The goal of the Sacred Heart Greenwich ARISE Adelante Trip is to have student participants understand the struggles and strengths of border communities, analyze the systems that perpetuate poverty and marginalization, and promote direct participation in the issues that affect the Rio Grande Valley area.
- Day 1: Border Realities
- Day 2 Frontier Witness
- Day 3: Immigrant's Journey
- Day 4: Social Justice Education
- Day 5: Service Day
- Day 6: Immigration Process
Day 1: Realities along the border and service day
On our first day in San Juan, we embarked on a packed day full of celebration, prayer, reflection, and introspection. The trip began with a bilingual Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle. The Basilica was full of gorgeous flowers to celebrate the feast day, Corpus Christi, while the Mariachi band filled the Basilica with life and music. It was evident that the community was very passionate about its love and appreciation for the Basilica. We felt so grateful to pray and sing alongside the community. After Mass, we were able to have lunch with some of the ladies who work at ARISE Adelante. They defined the mission and values of ARISE, explained current immigration laws, and shared some of their personal experiences. Being able to share this dialogue with these women who have so much care for their communities was inspiring. After lunch, the group headed to the Respite Center. During our time at the center, we colored and spoke with the children and gave out medication and toiletries to the families who were living there. This was very illuminating to the realities of immigrant families seeking asylum. Through this volunteer work, we were able to examine and challenge the immigration laws and systems of our country. We ended our first day in Texas with a Pizza Dinner where we were able to meet the ARISE Muñiz Youth volunteers. We enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers and hearing their insight and advice for the week ahead. We also got the privilege of meeting an RSCJ who worked at Sacred Heart Greenwich as an English, History, and Logic teacher. Her story inspired us and she explained her calling to work closely with ARISE. Our first day prompted us to think deeply about the impact we hope to make in the next week. Our curiosity about the immigrant experience drives us to make those around us feel valued and important.
Day 2: Witness of the frontier of the Rio Grande Valley
We started off our day with breakfast at the Basilica and after we made our way down to the ARISE Center. We prepared the activities for the day and then walked around the neighborhood picking up kids that were ready to start their day off with fun games and crafts at the center. After we picked up all of the kids, we began our first session which included, coloring, making bracelets, soccer, etc. The kids were so happy to be there, running around with smiles on their faces and enjoying their time with us and each other. When our first session ended, we had a delicious homemade lunch consisting of a delicious pasta soup and iced tea! We then connected with the other volunteers until we had a presentation about the journey of immigrants to the U.S. by Sisters of Mercy, which debunked many myths about the immigration process, revealed the harsh realities of the lengths which people have to go in order to escape danger, and the difficulties concerning unjust laws that the immigrants have to deal with and fear on a daily basis. We then had another session with the kids at ARISE where more children joined us, participating in spike ball, volleyball, basketball, and other arts and crafts. After cleaning up the fun activities, we went back to the Basilica and changed for a cultural Aztec celebration at the ARISE center in Alamo. They wore long, traditional, colorful clothing as they danced on the grass, after which, we were all offered a spiritual “cleansing.” This practice was when one of the celebration leaders burned incense around us cleaning our spirits. The Mariachi band then performed, later inviting all of us to the dance floor! After all of our dancing, for dinner, we ate yet another wonderful homemade meal which consisted of traditional Mexican tamales and refreshing juice. The fun yet educational party wrapped up our long and exciting day in the sun, and now we are back at the Basilica resting for tomorrow!
Day 3: Walking experience through the eyes of the immigrant’s journey
Our third day in San Juan was scattered with diverse learning opportunities. Such experiences were centered around immigration policies and its underlying effects.
We started off our long day by picking up breakfast at a local bakery. At the bakery, we were greeted with the smell of fresh cookies and cinnamon rolls that followed us back to the Basilica. After we ate breakfast, we made our way to the ARISE center. As we walked around the neighborhood, we picked up the children from their homes and walked all together. Back at the center, the kids were eager to see what crafts and games we had planned for them. With smiles on their faces, the kids made bracelets, played soccer and musical chairs, made slime, and more. After our morning session ended, we left the center, making our way to a new destination.
We joined Teresa, an empowering member of the Muñiz Colonia, in her home for a homemade meal for lunch. Teresa prepared a delicious plate of authentic Mexican Mole. After eating the flavorful lunch, we got ready to ask her questions. She began her story in Mexico and worked her way through her dynamic, yet inspiring, journey to the United States. While Teresa discussed the difficulties she continues to face as an immigrant, she made sure to emphasize her resilient outlook throughout her life. Teresa’s life story opened my eyes to just one of the many experiences that immigrants undergo on their journey to adapting to foreign customs and unfamiliar environments. Teresa is a mother, a wife, and a strong member of her community, who makes it her mission to help others and spread awareness surrounding the topic of immigration. After thanking Teresa for hosting us in her home, we made our way back to the center and reflected on how Teresa’s story spoke to us. Upon our arrival, we sat down for a presentation led by Texas Civil Rights Project. The presentation unveiled the complicated reality behind immigration laws that impact the lives of many immigrants here in Texas. The Texas Civil Rights Project envisions a state that respects the right to migrate and supports human dignity for all people by spreading awareness and actively working with communities to further fight for their rights. We learned about the different policies and systems surrounding immigration such as Title 42, MPP, OLS, and more. The presentation was extremely informative as I learned about the logistics behind such an intricate process. After asking the presenter questions about the complex topic, we joined the children for their second session of the day at the ARISE center. After hours of playing with the kids went by, we plotted our journey to our next destination: the Mexico-United States border barrier, also known as The Wall. We collectively walked beside the wall, reflecting on the various misconceptions that follow the immigration system. One moment that stood out to me was when we took a moment of silence for the many immigrant families who do not make it on their journeys due to unsafe conditions. Additionally, we gazed upon the view of Mexico from behind the wall, considering the disconnect between both sides. After our journey at the border we made our way to the Basilica, picking up our dinner on the way.
Today was another eventful, yet influential experience, offering the group with an array of learning opportunities surrounding the topic of immigration reform and community building. After a long day, we are now resting at the Basilica and await what tomorrow’s agenda has in store for us!
Day 4: Realities along the border and education on social justice
Our fourth day in San Juan deepened our awareness of the process of immigration through an exploration of specific laws and court systems. We also grew closer to the ARISE community, playing in the sun with the children, enjoying home-cooked meals, and reflecting on immigration stories.
After breakfast at the Basilica, we drove to Muñiz to begin our work at the ARISE center. Once again, we walked around the Colonia to welcome local children to join us for the morning. As the children ran from their driveways to greet us and hold our hands, we were able to wish them "buenos días" by name.
Our first activity was a painting craft, and the kids were excited and engaged as they created beautiful pictures of trees, flowers, houses, and animals. Some children also created pet rocks, and others laughed as we pushed them on the swings or scored goals in soccer. We ended our morning session with a dance party, as the children grabbed our hands and sang the Barbie song with play microphones. After that, it was difficult to say goodbye to the children, as they embraced each of us and waved "adiós."
As the sun grew stronger and the day warmed up, we enjoyed a delicious homemade meal of enchiladas and arroz that Teresa and others kindly cooked for us.
After lunch, we left Muñiz to attend a presentation by the ProBAR (Pro Bono Asylum Representation) association. The speakers further elucidated the current process of immigration, providing details on the legal pathways to cross the border and, distinctly, to become a legal resident of the United States. The presentation focused on the process for children under 18. The more I learn about the complexity of these procedures, the more I realize how much I did not understand the realities of our immigration system. As our knowledge grows, we become more aware of the gravity of this issue and the necessity that Americans across the country have the information to form educated opinions on the subject. Despite feelings of frustration, we discussed our new knowledge with hope for an educated and empathetic future, thanks to the wonderful people we have met this week.
On the car ride back to Muñiz, we listened to another ARISE member share her story. I am repeatedly surprised at the fluidity and instability of these individuals' lives, whether it is in terms of ever-changing laws, sudden separations, or something else. Even so, their resilience, willingness to share and serve their communities, and positive smiles have been truly inspiring. On our way back to the ARISE center, we also stopped for a refreshing iced treat!
We got back just in time for the afternoon session, and we cooled off with a water balloon fight! The children laughed as they chased each other across the grass with buckets of water. Then, we dried off on the patio while playing a few rounds of hot potato.
Finally, we visited the Sisters of Mercy, who had graciously invited us to their home for a homemade pizza dinner.
Overall, today was a day of furthering our understanding of immigration policy and reality. We grew our knowledge of technical immigration procedures, and we heard more personal immigration stories and experiences in the United States. We also strengthened our friendships with the children at ARISE Muñiz. We are grateful for this experience, especially the openness and hospitality of everyone we have met here. Now, we are back at the Basilica and looking forward to another busy day tomorrow!
Day 5: Realities along the border and service day
Our Thursday began with the usual breakfast at the Basilica and a music-filled car ride to Muñiz. Some of us walked with the kids to the ARISE center, while others set up our morning activities. Our crafts were exciting, including trees with buttons for leaves, mini aquariums with glitter and toy fish, and popsicle stick superheroes with unique city-saving powers. We also took advantage of the sun, playing on the swings and creating games of catch, while others stayed in the shade and danced to the soundtrack of “Encanto” with the children.
Once our morning session came to a close, we enjoyed a homemade sandwich lunch and began our mid-day trip to La Posada Providencia, a longer-term emergency shelter for immigrants.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by a volunteer coordinator and given a tour of the homey and peaceful garden-like residence. The organization had dorms for male and female clients, a kitchen, an office, and several spacious green areas. We split up into groups to help out around La Posada: some students made crafts with the children, some worked in their recently-constructed facility, and I and a few others made bracelets with an Afghan refugee. When speaking with her she explained her inspiring story while teaching us new bracelet patterns.
After returning from La Posada, we began the afternoon session with the children at the ARISE center. This was our second to last afternoon, and it was most definitely bittersweet. As we made clothespin butterflies, goodbyes were anticipated, hugs were given, and pictures were taken featuring the biggest smiles.
We then took a quick trip to the Basilica to get ready for a reflection dinner at the ARISE Support Center (the headquarters) only minutes away, in Alamo, TX. At the HQ we were treated to a freshly made taco-salad bar, and with that, we reflected on ARISE Adelante’s mission and our experiences over the meal with several leaders from the non-profit. We asked more questions about the immigration experience and listened to more authentic stories on how the women became involved with the organization. Upon closing, we were offered delicious “paletas” (popsicles) and were surprised with a video that captured our week in photos.
With excitement and sorrow, we await tomorrow’s departure from South Texas’ youthful spirit in Colonia Muñiz.
Day 6: Experiences through the eyes of the immigrants’ journey
We began our final day once again with breakfast at the Basilica before we headed off to prepare for our final morning session with the children we bonded with at ARISE. The kids explored their creativity as they painted pictures to place in their handmade picture frames and enjoyed playing games such soccer and basketball under the sun. As a departing gift, we also placed a photo of ourselves with the kids in a picture frame for them to take home.
When we concluded our morning session, we drove down to Mission, Texas to have lunch at a restaurant right on the Rio Grande river. There, we were joined by two Border Patrol agents for a presentation. We had a challenging and complex discussion on the role that they have at the border and the complicated ways in which they enforce state and federal laws. This furthered our creation of a nuanced perspective of the reality of the immigration process at the Texas and Mexico border. Through this experience we are grateful to have received all angles of reality of the immigrant experience.
Following our meeting with Border Patrol, we went back to the ARISE center for one last afternoon with the kids. We played with bubbles, and we did more crafts with them. Then, after our afternoon session, we went back to the basilica to get ready for our goodbye party.
The party began with the renewal of sister Rose’s vows. Next we enjoyed a dinner of tamales and then got to dancing! Following our dancing, we said our final, teary eyed goodbyes. It was so hard to leave behind the kids that we have grown to love over the past week. It was a bittersweet goodbye, and we hope that one day we are able to return to ARISE Adelante. This was a once in a lifetime experience that I could not have been more grateful to be a part of!