Experience Resilience Through Migrant Stories
Working with migrants can be an amazing rewarding and inspiring experience. However, it can also result in secondary trauma, especially if you have had shared experiences with the migrants (e.g., being from one of the same countries, being an immigrant, have your human rights denied, having experienced trauma, community violence, or abuse first hand). Yet, there is another way to look at their trauma. By focusing on seeing their strengths, these migrant experiences can help create hope for you and inspire you to see how much good there is in the world despite all the negative things happening in the world. Paying attention to the strengths of migrants can inspire you to be resilient and cope with stress like they have persevered in the face of trauma. As you listen to the migrants you work with, instead of viewing them as someone to “save,” see them as equals who are courageous models of being vulnerable and asking for help despite being in completely new territory with people they do not know.
Inspiration from Working with Persevering Migrants and Colleagues
“I had the pleasure of working with a family of four that lived over the period of one year in two of the shelters that RHA serves , who fled Central America after the father was extorted and threatened. The father described to me how they hid behind bushes and ran through the rain several nights in a row to get out of the country. When they arrived to Tijuana, the now one year old was in desperate need of an oncology checkup and the older son was clearly experiencing symptoms of trauma.
RHA was able to provide connection to medical care for the baby, who is currently cancer free. Over the year, I worked with the mother on ways to calm herself, manage difficult days that had her in tears and fearful for the future, and navigate connection to Al Otra Lado and their court case. Through Al Otra Lado, in early November 2019 the family was able to obtain emergency entry to the USA in order to get medical care for the child. I was able to pick them up from a shelter in San Diego on the day they crossed into the USA, help coordinate a flight to reunite with family in the USA, and take them all to the airport to see them off for their new life. We shared a meal at the gate, talked about their hopes for the future, and all cried as they boarded their flight. They were so thankful for all of the help each person in Tijuana had given them.
I am in regular contact with the family, who as of May 2020 are doing well in their new home. The baby (now two and a half years old) is having monthly checkups and is still cancer free. The family’s asylum court date was canceled due to Covid-19 and there is no word when it will be re-scheduled, but they are hopeful they will be granted asylum status and are enjoying their safe and secure lifestyle.
A text from the mother after they boarded the plane:
Y por favor deles muchas gracias de nuestra parte a todos aquellos que aportaron para hacer nuestro sueños posible waoo me sorprende el corazón de todos uds hasta aquí vine a experimentar que existen Humanos que ver la realidad y dan todo para que todo esté bien
Como no todo el mundo fuere Haci fuera diferente no tendríamos que pasar por tanto sufrimiento ,aparte de todo también me has enseñado mucho lo aplique a mi vida 😭😭😭❤❤❤❤❤
There are times during the work we do in which it becomes easy to doubt you are making an impact. Hearing stories of trauma and helplessness regularly can create a sense of sadness and difficulty carrying on in your “normal” life, as well as create a sense of hopelessness at pondering the massive journey ahead of all of these people. It has become ever clearer to me the importance of self-care and supporting one another on our journey of providing what we can to those in need. Working alongside clinicians and coordinators at RHA continues to inspire me. Taking time to recognize stories like these, to remember that RHA plays a part in alleviating the suffering of so many people, however small the part, makes it all worth it. When things get difficult and it all seems impossible, I remember there are dozens of these success stories to celebrate.”
- Abigail Hitchen, Psychologist and RHA Well-being Coordinator