"Kids are kids regardless of where they live," says Antonio Fernandez, president and CEO of San Antonio’s Catholic Charities.
Catholic Charities is spearheading an effort to bring aid to migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. has received nearly 19,000 children labeled “unaccompanied minors” in March of 2021 alone. Thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming months.
According to Catholic Charities USA, their Archdiocese of San Antonio arm has created a care center in Freeman Coliseum. There, the organization has set up more than 2,000 cots for migrant children. Bolstered by local church volunteers, the workers assemble hygiene kits and meals for the kids.
Antonio Fernandez, president and CEO of San Antonio’s Catholic Charities, called it a “privilege” to serve the community in this way. He noted that the children’s separation from their parents is a humanitarian concern. He said:
“While I understand that this could be considered a political issue for many, it is strictly a humanitarian one to us at Catholic Charities.”Antonio Fernandez via Catholic Charities USA
The report goes on to note that one of the biggest hurdles to the operation is keeping the kids free of COVID-19. Border patrol has not been screening incoming migrants, and the task of identifying infection has fallen to Catholic Charities.
Letting kids be kids
Along with food, shelter, and medical attention, Catholic Charities is also affording these children a chance to embrace childhood. They are providing the kids with toys, soccer balls, and stuffed animals to remind them that they are still kids. For children who have experienced prolonged separation from their parents, playtime can be essential to mental health.
“Kids are kids regardless of where they live. I can never stop thinking about my daughter in a place like this, and the thought moves me to try harder to be the best for these unaccompanied children.”
Catholic Charities from Texas archdioceses are mobilizing similar efforts along the border. In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Catholic Charities is working closely with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to house children of refugee families. Their efforts have included legal advocacy for minors, as well as organizing prayers.
Learn more about Catholic Chartites’ border efforts and ways to get involved here.