I firmly believe that Backpack Journalism changed me for the better within the month that we all worked together. It’s something that I would absolutely jump on to do again when the opportunity arises, regardless of where next year’s trip will be heading. I not only got to develop my journalistic skills of using cameras and setting up interviews, but I also able to see life through the eyes of other people and understand where they are coming from. It’s impossible to completely understand a lot of the pain and experiences that the migrants we met, as well as many migrants who have gone through the dehumanizing process of deportation, have gone through, but it’s not hard to understand that they are human beings who have gone through hell and back to do what they need to do to support their families, to see them again, and to find a better life.

I started off the trip being fairly reserved to myself and didn’t branch out that much. I had only known two other people prior to the trip, so I mainly talked to them for the most part. But by the end of the whole experience, I think I can say I’ve made good relations with everyone on our team. And what a team we were; everyone worked flawlessly together and always had each others backs. Everyone was able to hone in on their own specialties during interviews and capturing b-roll and all the like. And everyone did their fair share of work, whether it was during the interviews or during cooking and chores back in our home in Nogales, Arizona.

Our group's last hurrah at Leavenworth Cafe. Photo taken by Aly Schreck.
Our group’s last hurrah at Leavenworth Cafe. Photo taken by Aly Schreck.

There were so many great moments on this trip, from volunteering in the Comedor by serving food to the migrants there and getting to have conversations with them to know them better, to waking up ridiculously early to get some beautiful early morning b-roll, to being able to have so much amazing food through the entirety of the trip (after having authentic Mexican tacos, I don’t think I can ever go back to Tex-Mex). But with so many eye-opening experiences throughout the trip, it was the little things that I really appreciated. Getting B-roll in the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge in Sasabe was one of the most calming experiences I’ve had. To be able to just sit in silence in the middle of golden plains, to just focus and listen to the sounds of nature around us, and to watch the sunset behind the mountains, was really a great moment for me, and made me really happy. At that point our group and seen and heard so much, that it was a good reflective and meditative break to have in the midst of all the hectic work we’ve been doing.

Of course, with every great experience, there’s always a bad one. For me, one of the lowest days was when we drove up to Phoenix to see Operation Streamline take place. It was a lot for me to take in to see a judge dish out a guilty sentence every 30 seconds to 70+ individuals, who could only speak Spanish, and who were really given no other choice but to plead guilty. It was extremely frustrating knowing that a process like that exists, and even more frustrating that there’s nothing that we can do about it. That day I felt pretty defeated, but after hearing the stories of the migrants in the Comedor and seeing the determination they all had to find a better life, it gave me hope that one day, those people who all plead guilty will also be able to accomplish what they’re striving for one day.

If there’s one thing that I could do differently based on what I’ve learned during this trip, it’s to start volunteering more. I have never been one to do volunteering work before, but after this experience I wanted to change that, and help wherever I can, whoever I can, whenever I can. I discovered the importance of volunteering, even in the smallest ways possible, whether it be serving food or cleaning dishes, or just being there for someone to talk to. This experience made me want to take what I’ve learned and apply it in different aspects of my life, to become a more selfless person, and to be more aware of the things that are happening around me.

It may be cliche to say, but I really do believe that this trip was pretty life-changing and eye-opening for me. I absolutely look forward to the chance to be able to travel to another community, with another group of fantastic people, to make another great film about the lives of other people around the world that we live in.

So, until next time, CU Backpack.

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