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Acting Director of Service-Learning
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Arizona: Spring Break 07
11 Eckerd College students spent their 2007 Spring Break doing service in the Arizona – Mexico Borderlands. The group was hosted by Humane Borders, an organization founded in 2000 in response to the ever-growing number of migrant deaths in the desert, which have risen at a staggering rate every year since 1994. As the U.S. Border Patrol has stepped up security in historically popular crossing areas, increasing numbers of migrants have begun to attempt to cross the Sonoran Desert. In this inhospitable region, migrant deaths are all too common, and frequently are the result of exposure, including heat stroke, dehydration and hypothermia). In order to help prevent needless deaths from dehydration, Humane Borders maintains over 90 water stations throughout southern Arizona and parts of Northern Mexico.
The group’s time in Arizona and Mexico was spent alternatively performing service with Humane Borders and learning about both sides of the immigration debate. Logging over 1,000 miles over 6 days in their rental minivan, they traveled throughout the Sonoran Desert to refill and flush out stations at Organ Pipe National Monument, Buenos Aires National Wildlife refuge and everywhere in between. In addition to maintaining water stations, the group worked at a deported migrant assistance tent in the border city of Nogales, Mexico, and did maintenance work at Tucson’s First Christian Church (home of Humane Borders).
When they weren’t performing service, the group traveled to the border cities of Agua Prieta and Sasabé, visited with the Douglas Border Patrol and with Mexico’s humanitarian equivalent, Grupo Beta, toured a tiny fair trade coffee roaster, and survived a (very bumpy) 1.5 hour trek via an unpaved road made of sand to Altar, the tiny Sonoran town that has become a staging ground for migrants about to make the journey north.
The group also made time for some fun, as well, visiting the historic towns of Tombstone and Bisbee, seeing desert flora and fauna up close at Arizona/Sonora Desert Museum, buying paletas from a roadside vendor on the way back from Agua Prieta and battling with the self checkout machine at Fry’s, Tucson’s local grocery store.
It was a long and tiring trip, but all came away from the experience with a greater understanding of our country’s immigration issues. Many thanks go out to those who helped us during our trip, especially Sue Goodman and Robin Hoover, and the First Christian Church of Tucson for hosting us for 8 nights.