We are eight days away from our trip to South Texas as I write this. This will be my second humanitarian trip with the UIndy Beyond Borders team, and as I will be graduating in May, this will also be my last trip. I feel incredibly grateful to be able to return to South Texas with Beyond Borders, as the first trip was, as cliche as it may sound, life-changing. For our previous season, we walked the paths migrants must take through the remote ranchlands. We experienced a fraction of their journey as we searched through cacti and scrub under the Texas sun for individuals who had perished due to dehydration and exposure, we observed evidence of their travels in the form of water jugs, clothing, and backpacks, and we were all humbled to search with a family member of one of the missing individuals. My last trip to South Texas changed my life, and I expect nothing different from this one.
Our trip this season takes us back to a cemetery in Brooks county where we will exhume unidentified individuals in the hopes of future identification and the return of their remains to their families. While Beyond Borders has worked in the cemetery previously, this will be my first time performing exhumations in this humanitarian context. I look forward to working with Sammi who has done exhumations in the past and is our seasoned mapping expert, and also look forward to working with two new graduate students and members of the Beyond Borders team Arden and Sidney. I feel that this season will be a linear continuation of my experiences from last season, because in my previous trip I walked the path of the living searching for those in distress and the recently deceased; this trip will allow me to experience the after effects of another part of the journey that every migrant knows about, fears, and many experience themselves – death during the journey. For this season I expect backbreaking work and extemely long hours as we work to find and exhume these individuals who perished and were buried in unmarked graves. I am not wary about this however, as I feel our entire team understands that we are all working towards something much bigger than ourselves, and if anything we will work harder because of it. My personal goal for the team is simply to exhume and recover as many individuals as we possibly can during our trip, in the hopes that these unidentified inviduals will have their names and identities returned, and hopefully their families will be provided with some sort of peace and understanding in knowing what happened to their loved ones.
Other than being eight days out from our trip, today is also Christmas. I can’t say that it is a coincidence that I’m writing this blog post today of all days. If anything, it is evidence of how I’ve been changed from this humanitarian work. Christmas is a day spent with family and friends, and the time surrounding it is filled with “good tidings of comfort and joy” for nearly everyone we come across. We are more patient, more understanding, more giving, and seemingly more aware of those who are less fortunate than ourselves – after all, this trip would not be possible without all of the generous donations from people like you! The political situation surrounding the migrant crisis is incredibly muddied and convoluted. We should remember however, that these individuals have left their friends and family behind, they are risking their lives for just a chance at making it, despite knowing that there is a very real possibility that they will either be caught and deported back to their homes, or they will never be heard from again. At the most basic level, we must remind ourselves that these are human beings who deserve dignity in life as well as in death, and these individuals deserve a name. I look forward to playing a small part in this endeavor, and until then I’ll enjoy spending this time with my family knowing that I am fortunate enough to do so. Merry Christmas everyone!