I believe there are so many wonderful individuals in the world that have made a positive difference in so many lives. In fact, it is a privilege for me to be a part of a community that can share their hearts, mind, love, and hard work to build human acceptance for another human being. It makes no difference where you are from, being in need and having to ask complete strangers for help is not easy.
My friend Jack Nooren invited me to join him to travel to Tijuana, the border town in Mexico to help feed a group of refugees that have made it this far, asking for asylum to come into the United States. We pulled up to a camp literally full of hundreds of tents side by side; watched as the people gathered and waved to Jack, knowing he is coming with food. Jack delivers food every single day and they know, trust and love seeing him. He treats them all with compassion, dignity, and makes every single person feel that they are valuable. Jack bought around 500 tents so that those who had nothing would have some sort of dwelling while there. I personally have never done anything like this or witnessed anything so heartbreaking, but at the same time witnessed the love of what just one person can do. This journey has opened my heart and has allowed me to see so much more. Thank you, Jack. I did not witness or see any “drug dealers, criminals or rapists,” instead I saw people who are frightened, lonely, and committed refugees who have walked hundreds of miles, with hopes of a better life for themselves and their families. The United States is not the only country that takes in refugees; in fact, we are one on a list of 14 developed counties that do. With Mexico being our neighbors, they work their way to the United States. Recently, when migrants started to accumulate at the border, Jack and others felt empathetic and decided to set up a kitchen to provide nutritious meals. Now they are hosting nearly 2,500 refugees in this camp and provide nutritious meals every day with the help of other partnerships. Initially, Jack purchased the meals for the first few weeks, however a great friend of his, Claye Cantwell, who owns Top-Notch Catering, graciously offered to cook these healthy and nutritious meals that Jack delivers to the border camp. Jack also receives help from World Central Kitchen, an amazing nonprofit organization along with many other people who have donated food and financial aid. They can always use more, as the camp keeps growing.
This all started when Jack heard how some of the LGBTQ+ refugees were getting beaten up. He learned about Casa de Luz approximately three years ago. It is a LBGTQ+ collective house much different from a shelter. At Casa de Luz, they become partners with refugees and migrants, as they do not just help them with their housing and life’s essential needs after a long voyage from their home country; Casa de Luz also helps them find legal assistance with their asylum application. The collective housing helps them find sponsorship in our country, which is required to find asylum in the United States. They are dedicated as they advocate for them politically and constantly working to improve their lives. Notice the key word is “HELP.” The collective house is in Playas Tijuana; it is near the beach and they have rented an old nightclub that has outgrown its needs. As Jack is in real estate investments, he decided to look for a more permanent home and found three condominiums that were for sale. He made an offer and the owners accepted it. Two of the condos will become dormitories with 22 bedrooms and one of the condos will become a guest house, which will also be available to people who wish to check out their programs and like to contribute. Also, welcoming Airbnb guests who are willing to pay with the money going back into the program. There is some extra land on the property that will allow them to build two large rooms; it will have a kitchen, dining hall and a room for social gatherings, where the resistance can watch TV and movies together. Jack is hopeful that by late summer, all construction will be completed. Fundraisers are being planned to buy new bunk beds, a TV, furniture, and appliances. They do not discriminate and always welcome your generosity. Jack recently started a 501(c)(3) under the name Casa de Luz SD. They will have a board consisting of great people with strong leadership and fundraising skills. Their new website is under construction which will have a donation link. (Casa de luz.com).
Jack shared with me: “In my life, I’ve been very blessed with two beautiful children, a successful career and wonderful friendships. When I came out late in life, I had a great support system that I still rely upon. Our life here is so good that we sometimes do not realize how great we have it. We dwell on not getting our meal on time at a restaurant or having to stand in line at the Apple store to get your new $1,000 iPhone. There so many people living with real hardship since they cannot live openly within their sexual orientation, and fear persecution every single day as there’s no police protection. There is so many people at the border with an extremely hard past looking for a brighter future. If we become more empathetic, we can help so many people finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I have received so much love and kindness and appreciation from so many new friends I have met at the border. I strongly encourage anyone interested in getting involved to reach out to me.” Jack Nooren: [email protected] or text 858-750-5000.
Until we have walked in their shoes, then we have no idea what it is like to be helpless, only hoping and praying that the strangers they meet will treat them with dignity as human beings and help them finish their journey toward a better life. I believe in my heart that we all deserve that.