By John Hall
DALLAS -- Buckner International is working on several fronts to help thousands of children fleeing Central America and crossing into Texas, officials told partner organizations during a briefing Aug. 7.
Along with the continued collection of humanitarian aid such as new shoes and hygiene products for the children and families, officials talked about ongoing and long-term solutions in the United States and the countries of origin.
The unaccompanied children and families are crossing the U.S. border as part of a surge of refugees. They’re tired, worn, stressed and desperate, according to Matt Asato, senior director of Ministry Engagement for Buckner. Many of them have not had a shower in weeks, have worn clothing and are wearing broken shoes. They possess little, according to Asato, who has visited several of the temporary detention centers in South Texas.
“As long as things in Central and South America are unbearable, people will continue to come,” Buckner President Albert Reyes said. “The question is ‘How will we respond?”
Asato told those attending the briefing that Buckner is looking for donations of new shoes and hygiene kits for children crossing the border in an effort to escape violence and poverty in their home countries.
In July, Buckner provided more than 8,000 pairs of shoes along with hygiene kits through partner organizations in the Rio Grande Valley. Buckner, which has a humanitarian aid center in Mission, Texas, needs more shoes, Asato said.
Individuals and groups can donate hygiene kits through Buckner and shoes through Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls. Shoes for teenagers are a particular need, according to Asato.
Hygiene kits should be two-gallon plastic bags with the following items:
• Bar soap
• Pocket-sized tissues
• Hand sanitizer
• Feminine hygiene products
Items can be sent to two locations, from which they will be distributed:
Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid
5405 Shoe Drive
Mesquite, Texas 75149
Buckner National Missions and Humanitarian Aid Office
3780 N. Bentsen Palm Drive
Mission, Texas 78574
Financial donations also can be made by clicking here. Donations will provide humanitarian aid to people in need.
Long-term efforts must be made to improve the living conditions in migrants’ countries of origin in order to lessen the need to flee for safety, Reyes noted. Buckner continues working with families in Guatemala to help them discover the hope and help they need to thrive, he said.
Randy Daniels, vice president for Program Development, reminded those at the briefing that Buckner’s work in countries like Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras is designed to help strengthen families to decrease the need to leave.
“Children need to be raised in families,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re in this country or another.”
The briefing included detailed information about Buckner’s grant from the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) in Guatemala. Margaret Elizabeth McKissack, director of organization and corporate affairs, said the $1 million grant received by Buckner Guatemala is helping place children in foster families and reuniting children with their biological parents.
Buckner officials said those efforts are critical as an estimated 11,000 children are expected to be returned to Guatemala from the recent U.S. border surge.
Along with donations of money, shoes and hygiene products, Buckner is seeking volunteers willing to process, sort and pack shoes for shipping. In addition, Asato said mission groups are being sought for two- to four-day mission trips to Mission.