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    Helping migrant women in Tijuana rediscover what they love, what brings them light

    Day 362

    Do What Brings You Joy

    As Sister Adelia showed us around her kitchen, we noticed that the space was pretty small – especially considering it serves hundreds of women three squares meals a day.

    “It’s small,” she said, “but we have big pots.”

    The women who stay at Sister Adelia’s shelter in Tijuana come from all over – Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador…even from as far afield as Cameroon! They’re all fleeing heartbreaking situations at home. All looking for a second chance.

    The shelter in Tijuana is a sort of midway point between their old life and new, a place to wait until their cases are processed. Before their futures are decided. They might stay a week, a month, even six months, some with their children and some without. During that time, Sister Adelia does all she can for them. But, said Sister Adelia, something is missing.

    When we asked what was needed most, Sister Adelia thought for a moment. “There’s something I can’t quite place,” she said. “But…they’re missing a light. It’s gone out.”

    These women are recovering from extreme trauma, they feel listless and without purpose. We can’t do everything for them today, their healing will come through time and counseling. But we can work to bring that light back – if even for a night.

    The meals served at the shelter are almost always Mexican food – and the same thing, over and over. So we thought…what better way to give comfort, spark excitement, and distract for just a while than with their all-time favorite meal?

    Since many of the women are from Honduras, we asked them what food they missed most, what might get people excited. The ladies sat up, took notice. They discussed animatedly between themselves.

    Soon, one woman led the charge to create a traditional, sumptuous meal, complete with plantains, fried chicken, cabbage, and more. Everybody pitched in. From what was a subdued space filled with women simply waiting, the kitchen was turned into a whirlwind of activity, everyone laughing and instructing.

    The smells from the brewing feast began wafting to all corners of the shelter.

    Sister Katerina, who helps run a tight ship, stood by watching the bustle of activity. “They are so excited. They are having so much fun!” she said. “Normally we have to ring the bell and everyone comes to dinner. Today they just smelled the smells of this dish they love so much and started waiting right away. This is really special for them.”

    The night brought something out we hadn’t seen before at the shelter…smiling faces. Bright eyes. Goofing around. Dancing. It’s just one dinner, one evening. But it helped remind these women who they are, what they love – what brings them light.

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    Changemakers 365

    by Alight


    The world’s tough problems can seem insurmountable. So at Alight, while we tackle those big problems we also do what’s doable. Right then. And that’s what Changemakers 365 is all about. Learn more!


    Changemakers 365 members give either $30 per month or a one-time gift of $365 (it’s free for anyone who has ever lived in a refugee camp). Join us!

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