I often visit my family in Juarez, Mexico just a 10-minute walk across the International Bridge from El Paso.
I don’t often visit Pembroke, New Hampshire, but accepted an invitation to speak at our NEA-New Hampshire affiliate professional conference for Education Support Professionals. Before I spoke, I walked around the exhibits with information about trainings, volunteer opportunities, things for sale… and a big sign “Donations for the Children from Centro Victoria Juarez, Mexico.”
In my life, there have been so many coincidences; so many connections between one part of my life and another. I’m no longer surprised that the world is simply human connections. I talked with our member, Diana Griffin, about the project.
It began with a group of teachers and education support professionals helping a church that was assisting a Juarez orphanage. The orphanage was home to more than 100 children from preschool to high school, all of whom had their own story of how they came to need this extended family called Centro Victoria as their own mothers and fathers either abandoned them or simply couldn’t care for them because of their deep poverty.
When I told Diana that I often traveled to Juarez, she asked for a favor. And I happily agreed. I took boxes of donated school supplies, treats, Band-Aids, socks and underwear and stuffed them into my suitcases and my husband, Alberto, and I delivered them to a humble neighborhood of dirt roads and tiny cement homes. Centro Victoria is a project forever in process.
Pastor Joel Cortez Ramirez lives at the Center. He and his wife, Carmen, met us and helped us unpack the suitcases. Our visit was unexpected since I couldn’t find a phone number. But these folks don’t stand on ceremony. You don’t need an appointment to show you care.
They smiled and were grateful and offered to show us the school and the dormitories and, most important, the plans they had for an exercise room for ballet classes and weight training and enlarging the tiny dormitories for the girls.
They are in talks with the Mexican government at this time to take in some of the Central American children who have traveled to the border in hopes of asylum. The fear that these children will be considered little criminals and placed in detention centers in the U.S. is real, and they will need a place where they are seen as little people who are frightened and need love as badly as they need a bed. Pastor Joel says simply, “Somos familia.” We are a family. It’s not a metaphor. It’s simply who they are.
I told him that part of that family now included union members in New Hampshire and members of the NEA across the country who care deeply about our students and about the children of the world who need champions caring for their health, safety and education.
I am so proud of our champions for children in New Hampshire whose love knows no borders. Bien hecho, compañeros. Well done, my colleagues. Well done.