In Matamoros in Mexico, on the banks of the Rio Grande river, lies a refugee camp with around 2500 asylum seekers from different parts of Central America. They are all waiting for their asylum cases to be processed by US authorities. The city of Brownsville, Texas, lies just across the river.
The camp is served by a coalition of grass root groups and volunteers, with infrastructure funded in part by the Mexican government. The NGO Global Response Management (GRM) provides medical assistance in the camp since September 2019. The team received four Better Shelter units in 2019, which they now use in their daily operations:
– Right after delivery to the camp, a group of American volunteers walked up and asked if they could help in our clinic. This was an all-female group consisting of a nurse, a college professor, and some undergraduate and graduate students from a university in Ohio,
says Blake Davis, Paramedic and Director of Operations at Global Response Management in Matamoros. He continues:
– We do not allow any medical providers to treat patients prior to proper vetting and background checks. I asked them if they would like to build a house. They immediately went to work, and as the day went by a few asylum seekers came over and quietly started to help. We ended up with a group of twelve asylum seekers that went to work building the other three structures. As the day began to close and the other Americans and myself needed to walk back to the US before sunset, I asked the asylum seekers if they were going to finish construction tomorrow? They very humbly shook their head and said they would finish tonight. They completed three structures before I was back in the camp at 8:00 the next morning! The fourth was built a few weeks later after a stretch of bad weather.
The Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OBGYN)/ private exam room was the first structure to be completed. Two days a week this RHU is used for OBGYN exams. GRM’s team does private exams here the rest of the week.
Living right next to the clinic, and unknown to GRM medical staff for a month of operations, was an asylum seeker from Nicaragua who is a pharmacist. Today, she manages all of GRM’s medications to ensure proper distribution to patients. This has taken the burden off of GRM’s medical staff, and the increased space allows GRM to safely store all of their medications and medical equipment next to the clinic. Another asylum seeker, who began nursing school before leaving her country, assists in the pharmacy as well.
The third shelter functions as a child friendly space for the children who accompany their parents that are being seen by the doctors. This provides a welcoming and safe area for them to play, practice reading and get away from the living conditions they are forced to endure.
The fourth shelter is operated by the humanitarian nonprofit Team Brownsville, which uses it as a warehouse to store tents, cooking supplies, and cots.