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UMCOR provides water through Humane Borders



Volunteers refill water tanks at one of 70 stations in the desert maintained by Humane Borders. A UMNS photo by Cathy Howard.

A UMNS Report
By Valerie K. Thompson*

March 5, 2007 | PHOENIX, Ariz. (UMNS)

From mid-January to May 1, economic desperation will drive more than a half million people across the Mexico border into the United States.

More than 300 of the immigrants will die from dehydration.

In response, the United Methodist Committee on Relief has donated more than $60,000 in the past year to Humane Borders Inc., a nonprofit organization providing humanitarian relief to thirsty people through more than 70 emergency water stations on and near the border.
"Humanitarian care for our brothers and sisters, who out of economic despair travel across our southern border, is the least we are called to do as Christians.""Humanitarian care for our brothers and sisters, who out of economic despair travel across our southern border, is the least we are called to do as Christians," said United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Desert Southwest Conference.

"Humane Borders provides us the opportunity to live out our faith."

In early 2006, UMCOR granted $55,000 in response to an advance application submitted on behalf of Humane Borders by the St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church in Tucson, Ariz. 

"UMCOR decided to grant the funds because it assessed that the struggles and suffering of immigrants crossing our southern border was comparable to the level of such naturally occurring human disasters as hurricanes or earthquakes," said Carcaño.  

"There was only one identifiable difference in that this situation is caused by economic disaster and has wreaked havoc and despair upon the lives of those forced to immigrate." 

'I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.'


 Workers and volunteers with Humane Borders assemble around one of two new water trucks purchased with a grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Desert Southwest Conference.

Workers and volunteers assemble around one of two new water trucks purchased with an UMCOR grant. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Desert Southwest Conference.

The UMCOR funds enabled Humane Borders to purchase two new water trucks to service water stations daily during peak times.

The water stations can be a single 65-gallon barrel or up to half a dozen barrels. They are strategically placed along footpaths north of the border-on both federal land and private ranches-where deaths most frequently have been recorded.

Placing water stations on ranches cuts down on vandalism and also reduces the risk of migrants drinking unsafe water at cattle watering stations.

Between limited resources, the unforgiving terrain and the vast influx of migrants, the water trucks and stations are critical to decreasing the death toll from dehydration during warmer months, according to the Rev. Robin Hoover, pastor of Tucson's First Christian Church and president of Humane Borders Inc.

"Between January 15 and May 1, more people will successfully cross the Mexico-United States border than live in Tucson, Arizona, and the needs of these migrants are immense," Hoover said.

Blankets and health kits



 Bishop Minerva Carcaño

Carcaño and two bishops from the Methodist Church of Mexico visited the U.S.-Mexico border last December and requested additional aid from UMCOR for Humane Borders.

As a result, another $5,000 was donated to pay for disaster relief blankets and health kits. The health kits include toothpaste, soap and other hygiene items, along with first aid materials, all of which are sealed in zip-lock bags. The blankets and health kits are distributed to nine shelters along the border, and some are kept on the water trucks for needy migrants encountered in the desert.

All of the shelters rely on financial support and assistance from various organizations ranging from faith-based to private and public organizations. One shelter, Blessed Nuno Society, is a temporary orphanage housing children separated from their families as a direct result of migration. Casa Juan Bosco, another shelter benefiting from UMCOR's contribution, typically shelters more than 100 people a night.

"We in the Desert Southwest Conference are pleased to act as a conduit of United Methodist support for the work of Humane Borders," said Carcaño. 

Rev. David McPherson, director of connectional ministries for the Desert Southwest Conference, is impressed with the efforts.

"It's great to see the United Methodist's connectional system working to help people who are caught in difficult economic and social systems," he said.

The United Methodist Church is the largest institutional supporter of Humane Borders.

*Thompson is the communications assistant editor for the Desert Southwest Conference.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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