SAN BENITO — It was a quiet Monday morning when the phone rang at La Posada Providencia, south of San Benito.
It was an official at the Department of Homeland Security, calling to ask if the shelter had room for a severely-injured Honduran woman and her 3-year-old son.
The woman, Blanca Rosa, had just presented herself to authorities in Brownsville and had requested asylum in the United States. She had been involved in an auto accident in Mexico, leaving her with two fractured elbows and multiple bruises and abrasions.
Jerico, the son that arrived with her, was not injured in the crash, but a 6-year-old son was killed.
Another son, age 15, was left hospitalized in Mexico and under the care of a local pastor.
“It’s probably one of the worst cases that I’ve seen,” said Sister Zita Telkamp, director at La Posada Providencia. “We had a case similar to that in March and usually once a year someone comes here like that.”
Blanca and her youngest son were processed by federal authorities and then released to the care of La Posada Providencia, a Catholic ministry for people in crisis from around the world, who are seeking legal refuge in this country.
It was there that she recounted her journey and the reasons she left Honduras.
“We lived in a small town that was under the control of the drug cartel,” said Blanca. “They took over many of the small businesses and homes in the village and charged everyone a monthly protection fee.”
In October, Blanca was standing at a bus stop with a neighbor who had refused to pay the fee. As they were waiting for the bus to arrive, Rosa says a cartel member approached them.
“He walked right up to my neighbor and just shot her dead,” recalled Blanca. “As he was leaving, he turned to me and said he would return on Christmas Eve and kill me if I didn’t pay up.”
During the next several weeks, Blanca — living in fear — made preparations to leave her country. She sold what little she owned and by the first week of December, Blanca and her three sons were on their way to the United States. The crash happened six days into their journey and it took another two days for Blanca to arrive in Brownsville, where she turned herself over to authorities.
“I arrived at La Posada on December 19th,” said Blanca. “All we had were the clothes on our backs and our immigration papers, which I carried in a plastic bag.”
Blanca is one of more than 8,500 people who have passed through the doors of La Posada Providencia. Established by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1989, the shelter ministers to people who are fleeing political and religious persecution, extreme poverty, famine and natural disasters. All of the ministry’s clients have been processed by immigration authorities
La Posada provides the refugees with safety, hope, and a way forward. It provides immediate and tangible support in the form of food, shelter, clothing, medical supplies and care. LPP also provides individualized case management, transportation to clinics, legal aid and social services.
The refugees also have access to on-site communication resources, paperwork/translation assistance, employment preparation, English as a second language and life skills education.
“Transitioning them into American life is one of our main ministries,” said Telkamp, “We feel that if they’re going to be productive citizens and they’re going to establish themselves for the rest of their lives in the United States, they have to be integrated into the American culture.”
La Posada Providencia is one of 20 agencies in the Valley supported by donations to AIM Charities. The non-profit charity was established three years ago by AIM Media Texas, which publishes the Valley Morning Star, The Monitor, The Brownsville Herald, Mid Valley Town Crier, El Nuevo Heraldo, El Extra and Coastal Current.
AIM Media Texas absorbs all administrative costs associated with the charity, ensuring 100 percent of the public’s donations goes directly to the charitable agencies and the people they serve.
“Many times when someone gives me $5 and says, ‘It’s not much,’ I reply that I’m grateful because it purchases five loaves of bread,” said Sister Zita. “We’re just grateful for AIM and the money we received last year. We stretched our dollar and it has gone a long way.”
Blanca and Jerico have since been reunited with their husband and father in Chicago. She agreed to share her story in hopes that it would help others. “I wanted people to know the situation in Honduras,” said Rosa. “I want people to know the cartels are actively threatening and killing people. If I had stayed, there’s a good chance I would be killed. At least I’m alive and I have an opportunity to live.”
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