Imagine your first experience in America being in a new country and not trying to figure out where you will stay or where to get your items from baggage claim but sitting in a cold, unfriendly building waiting for a complete stranger to decide your family’s fate. That is where we begin our story with Emanise and her three children on June 6th, 2019. Emanise is a single mother, Diana is 11 years old, Betiana is 9 years old, and the youngest, Danilo, is 7 years old.
Emanise, alone with her children, waits patiently to get inspected and questioned before they pass through immigration. Her heart begins to beat faster and her palms are sweating, unsure of what’s to come. She holds the hand of her youngest son Danilo, who has special needs, then they all clasp hands before walking into the inspection room.
Originally from Haiti, the family fled to Venezuela in search of a better life and found themselves battling similar problems and political difficulties. In search of something, anything better, Emanise took a leap of faith and traveled north with her family until they reached the U.S. – Mexico border. Once there, they presented themselves at the San Ysidro port of entry and asked for asylum.
After being released from detention, they ended up at a migrant shelter in downtown. The shelter was created to assist families passing through San Diego on their way to reunite with family or friends in other cities and states, so the family was in dire need of finding a more permanent solution. Finding housing for anyone in San Diego, as we all know, is not an easy task let alone for an asylum-seeking family in a short amount of time. Not sure of the future but with high hopes and trust that she made the right decision for her family, their program coordinator at the migrant center in downtown made a call to Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigrant Services for help. Through the Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego (CCDSD), they were able to connect the family with a San Diego Catholic parish. Fortunately, and in a very rare situation, the Pastor of the parish was able to offer the family temporary housing. The parish volunteers fixed up the apartment that the family is living in, and re-did the plumbing, flooring, electrical outlets, and more over many months in order to get it ready for a family in need to move into. When it was finally finished, the parish reached out to CCDSD at just the right time for Emanise and her family to move-in. The volunteers have also graciously been providing donated food on a weekly basis, and Emanise and her children attend Spanish-language mass every weekend. CCDSD provided all of the donated furnishings such as the beds, couches, bed sheets, utensils, and toiletry items just to name a few.
Delighted, Emanise and her children rejoiced! They not only found a house, but they were finally able to rest and focus on resettling into their new living space. CCDSD’s team included an outstanding volunteer and driver, who heard of the family and took it upon themselves to assist Emanise and the children.
Ruth, a CCDSD volunteer, helped them find school supplies and assisted in navigating them through their health services, especially for the two daughters and youngest child, Danilo. Fidian, a CCDSD team member, who is known as the driver and problem solver of “all random things,” transported the family to their scheduled appointments, took them grocery shopping, brought in all furnishings, scheduled follow-up appointments, and made sure they arrived to their destination safely. Ruth met Emanise and her family at another shelter, and being heart struck decided to continue helping them once they left for CCDSD. She became a volunteer and has spent an inordinate amount of time setting up the school arrangements that are working out so well now. Her service and dedication to the family has brought so much joy and amazement to everyone around her.
The two daughters are now enrolled in a San Diego public school and Danilo is enrolled in a special education program specific to his needs. The family now patiently waits once more for their court date and hearing, but this time together in a home where they are safe, supported and loved.