©Shalimar Studios

Gathering Humanity and Asylum Seekers

December 22, 2018

Each year we choose a few organizations to partner with working in humanitarian endeavors. One we were introduced to earlier this year was Gathering Humanity. You may have learned about them from our previous posts and social media sharing. But if you’re unfamiliar with them, they work to serve others in the Phoenix-metro area, primarily with refugee resettlement.

It wasn’t until more recently that I was alerted by Sarah, one of the founding members, of the massive humanitarian crisis of asylum seekers pouring into the Phoenix area. U.S law allows those seeking asylum to present themselves at the border where they’re taken into custody and placed into detention centers. Background checks are completed, and then if deemed viable candidates, are released to live with friends or family here in the U.S.

Currently detention facilities are over capacity, and therefore ICE is releasing detainees into Arizona several days before their travel arrangements are made. Hundreds of people are bussed into the Phoenix-metro area each week where churches and organizations like Gathering Humanity are trying to fill the gap by providing a hot meal, shower and a place to sleep.

I was honored to photograph for Gathering Humanity some of these asylee releases where Gathering Humanity volunteers were serving. Each time I witnessed a release, I walked away with tears in my eyes and my heart full. What the asylees have endured is horrendous, however the kind souls of the churches and Gathering Humanity are extending their hands to help in whichever way they can.

Asylees form lines after being unloaded from Homeland Security busses.
Volunteers welcome the asylees as they enter the church.
Pastors of local churches have spearheaded the effort to welcome asylees and help them through the process of being reunited.
A number of local children volunteer their time to welcome asylee children with a new toy, one of which may become their only possession.
After being unloaded, the asylees attend a church service where many break down crying out of relief and gratitude for making it this far.
Volunteers prepare a hot meal.
Volunteer translators call relatives of the asylees to help arrange travel.
For some, the only possessions they have are these backpacks filled with essential items, provided by Gathering Humanity.

If you would like more information on how to help, please reach out to Gathering Humanity.