HOUSTON - As busloads of refugees from Haiti make their way to Houston, many Houstonians are asking how they can help. On Wednesday afternoon, two buses of Haitian migrants arrived at a Northeast Harris County in-take center and another four buses are expected Wednesday evening. When they get to the facility, there is no shortage of volunteers to greet them.
"Hey, how do you like it?" A volunteer barber asks one migrant.
From barbers giving free haircuts to volunteers sorting clothes and hygiene products, to Houstonians originally from Haiti themselves, they are helping because they know the struggle firsthand, which is the case for Sister Rose, who moved to Houston 20 years ago.
"I see myself. When I look at them saying they walked for a month to come here. I see myself back then. My daughter is a nurse now. She’s here helping too," says Rose.
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There have been so many donations for the Haitians who are arriving in Houston, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is running the in-take facility, had to stop accepting them and is asking volunteers to cut back.
"Me and my wife, we wanted to come here and help those that are going through the same things our parents and grandparents went through," says Carlos Villarreal, who is an elder in the church and the Director of Volunteers. He was the first in his family born in the U.S. after his parents left Mexico.
"In 1960, they chose to come to Texas to find a better life for their children." Now he owns a successful commercial construction company, and he and his wife left their home in San Antonio to live in a Houston apartment for months, so they can help the migrants as buses of Haitians arrive in Houston.
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"We have 20 women who are pregnant right now. So they’re anxious to get going. I will say last month, we had a bus delayed because it pulled over in Katy and a woman had the baby on the bus," Villarreal explains.
As hundreds of Haitians seek a better life, Elder Villarreal is sharing his story with them to give them hope, like Jonathan and Farrah Cardena, who just yesterday were with 15,000 other migrants under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. They don’t speak English, but they said they walked for days to get to the U.S. and are grateful to be headed to Boston to stay with his sister.
The facility is serving hot meals to the migrants, has sleeping quarters, and places to play for the kids.
"We are all brothers and sisters in one way or another. I am doing unto others what I know many would do for me if the roles were reversed," says Villarreal.
The facility has staff cleaning the building 24 hours a day. Only families are allowed. No singles. The migrants are only at the facility for about a day as they wait to take a bus or plane to their final destination.
If you would like to help, the facility accepting migrants from Haiti may have reached volunteer and donation capacity, but Interfaith Ministries is expecting 1,000 Afghan refugees to arrive in Houston and is still accepting donations. Click here to find out how you can help.