SAN DIEGO — “A border is a transformational location, where you see with a different lens.”
Sister Suzanne Jabro, CSJ, works tirelessly to make sure as many people as possible experience that transformation.
She is the founder and coordinator of Border Compassion, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian aid to a shelter in Mexicali for immigrant families struggling to survive.
“You are there to learn,” she said. “You are there to let them know that you care and that they are not alone.”
Mexicali is across the border from Calexico, about three hours east of San Diego, and jammed with asylum-seekers. They arrive at the shelter exhausted and hungry. Many have endured months of grueling travel only to discover that crossing the border was not as easy as they had been told.
Sister Jabro invites faith communities, schools and nonprofits to participate in “Cross Over” events to visit the shelter, called Posada del Migrante, and help its residents.
In recent days, the shelter housed more than 300 people, mostly young families from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico. All said they fled their homes to escape violence, poverty and climate disasters. They planned to apply for asylum in the U.S. Some had waited for months to talk to a U.S. immigration agent.
Last October, Sister Jabro invited religious women serving at the Diocese of San Diego to assist the migrants.
Many set out to collect donations for the shelter and invited family members, parishes and congregations to join the effort. They raised $7,000 to cover food for the shelter and $8,000 worth of humanitarian items, such as clothing, supplies, blankets and backpacks, according to Sister Jabro, all to be delivered in a Cross Over event on Feb. 23.
Sister Kathleen Warren, OSF, director of Women Religious at the diocese, noted that 25 people planned to participate that day. A winter storm did not allow for travel across the mountains from San Diego to Mexicali, however.
The visit was rescheduled for March 18. This time, the San Diego group members were able to share a day with the shelter families. The orders represented included Poor Clare Sisters, Sister Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, Sisters of Mercy, Religious of the Sacred Heart, Sisters of Providence, and Franciscans. The Blessed Sacrament sisters — who live in San Diego and Imperial counties and have a school in Mexicali — helped to coordinate donations among all the entities.
The visitors served the residents a special meal and threw a fiesta for the children, complete with piñatas.
“It is a joy to have them visit,” said Elizabeth Gallardo Hernández, the shelter’s director. “There are people who have been here for seven months and are waiting for them.”
Gallardo said the shelter would not be standing if it were not for Border Compassion.
“About 80% of the donations we have come from them,” she said in a phone interview.
Members of the organization, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, have been going to the shelter since 2021.
“Before, we couldn’t offer (migrants) food; now, we can provide them with breakfast, lunch and dinner,” the director said. “Before they came, we didn’t even have electricity.”
The sister reflected on the impact the visits have on the visitors and residents.
“When we leave, we are tired, and we carry a lot of their story and the pain. They, on the other hand, are exhilarated, their load is lighter.”
Border Compassion seeks donations to help families at a shelter in Mexicali. Information: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit border-compassion.org. Checks may be sent to 43376 Cook Street, Unit 10, Palm Desert 92211.