Christmas greetings from El Paso - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 2020 newsletter


Coralis Salvador, U.S.-Mexico Border


María with Carol and me, trying on beanies before leaving for the cold Northwest.


Spread love everywhere you go (Mother Teresa)

 St. Francis of Assisi said, “For we have been called to heal wounds, to bind up the broken and to call home any who have lost their way.” This quote describes some of the services we give our guests, who are asylum seekers released from detention.

María is a petite, indigenous woman, who escaped from a gang of rapists in Guatemala. Her courage and street instinct enabled her to cross the border and seek asylum in El Paso. In spite of her inability to speak Spanish (or English), she was able to fend for herself and persevered in getting out of detention through her pro bono legal support. She then stayed at our shelter until we could find means for her to get to her sister’s home in the Northwest.

Amelia’s beadwork

Amelia’s beadwork

Amelia, a single woman in her early 40s, has cared for her nephew. Both of them fled El Salvador to prevent her nephew from being recruited by rival gangs. Sadly, the coyote van that was transporting them to cross the border had an accident that left them with serious injuries.

They were brought to our shelter by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after they were released from the University Medical Center. They were both in wheelchairs and needed plenty of support. The nephew recovered faster and transitioned to using crutches to walk. Amelia still needed to travel to their final destination in her wheelchair.

The shelter provides several activities for the adults: books, writings, parlor or card games, sports, puzzles, sewing, knitting or bead work. Amelia learned to do bead works by making bracelets and necklaces. She felt it could help her start to earn some money to sustain her while on the road to recovery.

To help deal with their trauma, we also encourage our guests to do adult coloring. This activity allows the brain to experience relief by entering a meditative state. It lowers people’s level of stress and anxiety.

¡Feliz cumpleaños! Birthday celebration at the shelter

¡Feliz cumpleaños! Birthday celebration at the shelter ¡Feliz cumpleaños! Birthday celebration at the shelter

We celebrate the guests who have birthdays during their stay. Carol, our site coordinator, is a whiz at baking goodies. After dinner, we surprise the celebrant with a birthday cake and everyone at the table joins in singing for the occasion.

We volunteers serve our guests like caring for family members. We love to ease their hardships and give them a peaceful, caring transition moment before they embark on their new lives and challenges in the U.S.

As we celebrate Christ’s birth, we are reminded that “True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it” (Daniel Goleman).

We appreciate and are grateful for your continued support.

May your Christmas and 2021 be truly blessed!

Much love,


Coralis Salvador
Coralis is a community volunteer at a shelter for asylum seekers released from ICE or CBP detentions and at “La Tilma” feeding program of Sacred Heart Church in El Paso, Texas. She previously served with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Kenya for 19 years. She is the co-author of the Orbis book What’s So Blessed About Being Poor?