By Michael Morgan and
Special to The SUN
Beyond Words International (BWI), a locally based nonprofit providing humanitarian aid, psychosocial support and healing arts programming, is returning in early March to Matamoros, Mexico. This will be its third trip to the border.
BWI is working to serve asylum seekers who are awaiting processing along the U.S./Mexico border. The three primary goals are to provide comprehensive support through humanitarian aid, legal aid, and education and healing arts programming.
What is the current
When BWI first sent a team to Matamoros, Mexico, in October 2019, there were more than 1,500 asylum seekers stranded at the border. Very few aid organizations were present to provide support for hundreds of families. At that time, BWI partnered with Team Brownsville, a local volunteer organization situated just across the border in Brownsville, Texas, to provide food, clothing for the upcoming winter, art supplies and a medical tent established in the camp to serve the needs of the asylum seekers 24/7.
Since that initial trip, the number of asylum seekers in Matamoros has grown. At this time, there are more than 2,500 in the camp. Hundreds of cases of kidnapping, extortion and sexual assault have been reported in the settlement. Families struggle to afford food when it is not provided by volunteers. Conditions continue to be unhygienic and dangerous, with many forced to bathe in the filthy Rio Grande.
According to BWI President Casey Crow, “At BWI, we realize that immigration and asylum are incredibly polarized, complex topics we are struggling with as a nation; however, from a humanitarian standpoint, we don’t believe anyone should be forced to live in such inhumane conditions. The stories in Matamoros are absolutely heartbreaking — children drowning in the river, families fleeing brutal gang violence and dashed hopes of a safe home. Our goal is to lessen the suffering of men, women and children who are no different than you and I.”
International awareness has grown in recent months and there are now a number of organizations present on the ground attempting to provide basic needs to the growing camp population. However, much more assistance is needed.
What is BWI’s purpose for this trip?
BWI’s primary focus is providing humanitarian aid, legal aid, and education and healing arts programming.
Humanitarian aid: BWI is fundraising to purchase emergency supplies for asylum seeker families, including warm clothing, medicine, diapers, baby formula and other desperately needed items.
Legal aid: Currently, less than 1 percent of asylum cases are successful. Many asylum seekers are unaware of their chances of being approved or what is required of them. Confusion and misinformation regarding the asylum process is a significant problem. Our goal is to work with immigration advocates, attorneys and translators to ensure that asylum seekers have access to important information such as application requirements, information on court dates and hearings, legal representation and translation services in their area.
Education and healing arts: BWI is collaborating with a variety of organizations and individuals to support education and healing arts programming for asylum seeker children who currently have limited access to regular schooling and extracurricular activities. Our team will partner with local organizations to provide healing art, dance and educational programming. Giving children a safe space to learn and express themselves can make a tremendous impact on their development as they navigate such a traumatic experience in their young lives.
How can you help?
In order to support our work, we are looking for volunteers to help with our projects at home and abroad. We need assistance with organizational development, fundraising, grant writing and advocacy. We also need artists, teachers, mental health professionals, Spanish speakers, and anyone willing to jump in and lend a hand.
If you are interested in being involved, attend our meeting on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 6 p.m. at 31 Shooting Star Drive in Timber Ridge or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also welcoming donations in the form of monetary contributions to be used for all aforementioned projects. If you would like your donation to go toward a specific need, please designate it accordingly. All humanitarian aid and supplies will be purchased in Brownsville and transported across the border. Donate by sending a check to P.O. Box 2503 in Pagosa Springs, or through our website at www.bwintl.org. Thank you for your support.