MDS volunteer Darvin Garman builds the steps to the home of Ms. Maura and Rafael.

Who are we helping? As weekly MDS volunteers come to build homes in the Rio Grande Valley, they also open their eyes about who they’re helping. Volunteers learn that at least half the residents in the colonias in the Rio Grande Valley are U.S. citizens or otherwise legally in the U.S., and that many are going through the process of applying for asylum. Each week Wednesday afternoons are set aside for MDS volunteers to learn more about immigration and border issues. The sessions are led by local residents, including Mennonite Central Committee service workers, lawyers offering pro-bono legal aid to immigrants seeking asylum, and members of local churches. Volunteers learn about the forces of war, gang violence and persecution that prompt people to leave their home countries. When volunteers sign up to serve in McAllen, they can opt out of the learning piece—but Dube said so far everyone has been willing to participate. “Volunteers seem to be willing and openminded,” said Dube. “We’ve had a couple of young people who said, ‘what border issues?’ They get their eyes and ears opened a little.” Through storytelling and roleplaying, volunteers learn why people risk their lives to come across the border. Jennifer Harbury, a frequent speaker at the education program, shares stories that leave people stunned and

“We’ve had a couple of young people who said, ‘what border issues?’ They get their eyes and ears opened a little.”

Homeowners and flood survivors Ms. Maura and her husband Rafael stand on their new front steps.


A blessing from God

Ms. Maura couldn’t see who was working on her new home in Hargill, Texas—but she could hear the sounds of hope. With fading vision caused by diabetes, she took her husband’s arm as they stood smiling in front of their home. Inside, MDS volunteers from Ohio and Pennsylvania taped and mudded interior ceilings while outside they completed a set of stairs leading down from the front porch. “I can’t see the volunteers,” said Ms. Maura, in Spanish, translated by MDS Project Director Carl Dube. “But I can hear them working. I know in my heart they are doing a good job. They are a blessing from God.” Ms. Maura’s house is one of six new builds that will be completed by MDS volunteers in the Rio Grande Valley, with at least four more repair jobs in the planning stages. Neighborhoods like Ms. Maura’s—called “colonias”— bore the brunt of 2018 and 2019 flooding that swept into the tributaries of the Rio Grande River.

sad—but newly determined to help. Harbury is an attorney, activist and member of the Angry Tias and Abuelas (Angry Aunts and Grandmothers), an organization that feeds the hungry, visits the imprisoned and comforts grieving people stranded by U.S immigration policy at the U.S southern border. “Why are people coming from South America and Central America?” Harbury asked. “Basically what we’re seeing now are civilians fleeing north from an absolute horror show brought on by the death squads that are now drug lords,” she said. “Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world. I’m thinking of all the people running north to get their kids out of there.”

Volunteers open their toolboxes— and their eyes—to respond to flooding in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas

MDS volunteer Barb Seaman muds the Flores / Martinez home.



behind the hammer

behind the hammer

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