Letter to the editor: Belts, hats sought to help those stranded on border
There is a place in Nogales, Mexico (just over the border from Arizona) called El Comedor. It is a stopping place for migrants who have recently been deported from the U.S. or who are hoping to make the journey into the U.S. At El Comedor, they can have a hot meal, receive medical attention, clothing, personal hygiene supplies, and help with navigating travel back to southern Mexico or Central America.
In memory of my father, who recently passed away and did a lot of volunteer work with migrants during his retirement in southern Arizona, I’m collecting baseball caps and belts for migrants, which I will bring to El Comedor at the end of the month. Please drop them off at the Bristol town library in the apple crate in the room just inside the front entrance. If the library is closed, you can put them in the book drop box by the back door.
No matter your views about the current immigration policy, this is a way to directly help the people who are living it. Volunteers at El Comedor (which is a bi-national humanitarian effort by religious organizations) do not encourage migrants to continue their journey across the desert to the U.S. or to return to Mexico — they are only there to dole out generous helpings of respect and care to fellow humans in need.
Why baseball caps and belts? I was moved by a passage in a book by my father’s friend — “A Land of Hard Edges” by Peg Bowden — about El Comedor that described a man whose pants were falling down around his ankles; he tried to hold them up with one hand while waiting in line for a meal. When migrants are held in detention centers, their belts and shoelaces are taken away from them. And hats are a must in Arizona and Mexico to protect from the sun.
I see having a belt as a quick way to restore dignity to someone and hats as a way to provide immediate comfort. Plus, I can fit a lot of them in luggage as opposed to, say, diapers or clothes.
Thank you. I hope to find more ways to connect this caring community with the front lines of the immigration issue in the future.
Mark A. Nelson of Bristol
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