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Diapers at the Border

From one sweet infant to thousands of diapers for refugee babies.

This story is a little less about nonprofit fundraising and more about reminding you that there are many good people in the world.

I’ve been trying to think of a word stronger, or meaning more, than “many” and have yet to find it in my mind.

Six years ago I began volunteering for nonprofits in Tijuana that serve refugees and immigrants at the border.

I soon could interpret part one of the asylum application and began meeting wonderful refugees from mostly Central America. There were refugees from all over the world, and since I speak Spanish I was matched with those who needed Spanish to English translation.

Many were families. And one of these families changed my life.

This family was from El Salvador and consisted of a mom, an eight-year-old, and an infant who was I think five months old.

I held the infant while mom comforted the eight-year-old.

It was love at first site for me. She was beautiful. Her smile melted my heart. Within a few minutes, though, I realized she needed a clean diaper. It’s not that she had just gone to the bathroom and it was time for a new diaper, it was that she had been wearing the same diapers for over a week. Most likely longer than that.

Her mom would remove it, clean it to the extent she could, and put it back on.

Within a few minutes, I asked for help from a colleague and found someone who went to search for a diaper and was helping mom change the diaper while giving the infant a good clean. Right on the table we were using for the asylum application.

I was suddenly introduced to the world of diapers.

I remember this moment in my life daily.

I soon learned how difficult it is for refugee women to get access to diapers. Soon after that, I realized how expensive diapers are.

I had no idea about the need or the expense.

After a few more trips to Tijuana and dozens of conversations with activists and refugees at the border later, I made a plan to help.

It started with a plea to neighbors for donated diapers. They were overwhlmingly supportive. The day after I asked I made the drive to Tijuana with a car filled with diapers.

The next month I asked again, and also asked for pads, per a request from one of the shelters. Another car filled, and this time I was stopped at the border and had to pay tax on the diapers and pads.

That’s when I decided to keep asking for diapers, pads, and baby formula, but I asked for Venmo donations and began purchasing everything in Tijuana. Not only did I want to avoid the tax; I wanted to start supporting the local economy.

I wanted to do everything I could to make sure that any baby at the border had a clean diaper, and that their moms had access to as many diapers as they needed.

My circles of friends, neighbors, and family felt the same way. I soon became inundated with questions like “When are you going back to the border” along with “Why didn’t you ask me for help last time you went”.

I created a system with my network of supporters. I was able to meet the needs of diapers needed by shelters and soon was able to go down my list of diaper donors and skip the ones who gave for the last trip.

Within a year I was bringing diapers of all sizes, tampons, pads, and baby formula.

Once in a while, an organization will ask for other products specific to an immediate need. Last December one of them needed winter coats for kids, and after asking my network, we collectively purchased 45 coats.

There is so much hospitality and generosity from those in my network. Their impact is endless.

Every trip I make to drop off diapers, I think of that beautiful infant with the gorgeous smile I held that one day.

She started it all.

40,000+ diapers later, she continues to affect many babies who have arrived since, to the relief of their mothers.

She has also affected refugee families bussed to Los Angeles from Texas, as local organizations serving them have reached out for help with diapers and baby formula.

My network and I have been thrilled to be able to help.

A clean diaper makes a difference no matter where the infant is, or what their family’s circumstances are.

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

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