This is Sister Norma Pimentel, the Executive Director for Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley. She’s standing in the Parish Hall of the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, which she converted to a makeshift supply center for migrant families in 2014. At that time the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America had overloaded Border Patrol facilities, and they were releasing families where the parents were present in order to make room for the unaccompanied kids.
Sister Norma opened this center so those families would have somewhere to come for clothing, food, water, and showers, before continuing their journey.
“We welcome them the moment they walk through those doors of Sacred Heart Parish Hall. We have our volunteers clap and say ‘welcome, bienvenidos.’ And just that moment starts a transformation of the family where they feel for the very first time they matter, that their lives are important to others…And they feel overwhelmed with gratefulness because of the fact that for the very first time in their journeys, of what they’ve been through, they finally arrive to a place that’s caring and compassionate. And the volunteers are wonderful in making sure they get everything they need so that they can truly restore their dignity after the great journey and hardships that they went through.”
(Photo: Samantha Balaban/NPR)