Los Samaritanos: A Presentation on June 14, 2017

Los Samaritanos
A healing presence along the border, presentation by Gail Frank

Wednesday, June 14, 7 pm, Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita

Free of Charge

Gail B. Frank

Gail Frank is a long time resident of the Oregon Coast. For over ten years, she wrote a monthly column for the North Coast Citizen on the joys of life in a small town. She often presents writing workshops in Manzanita for aspiring writers and was a director of stage plays for the Coaster Theatre Playhouse in Cannon Beach for many years.

When Gail began spending winters in Green Valley, Arizona, forty miles from the U.S./Mexico border, she became intrigued by the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans, a group whose mission is to “save human lives in the Southern Arizona desert.”

When I attended my first Samaritan meeting, I expected to find seven people in a small room talking about how to help migrants. Instead I found 75 people, almost all of them over 60 years of age who were searching the desert to give water, food and first aid to people who were fleeing violence in their homeland, looking for a better life or trying to reunite with their families in the United States.  Imagine, little old ladies in tennis shoes tromping around the desert in 100-degree heat calling out “hola, somos amigos,´¿necessita ayuda.”

Established in 2005 to be a complement to the Tucson Samaritans, the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans engage in desert searches and water drops. They also help with the Kino Border Initiative aid station, El Comedor, which serves deported migrants two meals a day in Nogales, Sonora for a few weeks until they decide what to do next. Samaritans serve as witnesses at Operation Streamline court proceedings which take place every weekday afternoon in Tucson. The fast track court system was originally designed to serve as a deterrent with a goal of zero tolerance for illegal entry. Multiple studies show it is a program that does not achieve its goal and instead splits up families and costs taxpayers enormous amounts of money to keep migrants in mostly private prison systems.

Gail will share experiences of her work at El Comidor as well as her observations of Operation Streamline. In her efforts to put a “human face” on the complex issue of immigration, Gail will use photographs, her own writings and that of others, and found objects from migrant trails. She will provide resources on where to learn more and what one can do to help in this humanitarian effort.  Books on Borderland Issues will be available for purchase.

Financial contributions for the Samaritans will be accepted and appreciated. Samaritans is run by volunteers and funded entirely by donations. Any money raised will be used to provide water, food, blankets, clothing and first aid for migrants as well as gasoline and maintenance for search and water vehicles.  Gail’s belief is that “they” are not coming to save us; it is up to us. We are they, the ones we’ve been waiting for.

 

Pilgrimage: Photos and Stories of The Refugee Crisis in Greece on April 17

A Manzanita woman has been an up-close witness to the humanitarian crisis that has washed upon the shores of a Greek island — 6,200 hundred miles from the Oregon coast — the first, safe haven for tens of thousands of refugees desperately fleeing the death, destruction, and tragedy of civil and other warfare in the Middle East.

Mindi Bender, a retired special education teacher from Michigan, made it her mission to help however she could last year when she visited friends on the island of Lesvos. The island lies in the eastern Aegean Sea, facing the Turkish coast. At the closest point, the two landmasses are only 3.4 miles apart. That proximity has made the island a logical destination for refugees and economic migrants.

Bender will share her experiences — in pictures and words — with fellow Oregonians before she returns to Greece later this month. “Pilgrimage: Photos and Stories of The Refugee Crisis in Greece” will be presented Monday, Apr. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita.

Bender first learned of the refugee crisis in 2015. “I have visited Lesvos since 1989 for yoga retreats,” said Bender. “I love the people of Lesvos. Their economy and the tourist industry in Molivos village have been decimated by this crisis.”

Before international aid organizations arrived in the autumn of 2015, the local Greeks were dealing with the flood of refugees.

“The wider world didn’t take notice until media carried pictures of a drowned toddler washing ashore. I saw some online video footage recorded by someone I knew there who was dealing with the search and rescue efforts daily,” she said. “I recognized my favorite places all along the shoreline, and felt deeply called to go there and be of service. I found several local and international humanitarian aid groups accepting volunteers.”

Bender spent three months on Lesvos last spring, working with the local community, helping with the environmental clean-up effort, and volunteering with a humanitarian organization in a refugee camp. She also taught an English language class to refugee children from several different countries.

Bender hopes her presentation will give a human perspective on what has been happening. She will share photos, tell some stories, and have a variety of news articles to peruse. “I want to share the beauty of the people I met there. I want to personalize this crisis,” she said. “These are beautiful human beings living in dire circumstances, hoping to start new lives in safe places.”

The presentation in Manzanita will be free of charge.

Financial contributions will be accepted and greatly appreciated. All donations will be used to purchase a variety of necessary goods, educational materials, medical supplies, etc., and will be selectively distributed to directly benefit refugees and trusted organizations.