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  • Writer's pictureArlene Rivera-Cortes

Reflecting on 2022 at Centro de Esperanza

As 2022 comes to a close, we are very grateful for the help so many people have given to make the first year at Centro de Esperanza a success! Centro de Esperanza was created to provide essential humanitarian aid to refugee and migrant families waiting in Sonoyta, Mexico, for the opportunity to enter the asylum process and cross into the United States. Here’s what’s happened already... This first year at Centro de Esperanza, we served more than 70,000 meals. As time went on, these were less and less what you might think of as “normal” shelter meals. To stay busy and “give back” to the center, visitors took over all meal preparation and Centro began to serve favorite traditional foods from Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, etc., and every region of southern Mexico. Centro co-director Karla Betancourt worked with them each week to prepare shopping lists that fit our one dollar per person per day food budget, and it’s amazing what they were able to create. Food donations from Sonoyta residents helped stretch the budget to provide each child with an evening snack bag at the end of each day. Financial donations from No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes and Humane Borders bought 85% of the weekly food supplies.

iting refugees, migrants and volunteers from both sides of the U.S. border celebrated the 1 year anniversary of Centro de Esperanza on Dec.

At Centro de Esperanza, refugee and migrant families are invited to try on and choose the clothing they need. The University Presbyterian Church in Tempe and other sources coordinated by the now legendary Holly Herman sent car and truck loads of clothing, diapers, and household supplies to Ajo every two weeks. Often these came to Ajo with volunteer drivers from Humane Borders. Tucson’s Casa Alitas and individuals in the borderlands also brought clothes and other supplies. Ajo volunteers drove all these donations across the border. And Sonoyta volunteers helped sort and organize the clothing and other supplies. Thanks to the City of Sonoyta, the local health center (Centro de Salud) brought COVID-19 vaccinations to Centro de Esperanza along with the entire array of regular childhood and adult vaccinations. Medical examinations and services were provided regularly by Dr. Brakema and doctors in the University of Arizona program Centro Comunitario Palabras de Esperanza. For critical needs, some individuals were sent to the hospital in Puerto Penasco. All this was coordinated by Centro co-director Aaron Flores… did you know he was an EMT? Starting in May, we began working closely with Casa de la Misericordia, a migrant shelter and resource center in Nogales, Mexico. Every four to six weeks, we were able to send groups of between 15 and 53 refugees and migrants to this shelter in Nogales where they were then assisted by Justice for Our Neighbors attorneys. As 2022 comes to a close, we are so happy to report that 430 migrants have been able to leave Sonoyta and enter the United States legally through this collaborative process. They are now safely with friends and family all across the United States. Children are in school learning. Some people are already working. Many will still experience daunting challenges in the asylum process, but there is no doubt they are in a better place today.

Meanwhile, while it is unclear how and when US immigration policies will change, we are taking steps that will make it possible to expand the services Centro de Esperanza provides in Sonoyta to include overnight shelter for as many as 150 people (25-35 families). With donations already in hand, thanks to generous supporters like you, we plan to buy additional land in early 2023. As soon as this is done, we will invite you to join us in envisioning and creating the next steps! Besides opportunities for overnight housing, we also imagine expanding existing programs. Late in 2022, volunteers from Sonoyta and Ajo began offering more language learning opportunities (and even some science classes). Women at Centro de Esperanza began sewing and selling beautiful embroidered bordados. Café Justo began partnering with Centro de Esperanza on a coffee project. AND the migrants at Centro de Esperanza transformed the buildings from drab institutional beige to a place that feels much more like home. Thank you again to all of you who have helped Centro de Esperanza come this far in 2022. So much is possible when we work together and we look forward to an even more successful 2023.

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