Today was our first day in the field. We were able to sleep in a bit, at least compared to our 4AM start yesterday. The day started with breakfast at the hotel which prompted the conversation of how toasted toast should be. We also made some homemade wellness shots using Emergen-C and the hotel’s juice selection. From there, our team visited the South Texas Human Rights Center for the first time.
We met Eddie, one of the organizations three founders, and he gave us the run-down of how the South Texas Human Rights Center came to be and what the center has been able to accomplish in the past few years. Eddie and his two colleagues, Nora and Vanessa. answered phone calls from those who need help throughout the moring. Much of the help they provide comes in the form of information. They answer so many different questions depending on the information someone needs. Where should I go? Who should I call? What does this mean? Though the help they provide is important, Eddie remarked the most important aspect of answering calls is being willing to listen. Many who call the center may be experiencing a tragedy, and speaking with someone who is willing to listen can be a great comfort. Eddie and his colleagues told us stories of how they were able to help and sometimes when help didn’t come soon enough. It was heart wrenching.
At about noon, Eddie headed out to tend some of the water stations with a service learning group from South Carolina University just as Don and Ray arrived. Don and Ray will be our guides and support system as we head into the field. Don is a skilled tracker wth extensive experience doing searches in the remote ranchlands here in south Texas. He is able to tell so much information from what he sees in the field. Ray is also an expert in search and recovery, and a medic. He makes sure the team can give our best out in the field. Ray carries a large backpack that holds medical supplies if we need it.
We packed into Don’s Jeep and Ray’s truck and headed to the area we will be searching. Our search today was based on GPS coodinates where someone was reported missing. First, we did a systematic line-search, which was a new technique for the whole student team. The struggle of keeping pace, while making sure to search the area effectively was a new challenge.
Don scouted ahead disappearing and reappearing multiple times. Just when we thought we had not seen him for a while, he would chime in over the radio about our progress waving from his vantage point. Don was also followed closely by his dog Socks. She often ran through our line to check in on us before returning to Don’s side.
Ray followed behind us, giving short anecdotes as we searched. We then moved into a more difficult area with dense vegetation and mots (mass of trees). The area required us to partner up so we could search without losing our way. Over the course of the afternoon, we found some trash and debris, which was evidence of migrant activity in the area, as well as a plethora of animal bones.
Overall, today offered so many learning opportunities. I look forward to how we will improve as we continue throughout the week.