Thursday 13 December 2018
TEAMWORK IN TIJUANA
As John and Paul continue helping refugees at the Mexican border, we take a look back at the team’s excellent work this week. John has been keeping us up to speed with his daily posts, and it seems like the team have really found their rhythm.
This wouldn’t be possible without the fantastic group of willing volunteers in Tijuana and our amazing donors. .
TIJUANA Day 5
A very long, wet and cold day.
Today was our most important day so far: our first distribution of hot food to 500 refugees living in a squatter camp on the streets of Tijuana.
We spent the morning purchasing ingredients. In the early afternoon, 8 volunteers prepared the food. In the late afternoon, there was a break in the rain and we hoped it was going to last, but it didn’t.
At 5:30pm we headed to the camp all feeling a bit nervous. Will it all go ok? We worried about the 500 people who had not had hot food for days. How would we control the crowd? But after last night’s distribution of fresh fruit, I don’t know why I worried.
We were greeted with big smiles and “holas”, and we asked people to form a queue and reassured them we had enough food for everyone. We started our service at about 6:30 and an hour and a half later, everyone was fed.
I am so proud of what this team achieved. The desire to help refugees at the Mexican border just oozed out all day.
A BIG thank you to our donors who made it possible. We will continue to serve hot food every night for the next 10 nights.
TIJUANA Day 6
Last night I went to bed exhausted, knowing I had helped feed about 500 people in desperate need. This morning the reality hit me.
I have woken up proud to have played a small part of a team of 12 people who have given up their time for free to help others. Just reflect on this for one minute: 2 days ago we did not know each other, we’re complete strangers, but the desire to help others bought us all together.
Feeding 500 people a hot meal is not an easy job at the best of times. Doing so in the cold and pouring rain makes it even more difficult. But we did it with dignity and love.
The food was piping hot and tasted delicious, and everyone was given apples. Tonight and for the next nine nights, we will do the same. Today, 3 more volunteers arrive from the USA. We are going to start distributing women’s hygiene products in the next few days. We can’t do everything, but we will do what we can.
TIJUANA Day 7
I have just had my morning caffeine and nicotine, and realised that it has been a week today since Paul Hutchings and I arrived to help refugees at the Mexican border.
With the help of many people who have given their time willingly, we have managed to serve 2,000 meals to those in desperate need.
We have 6 days left before we return to the UK, so hopefully we will be able to continue serving food. If the threatened eviction happens tomorrow on camp, we will find a way to continue.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us. You have made a BIG difference to people’s lives. I know this because I have heard the thousands of “thank you’s”
Today the sun was shining and looking good. We decided that it would be good to try and do our hot food distribution before 5pm to make use of the day light and the sun.
The menu for tonight was beans and sausages, apple and a litre of water. I left the volunteers to do the prepping and cooking and headed down to the camp.
We wanted to talk to the refugees and find out more about their stories, as well as to discover what the news was on the planned forced evacuation on Monday. It seems the local government are set on the evacuation, and the residents are set on staying. I just hope a solution is found.
I was cheered to see so many Tijuana locals and people who had come down from San Diego distributing clothes, shoes and many other items. I was shocked to hear some of the horror stories of the violence these people have suffered in Honduras. At this stage, I don’t even want to remember them.
At 4:30, the van arrived with hot food. Our growing volunteer group now stand at 21, so food was served to 500 people in about 1 hour.
I am still finding it difficult to put into words the terrible conditions these people are living under.
One of the problems on camp is lack of toilets, but thanks to our amazing donors we have negotiated and paid for some local business to open their toilets to the refugees from 10am to 10pm.
TIJUANA day 8
Wow, time flies. Today I decided to take the morning off, and went down the coast road from Tijuana and found a small fishing village. I decided to have lunch before returning to camp.
Lunch was amazing. The system was you bought your fish directly from the fisherman, then you took it to the restaurant and told them how you want it cooked. 20 minutes later, it arrived on a plate with the trimmings. It was great.
I arrived at the camp at 2pm and had the chance to walk round and talk to the residents. Everyone is still unsure about what will happen tomorrow about the threatened eviction. The weather was quite nice and afternoon I noticed there were a lot more children then I realised.
The food van arrived at about 3:30 and a long queue soon formed. Today we served a beef dish with rice and vegetables, handed out with 1ltr of water, some wet wipes, apple and satsuma.
We are working as a well moulded team, and as usual, the ideas from the volunteers means we have a system that means we can serve food quickly, but still deliver aid with dignity. No one is queuing for a long time, and food is handed out with a smile and cheerful greeting. I would like to thank the team for being so fantastic and putting up with my grumps.
I am feeling really good that the residents have now got to know us, and that they can trust us to deliver. The queue is now a place where we can laugh and relax.
The agreement we made with the local business for people to use the toilet for free has worked well and has been appreciated. There are no public toilets here and local businesses are charging 5 pesos (about 20p) per visit.
TIJUANA day 9
Today was going to be the day of the eviction, but I’m happy to report that sense at this stage prevailed. A quite large delegation of people were sent instead to try and persuade people to move to the official camp. I am not sure how many took up the offer.
The camp is very calm and people are trying there best to get on with surviving in difficult circumstances.
Our fantastic team of volunteers carried on preparing a fantastic dinner. Tonight it was a delicious chicken broth with lots of fresh vegetables and rice. The queue is now quite good fun as we get know everyone. I really enjoy walking down the queue greeting everyone, lots of laughter as I try and increase my vocabulary of Spanish.
Thank you everyone who has supported us either by donating or just words of encouragement.
When Paul and I arrived in Tijuana, we could never have imagined so much could be achieved.
TIJUANA day 10
I am finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that I only have 3 more days to serve food and help refugees at the Mexican border before I return to UK. There’s so much more to do. We will try and do as much as we can in these 3 days.
I went on my usual morning walk around camp. There was a heavy police presence, and my heart sank thinking they might have started the eviction. But they had not, and I’m still not sure why they were there. I must have scared them away as they left soon after we arrived.
Yesterday, we ordered 1,000 litres of water from the shop at the corner of the camp. Thank you donors, they will be distributed with hot food today.
After the water delivery, it was down to the church kitchen to see how preparations were going. As usual, all was going great. Today we will be serving pasta and bolognese with bread. I was roped into slicing the bread!
Food distribution has now become easy, as people have gained trust in us. The queue is orderly and full of laughter as I practice my Spanish. Everyone knows they will get a meal so there are no worries.
I have to stress that this has all been possible thanks to our donors and the locals who have given their time willingly to help those in need.
To see what the team are doing to help refugees at the Mexican border, keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates.
Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you next week.
Please contact us today at email@example.com if you’d like to help refugees at the Mexican border.