Stories of Change

Bucket distribution at St Vincent De Paul-Sacred Heart Conference

Replacing Fear with Hope in Merced County

Imagine you’re asleep when you hear waves crashing onto a surface. For a second you wonder, “Am I dreaming?” until you feel the water creep onto your bed. You jump to your feet, making a splash, and your instincts kick in. Your home is no longer safe, you need to get out.

This is what many families and individuals in Merced and Planada, California experienced during the severe flooding that occurred this past March. The floods not only brought destruction to the predominantly Latino immigrant community but also scarring memories from their past.

Alicia Rodriguez is a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Planada California. She explained the confusion and fear the families experienced when the town was forced into lockdown following the floods. “At night they would ‘escape’ their homes and go through the canal banks to get food for their loved ones. They had to go in the middle of the night. This reminded them of their experiences in Mexico.”

Alicia described the intimidation families felt when they heard FEMA representatives banging loudly on their doors and speaking a language they did not understand. Despite FEMA’s good intentions, they reminded the families of the looming threats of deportation and their complicated experiences with law enforcement. “These families came into this country with fear so we have to be very cautious not to trigger that fear,” Alicia said.

In the neighboring city, Merced, Ella Luna Garza also noticed the vulnerability of those most affected by the floods in her community. She told us, “So often, these communities that are on the margins are almost invisible to the majority of people…We aren’t aware of the deep needs that are present on their day-to-day, much less in the middle of a disaster.”

To help leaders like Ella and Alicia in their efforts to support the vulnerable communities affected by the floods in Merced County, CWS provided CWS Hygiene Kits, School Kits, Cleanup Buckets and Blankets. Alicia specifically remembered the excitement of the children who received School Kits. “The children felt very happy with the school kits because they had lost so much. They had just lost their Christmas presents. They lost everything and the school kits were the only thing they had that belonged to them, that didn’t get wet, that wasn’t destroyed,” she said. Ella echoed this by saying, “I saw children hugging those kits as they received them. It was just beautiful.”

At a time in which fear and uncertainty were rampant, these kits renewed a sense of hope. “These kits show a person that there is someone that cares about them. They bring hope to these families who have lost everything in the disaster,” Alicia stated. When asked what is one thing she would like to say to the volunteers who created the kits, Ella said, “Thank you! Gracias! Danke! Obrigada! Your compassion, and your care, all come shining through with these gifts. So thank you so much for serving your neighbors.”

CWS is ready and committed to standing with inspiring women like Ella and Alicia in the efforts to ensure every single one of our neighbors is seen and cared for.

Click here to learn about how you can support our CWS Kits and Blanket program and help us respond to disasters like this one.