By Sister Darlene Pienschke, SDS
Desert Mission – Tucson, Arizona
Hello once again from Casa Alitas, whose staff continues to welcome all in spite of Covid’s contagious variants, new compliance protocols, need for “fashionable” protective clothing, and a new, but necessary, designated area of isolation.
Although the Arizona-Mexican border remains closed, Casa Alitas’ doors always remain open, ready to welcome immigrants persistent in crossing the desert with determination to come to America, whether it be day or night! We are also aware, and anticipate, that once the border reopens, asylum seekers will arrive by the hundreds, so we must be prepared! But for now, today, we were alerted and were waiting for 14 Venezuelan immigrants.
A week ago, seven immigrants arrived from Central America. Two tested positive for Covid and needed to be immediately quarantined in isolation. Such experiences help us to continually adjust and redefine guidelines for everyone’s safety and protection. Therefore, today, after I arrived at the Casa, I waited for Dr. C. to share details regarding the “new regulations, new protocols and our new ‘fashionable’ gear” — protective barriers!
Dr. C. smiled as he returned, handing me an N-95 mask, plastic face shield, personal disposable gown, gloves and paperwork. Fortunately, I was well acquainted with notations for physical screenings, but donning my new attire, I felt like a zombie and more than likely, looked and sounded like one, my words Spanish muffled through layers of masking, buffeted by shield- wear. The only human part made visible were two eyes peering over my N-95 mask through a shield.
Within 20 minutes, our guests arrived — tired, weary, hungry and relieved to have arrived safely. All were young adults.
Having been welcomed, given refreshing drinks and a short orientation, each lined up for a Rapid Covid Test. All were negative! Then, Dr. C and I completed the physicals. Of those I interviewed, after their brief stay with us at Casa Alitas, I noted they would be continuing to their destination to their sponsors in Texas.
By four o’clock, I was ready to shed “my gear.” On my drive home I reflected on the goodness of the day, and how well the staff are confronting the unknowns of Covid, dealing well with its threatening realities, and the recent loss from Covid of one of our faithful and loved physicians. Together, as we support one another, we are meeting the challenges, overcoming and penetrating through necessary barriers of masks and shields, loss of loved ones — both at Casa Alitas and at home — while depending on God’s strength to embody our Savior’s goodness and kindness in our current and changing environment of this Mission with Migrants.