The New Year means saying good bye to all that troubled us in the previous year and welcoming new beginnings for ourselves and our loved ones in the new year. We make resolutions aimed at making ourselves better, healthier, more successful or more economically stable. We dare to dream and hope for all the things we think will make us happy and safe. We send blessings of peace, love and prosperity to our family and friends. But how far do those good tidings extend? Who is worthy of this peace, love and prosperity? These are common questions for people who work as first responders, last responders and in human rights contexts. While it is said that “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” (Mahatma Gandhi), these professionals see the worst of what people do to each other. And yes, there are bright spots, glimmers of hope that restore faith in humanity. But shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the good outweigh the bad?
Each time we travel to the Texas Borderlands we highlight the amazing people we meet who are doing good and selfless things in the midst of humanitarian crisis and mass disaster contexts. But we have created a situation where we need these people. Issues of borders, migration, poverty and violence extend beyond recorded history. Yet, we have no solutions. If it were easy to fix it would have been addressed by now. Or perhaps we are just not approaching it the right way or with the right perspective. Part of why my team returns year after year is a practical and applied reason: to volunteer a specialty service that fills a need in the current crisis situation. Part of it is to expose the next generation to a situation they have a platform to address. The next generation sees the world differently than we do and I am continuously surprised by their innovative ideas and approaches to complex situations. They will be the change we see and we need.
During this trip we will be returning to cemetery exhumations for the first time since January 2019. We will be working closely with colleagues from Texas State University, Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery and the South Texas Human Rights Center. We will also be meeting new colleagues from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Exhumations are hard work physically and mentally because it will bring the team face to face with the victims of the border crisis. We will be in a new county and faced with many new experiences over the next week. All we can hope is that we contribute in some way to positive change and progress.
Thank you for supporting us and coming back each day to read about what we are doing and to learn more about the situation in the Texas Borderlands.
Preparing for this trip has been a daunting task. To get ready, I’ve been focusing on educating myself. Through many hours of reading and conversation, I’ve realized that my previous way of thinking must be dismantled. It was either too simplistic or full of preconceived notions founded on incorrect information. The past few weeks have been a difficult but good process of reshaping the way I think so that I can start to understand the nuance and complexity of the border crisis. I do not doubt that this will be an ongoing process and my mind will be changed many more times before we return home. Ultimately, this is a good thing and I welcome the opportunity to humbly learn from others.
This has not stopped me from being apprehensive, though. If I had to put a name to my whirlwind of emotions surrounding our impending departure I’d have to go with cautiously eager. I am eager because I want to be a part of work that will help people. I hope this will be the first of many opportunities for me to work in a humanitarian setting. There is also a strong desire to learn. There is so much about the emotional toll and local environment that I won’t be able to understand until I am in the midst of it. I am cautious because it is all very new and intimidating. I understand that no matter how much I have read or discussed with past team members, very little will be what I expect. I suspect emotions will be running high both within our team and in the community of Eagle Pass. I remind myself that things will likely not go according to plan. I am determined to remain flexible through it all. Cool heads, positive communications, and teamwork will hopefully get us through any hiccups without too much difficulty.
As I double and triple-check my packing list I remind myself that plans aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Staying malleable will be essential during this trip. Remaining open to opportunities to learn and grow in the moment will be more productive than anything I could have ever prepared for.
As I begin preparing for this trip to Texas, I feel less anxious than during our May trip in terms of packing supplies and what to expect generally. Though our team for this trip consists of multiple returning members, many new lessons will be learned, and experiences gained. Instead of assisting with search and recovery efforts, we will assist Texas State University and other organizations with excavations at a cemetery. This new path causes both anxiety and anticipation. We are traveling to Eagle Pass, Texas, where currently a large number of migrants are passing through. The crisis along the border is ever-changing, and even though we were in Texas in May, the situation is going to be very different. It is difficult to fully prepare for what we may encounter when we arrive. Still, I welcome the opportunity to assist in any way possible. The ability to apply what I am learning in school to a humanitarian cause as significant as this is unparalleled.
I am looking forward to working with new organizations during our time in Eagle Pass. Learning new perspectives from these organizations and how they function differently from us in this environment will be interesting. Though I have some understanding of what is happening in this area, it is very little compared to those we will be working with. These perspectives are valuable as they provide insight into all areas of the crisis we are facing and other groups motivations we may not have thought of in the past. I am also looking forward to seeing how our team functions in this new situation. We all have strengths that will allow us to work well as a group and with members of other teams. We have previously been in situations together where we have had to be flexible and adaptable, which will be crucial on this trip.
Though I will face anxieties and challenges on this trip, it is nothing compared to what the migrants are facing. I have been very fortunate throughout my life and will never understand what those who make this journey are going through. I hope to offer any assistance I can and bring back my experiences to share with those who may be unaware or naïve of the crisis at the border.