Compassion for Outsiders: Locals Assist Immigrant Harvey Victims

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by Jessica Rinaudo

The Church without frontiers, Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place, or disposable.”
 – Pope Francis, Message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, September 3, 2014

As Hurricane Harvey moved through Texas and dumped as much as 52 inches of water in some areas, the world watched as cities were swallowed and people were rescued from rooftops. Many lost everything, including access to basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. People piled into emergency shelters, quickly overfilling available buildings. And while the government stepped in to help, there was a group of people inside Texas who could not even accept that assistance.

Immigrants living in Texas without the documentation required by the government to gain assistance, found themselves at the mercy of whoever would take them in. Many found help in local churches, but they were quickly overrun.

A local group of Hispanics in West Monroe heard their pleas and pulled together to help. Maria and Lorenzo, members of St. Paschal Parish in West Monroe, have family members in Houston. As they spoke to one another, their family members told them about the things they were seeing there during the hurricane.

“If there was a shelter, they were telling people to go there,” said Maria, “but when they got to the shelter, they were asking for state ID’s and driver’s licenses. Everyone was afraid to go to a shelter.”

Maria and Lorenzo felt called to aid these people. Her family put her in touch with the churches there that were housing more than 400 people and who were in desperate need of supplies.

“I asked what they needed the most,” said Maria. “I noticed they weren’t worried about clothes for adult people. They were more worried about the little kids and needing canned food and medicine for pain relief. They gave me a list of their biggest needs.”

To help gather the needed supplies, Maria reached out to the local Hispanic community in Monroe through Facebook. She spoke with Sr. Edith Schnell and was granted permission to use the St. Paschal Parish parking lot as a collection point for people to bring their supplies. And the local community came through.

“We gathered Saturday before we left. We got a really good response from the Hispanic community. We got three pallets of water bottles, big boxes of personal care items, another of canned food, and another of cleaning supplies.”

Maria and Lorenzo packed up the supplies and drove them to Houston. They felt that it was their personal responsibility to make sure the items were delivered to the people who truly needed them.

When they arrived, many of the people had been forced out of overflowing shelters, so they created individual supply packages with the items they brought and let people in the neighborhood know the supplies were available.

Although Maria and Lorenzo had seen the news coverage of what was happening, it was still a shock to see the devastation and the faces of the hurricane’s victims in person.

“It was sad,” said Maria. “When we finally got there to the first neighborhood – it was so sad to look into people’s faces. It made me cry. I felt like I was one of them, it felt like it happened to me and to my children.”

Maria and Lorenzo answered God’s call for these people by putting their faith in action, working as the hands of Jesus Christ and loving their neighbors with their words, actions and prayers.

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