Frontline Wellness United is committed to the wellness of non-violent activists working towards social, environmental and civil justice. As an international nonprofit medical-aid society we fulfill a vital need amongst these often underserved frontline communities. What became clear to us early on in this work is that activists don’t always think of themselves as activists. Sometimes, people are thrown into situations where fighting for their Universal Human Rights is linked directly to their survival. This is very much the case of the migrants from South America who are gathered on the other side of our nation’s southern border waiting to apply for asylum.
International Treaties ratified by the United States as well as this nation’s federal law require the timely processing of asylum applications. 8 U.S. Code § 1158. Asylum states that “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum.”
We recognize that recent policy decisions made by the current presidential administration have created obstacles and increased the time constraints on the application process of asylum seekers in Tijuana. This has placed their physical and mental wellbeing at risk. Frontline Wellness United acknowledges that the mere act of existence in the migrant camps in Tijuana is an act of peaceful resistance. For these reasons we have aligned ourselves with partner organizations on the ground in Tijuana who are working to provide services to this frontline migrant community.
Reports from the Ground
Many of Frontline Wellness United’s board members and volunteers carry with them memories and lessons learned at Standing Rock and other frontline communities. Frontline’s training director, Nicholas Taggart Long, an experienced paramedic and firefighter who has spent considerable time serving as a medic in frontline communities such as the Standing Rock resistance camps, says that this situation is not unsimilar.
In a recent field operations report, Long said “it is helpful for folks who spent time at Standing Rock to carry some of those memories at the forefront of your brain while thinking about what is happening in Tijuana.”
Just like at Standing Rock, we are collaborating with groups already on the ground who have worked to build trust with migrant communities that are extremely vulnerable. We recognize the importance of trusting the expertise of volunteers and partner organizations that have been on the ground longer than us and we want to acknowledge the strenuous work they have done and continue to do for the migrant community.
Frontline volunteers on the ground in Tijuana are currently working alongside Al Otro Lado and Food Not Bombs at a building known as the Enclave. The Enclave has become the central hub for migrant resources. A legal clinic, staffed by Al Otro Lado, offers much-needed services to migrants; Food Not Bombs has taken it upon themselves to staff a community kitchen and Frontline Wellness United has stepped in to provide support and help staff a medical and wellness clinic.
Currently on the ground are Frontline medical volunteers Wendy Barranco, a former military combat medic of six years, and Long. In the first two days at the clinic the pair have helped treat more than 100 patients. Medical issues they have seen range from upper respiratory infections, to lice, to chiggers, to wound infections. A lot of these are the result of a lack of access to proper daily sanitation services and tight living quarters. Our medical volunteers say that the good news is many of these conditions can be treated relatively inexpensively and are highly preventable with good public health policies.
Frontline Wellness United is fortunate to have Lisha Sterling serving as the President of our Board of Directors. Here at Frontline we like to think of Sterling as our technical genius. Amongst many notable accomplishments, Sterling was responsible for leading a team of technicians that successfully established Internet services for civil-resistance workers in the Dakota Access Pipeline camps. The group was also responsible for setting up encryption and cyber-security protections for activists working in the camps.
Sterling’s work on the ground in Tijuana is of a similar scope and capacity. After arriving at the camp on Tuesday morning Sterling has been working to provide tech services such as setting up internet access for the Enclave building. She is also coaching members of the migrant community on helpful skills such as how to make portable electronic phone chargers from recycled laptop parts.
As many of you know, migrant communities are some of the most vulnerable communities there are. Many of the migrants awaiting asylum in Tijuana have already experienced a great amount of trauma and violence in their place of origin. In addition to this there is also the trauma of migration, the daily stress of living in a refugee camp and the uncertainty that the future holds.
Robin Chancer is a clinical social worker and and serves on Frontline’s Board of Directors. Chancer, who is fluent in Spanish, has experience working with refugees and unaccompanied minors in the United States as a mental health practitioner. She is currently working on the ground in Tijuana to provide those much needed services to members of the migrant community who are experiencing the negative effects of trauma.
How You Can Help
-Donations: the services we provide and the cost of supplies, equipment and travel are no minor feat. Your donations are what keep up going as newborn, grassroots organization. Those funds will go directly to filling our supply closet and help offset daily living costs for our volunteers on the ground who are donating their time to serve this community. Please consider donating to our cause and helping us transform the daily lives of the brave people who, while fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, found themselves in an incredibly vulnerable situation. Click Here to Donate
-Volunteer: Frontline Wellness United owes its existence to volunteers. We are the sum of the kind, compassionate people who work to support justice, sustainability and peace. Click Here to find out how you can use your time and effort to help forward this cause.
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