know her and understand her personal narrative in the complexity of this issue. Somehow a connection was made that Daniela knew my aunt, a fellow nurse who spoke at a bioethics conference in California and Daniela met her and spoke with her. I was astounded at how small our world is, what are the odds we ended up on this trip together with this personal connection to someone who I hold so dear to my heart and someone who Daniela knew and respected?

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Daniela on camera, and it was easily one of the hardest parts of the entire trip for me. Daniela is so passionate about her family, migration, nursing, volunteering, and giving back to a community that has touched her life so personally. There was not a dry eye in the room and it was difficult to even fathom the struggles Daniela’s family has gone through to get to this point in their lives.

Daniela reflected on the meaning behind the sacrifices her family had made to see her succeed and how proud they are of her. It was impossible for me not to think of my aunt, this common bond Daniela and I shared, and how meaningful her presence in my life has been. She is one of the strongest, most compassionate people I know and love, and I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.

Daniela’s story was touching in so many ways and I am genuinely grateful to have been able to hear her story and convey that to a larger audience. Her story is just one narrative amongst many migrants,  each unique, significant, and raw in their own way.

Group picture of Backpack journalism crew and Daniela Vargas
The Backpack Journalism team with Daniela before she journeys back to California.