Youth build Promise Packs to encourage unaccompanied children at border
Jose Barron remembers the first time he received a donated backpack full of school supplies and necessities. He was 9 and his family was struggling to make ends meet.
The encouraging note someone left in that pack gave him hope through a difficult season of life.
"When I got my first backpack, I knew there was someone who cared about me," says Jose, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico as a child.
Now 23, Jose and dozens of other volunteers from the Puget Sound area recently assembled more than 200 Promise Packs — backpacks filled with supplies including a blanket, toothbrush, shampoo, school supplies, activity books, and other materials. Once assembled, they will ship to World Vision's warehouse in North Texas and given to the children affected by the growing humanitarian crisis along the U.S. border.
"I feel like I'm doing something productive to help the community," says Inoke Vaea, 16, of Burien, Washington, who volunteered with friends from Our Future Matters, a youth leadership group south of Seattle.
World Vision is working with churches and community partners across the U.S., including California, Texas, Florida, and New York, to supply unaccompanied children with items such as: clothing, school supplies, and activities for children.
The packing event signals progress toward World Vision's goal of equipping partner organizations in 15 temporary shelters around the country to care for the children in transition. Many children and youth arrive to the border with little more than the clothes on their backs.
"Anything that they can receive as their own, that's what's important," says Phyllis Freeman, World Vision's domestic emergency response director. "As a backpack, it's easy for them to take from location to location."
The organization also is furnishing cleaning supplies, paper products, and other materials to equip the local centers that are hosting children. In addition, World Vision is providing child protection training to staff from partner organizations who are working directly with children.
Back at the Pacific Northwest warehouse, Jose wrote a note to a future Promise Pack recipient: "God bless you, take care of you." After slipping it into a full backpack, he highlighted this event's special meaning for him.
"Now I get to help those kids that are in need," he says. "It's really touching to do that card. (When they receive the packs), they're going to look at the stuff differently. They're going to say, 'You know, there is someone that cares about me.'"