Seventeen students and staff members at Regis College in Weston embarked on a volunteer trip to California’s southern border this week to deliver water and supplies for migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
On Thursday, the group joined a non-profit organzation, Border Angels, on a three mile hike through the desert, known as a “water drop,” to aid migrants traveling to the United States.
In scorching heat, they delivered gallon jugs of water, food and other supplies. Before starting, the students passed around a Sharpie pen to write “I love you,’ “Yes you can,” “Keep Going,” and other encouraging messages in Spanish.
“That just kind of made things real for me, that there are going to be people reading these messages and using them to fight for survival,” Bernice Boateng, a 20-year-old nursing student, said by telephone Thursday night from Southern California.
Anabella Morabito, associate director at the college’s Center for Ministry and Service, said this is the second year students from the Catholic college have gone to the border to deliver supplies.
But the ongoing debate over border security has given this year’s group a heightened sense of uncertainty facing migrants.
“I think a lot of people see it as politics because it is, but for us it’s also about our core values,” Morabito said in a phone interview from a Southern California parking lot . “It has been incredibly moving for us to just be here serving people that we might or might not meet and really trying to do what we can to make a small difference.”
In the coming days, Regis students plan to deliver water and food to migrants who often linger around Home Depot stores in search of physical labor jobs, she said.
They will also bring supplies to people awaiting asylum in shelters in Tijuana, a Mexican border city.
Students interviewed Thursday said the experience has given them fresh insight into the struggles of migrants.
Maxwell Whiffen, a sophomore from Raynham, said he was surprised to learn that in past ‘water drops,’ plastics jugs were purposely slashed to deprive migrants of water.
“When I first heard that I was shocked and disgusted,” he said. “But sure enough, we got out there and it wasn’t a unique thing, where I saw it once. I saw it throughout the hike.”
Whiffen was also struck by the extreme heat — even for early January.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like for migrants who are trying to cross in July,” he said. “That must be unbelievable.”
Sergine Delma, a sophomore, said she will never forget the sight of a little girl’s pink backpack abandoned in the dirt — a seemingly innocuous object that to her, represented “so much history, so much struggle, so much work,” she said.
But she also left with the feeling that any action, even minor, can have an enormous impact, she said.
“Having the opportunity to help further this community, people in general, human beings, loving your neighbors no matter how far your homes are from each other — that’s something I’ll keep with me forever,” she said.Amanda Kaufman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.