In early March, Carebears, one of M-A’s largest service clubs, went on their second annual U.S.-Mexico border trip to hand-deliver care packages to migrant children.
Amid the reemergence of the U.S.-Mexico border crisis in 2021, Care Bears presidents seniors Ella Bohmann Farrell and Faith Cropper took action by directing aid toward migrant children at the US-Mexico border. So they started the Carebears club and found schools and shelters in need in a lesser-known impoverished border town called Calexico, bordering Mexicali.
Bohmann Farrell said, “I read lots of articles about the issues going on at the border and the terrible living conditions for migrant children and it broke my heart. So, I began reaching out to shelters in border towns to see what we could do to help out migrant students. After visiting, I learned that they really needed school supplies and hygiene supplies. I also learned that some students facing immigration and deportation complications can only travel with what they have on their backs, so backpacks would be a really helpful donation.”
Throughout the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, Care Bears—composed of almost 100 M-A students—fundraised over $9,000 through donation letters, bake sales, and restaurant-endorsed events. Then they hosted a large-scale backpack and clothing drives all in preparation for their backpack distribution in Calexico in May 2022.
On the trip this year, the Care Bears assembled and donated about 200 new backpacks with school supplies, pencil pouches, socks, fidget toys, and aluminum water bottles. They partnered with the Calexico Unified School District (CUSD) for the second time and distributed the care packages in Calexico’s City Hall park, as it is on the way home for CUSD’s migrant students who commute to school from Mexico every day. The park is located just four blocks away from the border and is in the poorest valley in California.
The 16 M-A students on the trip were able to see and walk up to the border as well as chat with dozens of CUSD students. With over half of the club able to speak Spanish, the Carebears hosted a fluid exchange with their peers and discussed commonalities like their favorite popular artists and post-high school plans.
Judith Mazon, one of the CUSD migrant education specialists, aided Care Bears throughout their time in Calexico and helped make the backpack distribution more fluid, as she works with these students daily.
Mazon explained, “I work solely with migrant students, which means many of their parents work in agriculture or the fishing industry. These parents work about 16-hour shifts a day and can not be with their children all day. My job is to track these students and make sure they are coming into school, they are living in a safe environment, have enough food and so on.”
She continued, “We often take kids out to dinner for their birthdays or take them shopping since they don’t have the parent figure around. We try to keep the parents involved by hosting parent meetings and updating them about their student’s progress. We also take students on college tours to the local UCs and help them write applications and submit scholarships. I also help foster students find hotels here in Calexico, and if it’s needed, I will pay out of pocket so children in our district have somewhere to stay.”
Bohmann Farrell said, “The CUSD administrators like Judith, Jorge, and Hortencia who have helped us through this whole process are truly the most kind-hearted and incredible people I’ve ever met. Their dedication to creating a tight-knit and loving community in CUSD is so impressive and the sacrifices they make every single day for their students are so admirable. These are the types of people that deserve the most celebrating.”
After the trip, Care Bears attendees reflected on their experience and were incredibly grateful to experience this exposure to a different way of life, in a place just a seven-hour drive away.
Sophomore Paulina Cisneros, who attended both trips, said, “It was really surprising how many backpacks we were able to give out to the community. It was almost three times as much as we were able to give out last year, so it was really great to see the club’s growth. The most valuable thing I took away from this trip was getting to learn more about what people in the Calexico community experience. Learning more about the challenges they face in order to receive an education opened my eyes to how privileged we are here at M-A. It was also nice to see how these students really care for one other as well as their families.”
Sophomore Crystal Rios also attended the trip both years. She said, “I loved seeing how everyone on the trip made the kids feel welcome by speaking Spanish. It made me realize I need to be more appreciative of what I have because the kids at the border barely have anything, and even then, they were not only thinking about themselves but most of them took backpacks for their siblings as well. It really stuck with me when kids with really ripped-up backpacks would get to pick out a new one.”
It was junior Sandy Leon’s first time on the trip and she said, “It was interesting to see how border control in Calexico was not as ‘over the top’ as the other borders, and we were able to look into Mexicali and get a glimpse of what the town looked like. This trip really helped me realize that even the smallest gestures can make someone’s day. When I would tell the kids that the backpacks and snacks we had out were free, they were so shocked and grateful which was so meaningful for me to see.”
Mazon concluded, “M-A students are extremely lucky to live in an area that offers so many employment opportunities. Even if someone decides not to go to college, you live in an area where you are able to be successful without a university degree. So many companies offer so many job opportunities, so take advantage of all the resources that are available to you in Silicon Valley, because not many students down here in Imperial Valley have that same security.”