Gila Bend to Yuma, AZ.
This last leg of my trip to Yuma was made possible by the good graces of Danny. He was more than generous. Also he was a really fast, fun friend to make along the way.
I had just walked down the road from Gila Bend to Interstate 8 towards Yuma. Danny felt a spiritual call, and he pulled over when he saw me. He just so happened to be passing through Yuma on his way to Mexico to visit family.
Danny considered himself a real Mexican regardless of his citizenship. Although other Mexicans would see him as a Chicano, he considered himself a Pisa. He was proud to be a real Mexican.
I enjoyed this part of our conversation the most because I hadn’t heard the term, Pisa, before. Besides, the last two rides that I had accepted were both from older people. So, naturally, it was relieving to relish in our shared experiences.
It was not only pleasantly validating but an empowering moment we shared. While we both came from very different backgrounds we both saw the reality, the situations, the struggles faced by our generation. We weren’t alone.
On the way to Yuma, we discussed everything from education to unemployment and the current federal government to #LegalizeIt.
While the United States is not openly and explicitly corrupt there are a lot of issues happening in this country as there are in some Mexican states and Central American countries. Some may believe that the blatantly violent corruption of those far off lands is a stark juxtaposition to the United States. I would argue that none of my friends of color, or those that have seen small town corruption and nepotism in action, would agree.
We of course changed the subject once it got too heavy. We talked about the environment, love, what things make us anxious, and God.
Danny helped remind me to refocus from taking in the sights and sounds — some of the reasons that I had started out in El Paso to begin with. So when he departed towards his home, he had left me at the door of the Yuma Community Food Bank.
So thanks again, Danny.
When volunteers at the food bank saw me, they saw my pack first. They saw my traveled appearance and my trusty gallon of water.
Usually, these are the trappings of someone seeking assistance. However, this time, surprise washed over their faces as I said, “I’m here to volunteer.”
Hands for labor and a mind to help.
Yesterday, Friday afternoon, right in the nick of time before they closed, I wrote my name on their registry and made a commitment. “I’ll be back here on Monday, when you open at 9 a.m., to volunteer until July.” About three months of service.
When I started backpacking from El Paso, Texas to San Diego, CA, my intention was to photograph the Border, the nature, and the happenings around it, as a fundraiser.
I didn’t want the project to come off as some sort of “white savior” mission. So at first, I tried to embrace the adventure as my own and the fundraising as tertiary.
I wanted to raise money to donate to organizations that were helping asylum-seekers. At first, it was solely about helping organizations that were doing the work — at arm’s length. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Texas RioGrande Legal Aide, have been helping these refugees either jump through the hoops of citizenship, or those of asylum.
At the very least, I wanted to dispel the misinformation that, not only perpetuated racism, but further endangered these people. I wanted to put my own advocacy journalism on top of this issue, laying out the facts in my own archives. Then, drawing on that original knowledge-base, work constantly on breaking through the haze.
Beyond that, I needed to chip away at the blinders of misinformation. Because those blinders don’t solely exist in front of the eyes of those looking at immigration policies. Those same blind eyes turn their gaze upon the world.
The world that I always wanted to live in is a meritocracy. The opposite paradigm of the current administration. A direct democracy built on progressive ideals. Not simply a Democratic-Republic run by corporations, but an inclusive democracy governing in the best interest of every individual.
But more on that later.
The Humanitarian Crisis
From reading out of curiosity, I knew on a basic level, some of the real reasons behind the massive humanitarian crisis at the border. This journey began from that as a fact-finding mission to create original articles dispelling the lies from the President’s right.
I knew that a Wall in the desert, currently growing to 30 feet tall in Yuma, was not the answer.
However, since first leaving El Paso my laissez-faire opinion had changed. There was another way to show people real solutions, but unfortunately it didn’t dawn on me how it could be done until I got closer to Phoenix. That’s when I read a report from the Arizona Republic.
Nonprofits were calling for volunteers in Yuma. Border Patrol had given the organizations a day’s notice that they were to release detained migrant families. However, in massive numbers, and without guidance, migrant families were going to be left to the desert, rising racism, and no resources.
I left the library on a secondary mission.
“Meh,” has more or less, become the new religious chant in America.
There’s always a reason to be inactive now. The comfort and distraction is real. And in a way that scares my hopes for the future.
That fear drives me more than any FOX News commentators’ fear-mongering, because it may be stronger than the desire to help others.
I didn’t want to succumb to this “meh” anymore than I wanted to continue finding comfort in insecurity. “Who is John Galt?” Right?
This and my growing discontent with the circumstances of politics and journalism today, tied with a deep need for a feeling of complete freedom, got me on a bus from Denver, CO down to El Paso in the first place.
From that decision, I found the lifestyle of being a digital nomad nearly fulfilling rather quickly. Prior to this, I had practiced disciplining my vegan diet and my fasting. Now, living the nomadic lifestyle every day is a new adventure.
My desire to see a better world for myself, and my imaginary future family, was not satiated however.
Once again reforming my vision, I had left Phoenix towards Yuma’s refugee response. I needed to get closer to what was happening, not just report from arms-length as I passed through.
From this, yet another, a third, vision has emerged.
I saw that what my project was doing could go farther with a hands-on approach.
Protecting new Americans and those seeking peace here, was not enough to keep them protected from another dictator, another gang, another Trump.
As much as I don’t know, I’m exceedingly confident that I know enough to be optimistic and steadfast in my ideals. Some would even say that I may be more aware of the world than most. And I’m still optimistic!
Isn’t that what we all need? Maybe most of all, refugees need a hopeful examination of the world from an American perspective. A perspective of democracy built on freedom and amendments to our shortcomings.
Still, that sounds a bit too much like a white savior mission, no?
Even looking at the Yuma organizations making a difference on this issue, there’s an underlying philosophical cornerstone that a lot of Americans, especially my generation, can’t completely work beside.
Is it the nonprofits, or from which directions we come to find them?
Perhaps a third party, a digital nomad volunteer group could act as partners to orgs such as the Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army Social Services.
In addition to volunteering with these orgs, that’s my next mission.
I want to create a nonprofit that not only educates future digital nomads but inspires location independent newsrooms around humanitarian crises, human rights, and a better democracy.
Hopefully, connecting teachers, nurses, first responders, and journalists to better policies, better politicians, and better politics, can create a better world.
If you’re in the Yuma area, come find me. Consider volunteering with some of these great organizations. And if you like my nonprofit idea, leave your comments below.