Over the past two days, we have been working in the Pio Decimo Center to paint various areas of their building. One of the largest projects we faced involved painting the entry room, where the people utilizing the center would first walk in; the presentation of the room is very important to those at the center, as it acts as a sort of first impression as to what the Center offers and represents. Various faculty members also mentioned the importance of dignifying those who walk through the door. We spent the entire day at the Pio Decimo Center painting, and this painting went into the next day as well. While some of us stayed at the Pio Decimo Center to continue painting the entryway, a few of us drove to the John Venezuela Youth Center to work on painting the windows and doorways of the building.

After spending the morning painting, we eventually arrived at our lunch spot, where we had the pleasure of meeting with Raul— a recently-retired border patrol agent— who gave us his firsthand account as to how the border patrol works and provided a different perspective regarding the immigration crisis we are currently facing. One of the moments that stood out to me was his explanation of the “families” we often see being separated in the media, and how this is often a ploy run by cartels to smuggle people or substances into the United States through the use of children. After this discussion, I, along with my peers, certainly felt a greater sense of respect and understanding for the services that border patrol agents provide.

Once lunch ended, we all headed back to the JVYC, where we got to meet and interact with the children who attend their after-school program. We first played a game called “Double Dare” which allowed us to get to know the children, and then participated in outdoor games, such as soccer and basketball. This experience truly opened my eyes as to how much the center does for these children and their families, and how even the smallest interactions can make their day. One of the moments that stood out to me most was seeing one of the children hugging a faculty member because he hadn’t been to the center in years as a result of being unable to leave Mexico. This moment really proved to me that the bonds made in this facility can change lives.

During reflection, we discussed how COVID-19 impacted the immigration crisis. This discussion led me to frustration because of how difficult COVID-19 has made it for people to gain citizenship and even lead their daily lives.

Blog post brought to you by: Julia Wonsettler