Voices from the Border is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization based in Patagonia, Arizona, which formed following the Women’s March of January 2017.
Inspired by the values of justice, compassion, and human dignity, VFTB serves migrants, refugees, and those living in extreme poverty in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico through direct humanitarian aid.
We do this by financially and physically supporting the work of Nurse/Medical Assistant Francisco (Pancho) Olachea Martin who, before the pandemic, drove his ambulance from the port of entry (the arrival point of migrants seeking asylum) to local hospitals and shelters, thus providing the only free medical care to migrants and asylum seekers in Nogales, Sonora.
Volunteers brought clothing, food, and toiletries across the border at the point of entry, helped Pancho distribute them, and also provided services such as art opportunities, children's games, and ESL classes in the local shelters.
Because of COVID-19, at the end of February, all Voices volunteers made the decision to stop crossing, still with a hopeful 'wait and see' attitude. Around the first week of March, all programs that help migrants in Nogales, Sonora, as well as shelters, stopped accepting volunteers.
In late March 2020, with the Coronavirus starting to spread, and the lack of proper PPE’s - Personal Protective Equipment - Pancho made the very difficult decision, encouraged and supported by his volunteers/friends, to stop attending to people on the streets.
On March 20, 2020, the Trump administration announced it would stop formally processing asylum claims and began summarily deporting all migrants crossing the border. So the asylum seekers who were still waiting in Nogales got stuck - in shelters and in rentals. The situation got worse, because many of those who were able to work, lost their jobs due to COVID.
Update as of March 17, 2021
We’ve been providing aid that includes food, clothes, blankets, heaters, medicines, doctor and dentist appointments, diagnostic tests, medical procedures, one major surgery, rent monies to asylum seekers - Most of who are not MPP’s and were in the metering system and then got stuck in Nogales. Currently, we’re providing aid to 64 adults - two women are pregnant, one 8 months - and 107 children on a monthly basis.
Included in that number are 13 adults and 13 children living in three apartments that we rent and have provided the necessary appliances and basic furnishings for. These apartments are in a small apartment complex, centrally located and within walking distance to Kino Border Initiatives Comedor, in a neighborhood where other migrant families are also staying. One of the apartments we’re renting is also used for weekly prayer services and bible study for the kids. The prayer services and bible study is an initiative that was self-organized and conducted by the migrants themselves. Though we fully support them in this initiative, Voices is not officially affiliated with any particular faith.
We’re also providing aid to a small shelter - a bus station that has been converted to a shelter. We’ve paid for some roof repairs and have been assisting them with their electric bills so they are able to use the heaters we’ve also provided. There are about 40 asylum seekers living there currently.
We provide aid to deportees on a daily basis as needed, and as we can afford. This can include money for medicines, food, transportation, doctor appointments, and shelter. We want to clarify that migrants who are not Mexican do not qualify for medical care - only in extreme emergencies.
We also work in coordination with Artisans Beyond Borders in supporting asylum seekers in a way that both honors a cultural craft and provides economic empowerment. Bordadoras (embroiderers) create pieces of handmade heritage art while they wait at the border in Nogales, Sonora. The multi-purpose manta cloths are for sale on the Artisans Beyond Borders website.
We send a monthly stipend to a young Guatemalan woman. The rest of her family - mother, father, and 2 brothers - requested asylum 2 1/2 years ago, were released, and live with their sponsor, a relative. Their daughter was sent back to detention because she was 19 and considered an adult without dependent children. She was deported back to Guatemala after 3 months in detention. Her monthly stipend helps her and her ailing grandparents. Because the parents have now been granted asylum, her case is being processed again, the hope is that she'll be able to join her family.
Two Voices members have been sponsoring a Russian asylum seeker since she was released from detention last February. Her case is slowly winding through the asylum courts. Voices is contributing with monthly expenses including food and medical care.
Our monthly spend to serve the migrant population in Nogales, Sonora is around $4500 US and with the need increasing, that number will also.
Our equation has always been simple - the more we raise, the more we can help.
Voices from the Border
Employer id number (ein)
AddressPO BOX 7