It was a Friday afternoon, and I’d been on the road all week for work. It was a great time to take a break. First, a quick game of hoops! I made my first jump shot, but then things went downhill… so I switched to Connect Four! Things were going great – until out of the blue, I lost. Maybe I need to practice my ‘counting to four’ skills.
Was I goofing off while on the clock? Well, maybe a little. I was visiting with ABBA House, a CWS-supported partner in Celaya, Mexico, that provides shelter and hospitality to migrants. ABBA was founded in 2014 by a local pastor, Ignacio Martinez, as a way of restoring dignity and hope to vulnerable individuals and families on the move.
Many of the people whom ABBA accompanies are traveling north from Central America, with hopes of finding safety or reuniting with loved ones in the U.S. Some are traveling south, having reached the Mexico-U.S. border only to find that America is no longer extending a warm welcome to persons fleeing violence and impunity. A few are looking to stay in Celaya – not the safest of locations, but it means at least some hope of finding ways to earn a living and a respite from being targeted back at home. Some even are Mexican nationals, in need of a safe refuge for a few hours, or a few days.
ABBA House provides a range of support to migrants: three days of shelter; a chance to rest and take a shower; dry clothes, including new socks and underwear; legal and health consultations; emotional and spiritual care; and prostheses and physical therapy for people who have lost hands or limbs to ‘la bestia,’ the infamous freight trains that cross from one end of Mexico to another.
Perhaps most importantly, the staff and volunteers at ABBA ensure that persons at the shelter can feel dignity and some normality, even if just for the few days they are there. For kids – and adults – this includes having a chance to play! A basketball hoop, soccer ball and ping pong table offer ways to have fun for the athletically inclined; Connect Four and arts & crafts are available for folks who prefer mental creativity to physical activity.
So, yeah, I spent part of my work day playing games – and lost to a 7-year-old at Connect Four in the process. (Lesson learned: never underestimate your opponent!) And for that brief time, the kids with whom I was playing all got to feel a little more human – and so did I.
CWS supports the work of ABBA House, as well as other local community partners in the U.S., Mexico and Central America who are working to ensure the dignity, safety and human rights of migrants. To contribute to our collective effort, please visit cwsglobal.org/support-vulnerable-families or GreaterAs1.org.
Andrew Fuys is the Senior Director, Global Migration at CWS.