Everyone has seen the news footage of children trudging hundreds of miles from Guatemala and El Salvador, seeking safety in the U.S. from gang violence in their home towns, only to be held in churches and detention centers across our borders. Until decisions about their legal status are made on a national level, these kids must languish in ill-prepared facilities that are barely able to meet their physical needs of food and shelter.
These images of children corralled, sometimes behind metal barriers, contrast sharply against the freedom most children enjoy in our country of neighborhoods, schools and parks.
Instead of looking away, the Criminal Justice Corrections Club on the Ontario campus decided to look into what they might do to help.
“My heart was crushed watching the children walking from other countries, running from violence in their countries,” says Angelia Crenshaw, CJC Program Director and instructor. “I spoke to CJC students about donating basic items, like toiletries, and the CJ club officers began compiling a list and collecting items from our CJ students.”
CJC students raised $250, in addition to various items donated, and one CJC student’s employer donated over $1,200 in products. Laura Torres, who graduates from the CJC program in October, told her dad, Juan, about her program’s effort. She mentioned to him that they had contacted St. Catherine of Siena Church in Rialto, where 47 children were being housed, and who were becoming dehydrated as supplies dwindled.
“Let’s go get them some water,” said Juan, without hesitation. He and Laura made a Costco run and loaded up pallets of water and cases of Gatorade to help a dire situation.
Two days before delivery was scheduled to St. Catherine’s, the CJC Club decided to take their mission campus-wide. “Let’s open it up to the whole school,” suggested Angelia.
CJC students and instructor went class-to-class, and both students and instructors were eager to help.
“The next day we had everything we asked for,” says Angelia. “They brought in shampoo, lotion, soap, baby wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste – we tried to keep it to toiletries. Plus we bought frozen vegetables with some of the money raised.”
Almost $2,000 in merchandise and cash was collected in three short days. CJC Club officers Aldo Ayon, Larisha Walker, Laura Torres and Jasmine Munoz-Turrubiartes led the charge to enormous success, and on Friday, July 18th delivery was made directly to the church.
Even though SJVC students and faculty were not allowed to meet the recipients of their humanitarian effort – the children had witnessed great anger at their presence in the U.S. – deep gratitude was expressed to them by church staff.
CJC students, in particular, got an important lesson about the criminal justice corrections career they were training to enter.
“We want to teach them that there is another side of law enforcement,” says Angelia. “You’re not just locking people up. You have to go into a community and reach out when people are in need, teach them at a young age to have respect for the law, maybe inspire them with the idea that they might want to become a police officer, too.”
Sometimes it goes even deeper.
“This experience kind of made me appreciate what I have and it was way more than these kids,” says Laura. “When it comes down to it, it pulls everyone closer to participate. Nobody knows when we’re going to be put in that kind of situation and if you do a good deed, I’m pretty sure God will give you a hand too.”