Humane Borders welcomes fully vaccinated volunteers to help us service dozens of water stations that we maintain along the border. Other ways that you can help is to volunteer on “I.D. Trips,” (see below) or at Casa Esperanza Migrant Resource Center in Sasabe, Sonora. We hope to hear from you soon!
Humane Borders meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. At present, due to the rise in the number of COVID cases in Pima County, we are meeting by ZOOM only. We will continue to monitor the situation for positive changes at which time we would go “hybrid,” meeting both in person at the House of Neighborly Service at 243 W 33rd St. in South Tucson, and by ZOOM to accommodate out-of-town volunteers. If you would like to join one of our virtual meetings, email Rebecca Fowler at email@example.com and she will gladly send you a ZOOM invite.
At Humane Borders meetings volunteers, staff members, and our board chair meets to discuss the work we carried out in the desert the week before. Meetings open with a prayer and introductions. We celebrate our modest victories, and we analyze the problems we’ve encountered as a group. We learn of upcoming events of interest and hear reports of families searching for missing migrants. We examine the state of our relationships with different contacts and government officials, including federal land managers and the Border Patrol. There is also the opportunity to sign up for future water runs. If you are thinking of becoming a volunteer, coming to one of our meetings is the best way to get acquainted with other volunteers and get started.
Volunteer Protocol & Training
Before volunteering with Humane Borders for the first time, be fully vaccinated AND boosted and able to provide documentation. Volunteers should review their signed and completed Volunteer Protocol Agreement for the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of volunteer behavior. Humane Borders doesn’t require formal training as volunteers will pick up what they need to know to help on water runs from other experienced volunteers.
Volunteers can sign up for “Water Runs,” “I.D. Trips,” and/or Casa Esperanza/Sasabe runs (for more information, see below). Most water runs depart at 7:00 a.m. You should check the calendar to see what time an “I.D. Trip” will leave, anytime between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. On a Casa Esperanza / Sasabe run, you can expect to leave at 1:00 p.m. and be back at Humane Borders headquarters by 6:00 p.m. On water runs and especially I.D. trips, be prepared for contingencies that might require a longer day in the desert, whether involving chance encounters with desert travelers, repairing vandalized water stations, or dealing with other unforeseen circumstances.
You can expect to be virtually introduced to drivers via email a week or two before going out on a particular run so that you both have each other’s contact information. Please arrive on time. Drivers, other volunteers, and other guests (reporters, students, etc.) should not be kept waiting. If you’re running a few minutes late or should need to cancel, you’ll need to contact your driver to let them know. Changes cannot be accommodated without prior notice.
Take care to dress appropriately for all trips: In the summer, wear a hat, sunscreen, long pants, and long sleeve shirts to protect from the sun. In the winter, dress in layers as the mornings are cooler and the afternoons are often warm. In any event, wear sturdy hiking shoes and have plenty of water, as well as a light meal or snack. Work gloves come in handy. Backpacks are essential on “I.D. Trips.” Finally, it’s a good idea to replenish your body’s electrolytes before coming out on trips, especially in the summer.
Humane Borders volunteers primarily assist in delivering water to dozens of stations that we maintain in the Arizona Sonoran Desert. Water runs are regularly scheduled trips, leaving from Tucson, Phoenix, and Ajo. The runs depart at 7:00 a.m. unless otherwise indicated on the calendar, and last for a few hours to most of the day, depending on the route serviced. We check our water barrels and fill them when necessary from a hundreds-gallon tank on the back of each truck. We maintain and replace when needed the blue flags that alert migrants to the locations of lifesaving water supplies. We test the water for particulates, as required by our permits, and we examine it to ensure that it isn’t contaminated by algae. We also taste it to make sure it’s readily potable. If we discover vandalism of our stations, we make repairs. We also pick up items such as worn-out clothing and shoes and empty water bottles that have been discarded by migrants.
We require at least one volunteer in addition to the driver for each trip. Volunteers may train over time to drive Humane Borders vehicles, leading groups of two to four people to check and maintain barrels on our established routes.
On water runs, Humane Borders volunteers may be asked to help with the following types of activities:
- Open and lock gates on the lands that we visit
- Open, close, and lock the water barrels
- Test the water particulate level in each barrel
- Operate the pump that is used to siphon water from the trucks to the barrels
- Properly use and store the hose
- Replace barrels, spigots, and bungs
- Record trip information on our trip and barrel change log sheets
- Replace flags when necessary
- Secure equipment in the back of the truck
Volunteers may elect to join Identification, or “I.D. Trips,” wherein we hike desert trails to identify “hot spots” in the desert where people are crossing. I.D. runs are hiking exploration trips with two primary objectives. One, we aim to identify places of increasing migrant activity so that we can place water stations; and two, it is our hope that volunteers can in some small way "identify" with what migrants are experiencing in the sense of getting acquainted with the kinds of vast desolate desert spaces where migrants and asylum seekers are crossing.
To volunteer, volunteers should be able to backpack four miles in challenging desert environments. Hiking distance will fluctuate depending on the season, hot or cold weather, and the trip leader's agenda. Be able to carry an extra gallon of water and/or food supplies in your backpack in the event that we encounter migrants in need.
Volunteering at Casa Esperanza Migrant Resource Center - Sasabe, Sonora
Volunteers may also sign up for Casa Esperanza trips, happening every Tuesday, and departing at 1:00 p.m. We schedule Sasabe trips for later in the day since Border Patrol typically deport people to Sasabe between 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Volunteers may help with filling water tanks when needed, or with preparing and serving meals and doing clean up. Donations like clothes, shoes, shoestrings, socks, and other necessities are appreciated, and you might want to reach out before you leave home to see what goods are needed that you might be able to contribute. Spanish fluency is helpful but by no means prerequisite. A passport is required on on Casa Esperanza/Sasabe runs, so you will want to ensure that you have it with you. Note that once you’ve crossed the border into Mexico, any fruit or vegetables you may have brought with you cannot be taken back through the U.S. port of entry. Fruit, vegetables, and plants will be confiscated.
Volunteer Contact Information:
Visiting Groups Welcome
We welcome visiting student groups and religious or civic organizations by prior arrangement with Administrator Rebecca Fowler at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our knowledgeable volunteers and staff can help educate members of such groups on current border issues and provide them with an experience of the challenges posed by the Sonoran Desert.
Humane Borders Adopt-a-Mile Trash Clean Up
Humane Borders has adopted a mile off of Hwy 286, 22 miles north of the U.S. Mexico Border. Twice a year, in November and January, you can join us to help clean up our mile and other stretches of road along Hwy 286. In the past, visiting groups have taken on other clean-up projects, such as collecting migrant and other trash from remote roads that we service. If you have such a project in mind, contact Rebecca Fowler at email@example.com to arrange your clean-up.
Humane Borders, Inc.
P.O. Box 27024
Tucson, AZ 85726
House of Neighborly Services, Building #4
243 W. 33rd St.
Tucson, AZ 85713