California, a mother and her son look to their future at the Immigrant Defenders Law Center

Ana and Diego left everything they know behind to find treatment for the 8-year-old’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

California, a young boy plays with a toy truck and dump truck.

A young boy plays with a toy car and dump truck outside of a shared temporary emergency shelter.

Families on the Move: Welcoming Families at the U.S. Border

by Eva Fordham, Senior Advisor, Individual Philanthropy, Save the Children

On May 15 & 16, just a few days after the expiration of Title 42, I had the privilege of visiting our work along the western end of the southern U.S. border. I had no idea what to expect, with predictions ranging from total chaos to eerie quiet, but I was eager to encounter these programs specifically. Save the Children partners with 41 organizations, including 36 along the border from Texas to California and five interior organizations located in Washington DC, Chicago and New York, providing material, financial and training support. 

So, on Tuesday, May 15, I hopped on a bus in San Diego, along with a small group of close supporters of Save the Children, to visit our partner agencies welcoming children as they enter the U.S. with their families. It was a packed day, filled with site visits from end to end, but some of the children and families I encountered will stay with me forever. 

A Mother’s Last Hope
Two such people are Ana* and her 8-year-old son, Diego*, who we met at the offices of an organization Save the Children supports with yearly grants. A year previously, Diego, a soft-spoken boy, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after a difficult medical journey in Mexico that included repeated misdiagnoses. Doctors in Tijuana finally told Ana there was nothing they could do for him and instructed her to take her son home and prepare for his death. Of course, no mother could easily accept such news, so Ana and Diego made the journey to the U.S. to stay with a cousin, and together, they relentlessly pursued a way forward. 

California, a mother holds her baby as they play in a transit center supported by Jewish Family Services.

Mother Adriana* holds her baby Sofia* as they play in a transit center supported by a partner of Save the Children.

California, a mother and father stand with their daughter in front of their shared temporary emergency shelter

Emerson* and wife Natacha*, who migrated from Haiti, stand with their daughter in front of their shared temporary emergency shelter.

Their tenacity has paid off. Diego now receives care at a children’s hospital and attorneys have helped advocate for he and his mother to remain in the U.S.

Today, Diego a is thriving, active child who idolizes soccer great Lionel Messi, loves books, playing with his friends, pizza and spending time with his mom. Ana says she and her son feel reborn after their harrowing journey to a cure, but they miss home in Tijuana where Ana hopes to reunite with her other children one day.

Stories like this stop me in my tracks. A mother who made the impossible choice to leave everything behind and face complete uncertainty for the chance to save her child. Ana and Diego’s experience is a powerful reminder of why our work at the border is so important. No child deserves anything less than a fighting chance to grow up, regardless of where they live. When we pause for a moment and remember that every single person – man, woman and child – crossing the border is human just like the rest of us with a complex life and the same basic needs, it is impossible to feel there is any option other than to help. 

Joy in the Essentials
We met more children and families at a shelter, where I noticed a palpable sense of relief in the faces of weary travelers. For the first time, sometimes in months or years, they finally felt safe. Children played together, getting back to the business of being kids after enduring a terrifying journey toward the dream of a better life. 

At our final stop of the day, we met “Mr. Jimmy,” who migrated from Haiti with his family over 25 years ago. Today he oversees an organization that helps to make the journey for immigrants safer and more comfortable. Migrant families now find shelter, food, healthcare and placement services through his organization. 

On the day of our visit, we were brought to a modest home shared by three families. While we played with the children living in the house, helping them cross the monkey bars, pushing them on swings and watching them take turns on the slide, Mr. Jimmy told us about one of the ways Save the Children’s partnership means a great deal to him and to those who come through his many doors. 

A significant number of the women who arrive at the border, Mr. Jimmy explained, are either pregnant or have recently given birth. For these new and expecting parents, diapers are a precious resource. The simple security of enough diapers, something so many of us take for granted, offers a feeling of comfort and hope to people who have made the decision to risk it all for the promise of something better. 

As we talked, the children playfully borrowed sunglasses from our visiting group. Before we knew it, they were all sporting our various shades as they darted around the playground. Just kids being kids thanks to the system of supports our donors help make possible. 

The more I visit our programs in person, the more I wonder what it would be like if Save the Children wasn’t here. I am proud to be part of an organization that prioritizes the rights of children, no matter the situation. Unlike most people, I have the privilege of seeing our work first-hand and can say that if it wasn’t for our mission, powered by our caring team and the generosity of our donors, this work simply would not be possible.

I hope you can join us to ensure that children, escaping unthinkable circumstances, have the resources they need to feel a sense of peace after a journey they probably have never imagined.

U.S. Border Children's Relief Fund - Save the Children

*Names changed for security

Photos: Victoria Ziegler/Save the Children


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