The program was founded by our pastor, Father Patrick Travers, SS.CC. Its two major goals are to provide God’s grace and dignity by feeding the hungry, and to provide the self-respect everyone is deserving of by putting roofs over the heads of the faithful who live in shacks. And when they have the means, the program aims to give them a place to offer their sacrifice of gratitude by providing a place of worship and building them a church.
The first goal was met this January with the Annual Epiphany Trip, when thousands of pounds of rice, beans and flour, and hundreds of loaves of bread were delivered. Toiletries such as, soap, toilet tissue, toothpaste and other personal hygiene products were received with awe from the teens and young adults. Even the children, with wide-eyed wonder, were so excited when the boxes of over 200 soccer balls were opened.
In February, the Mission planned for the second goal with the never ending preparation for summer construction of housing. Solicitation of funds, materials and volunteers goes into “high gear,” always with the challenge to surpass last year’s goal in the number of homes built. This goal demands a lot of pre-trips, purchasing and then arranging where the materials can be stored until construction begins.
Fr. Travers started the Tijuana Mission Outreach Program in the 1980’s when he worked at Damien High School. When he came to Holy Innocents to serve as our pastor, he still had a large group of dedicated school alumni and parents that had continued to work on this project in the Inland Empire, and it wasn’t long before Holy Innocents joined the cause.
With the help of certain individuals, Fr. Travers is able to store materials in strategic places throughout Southern California. He also has to consider the needs of the volunteers, and make sure everyone has their passport and identification papers, then arrange for camping equipment, food, supplies, and even a cook. Then, when the time for construction comes he coordinates volunteers with transportation and pick up of materials, arranging large caravans leaving and meeting at pre-determined times and places to meet and follow each other to their chosen destination in or around Tijuana. New volunteers and veterans always return with a great sense of humility in what they take for granted in their own lives.
This type of good work does not go unnoticed and through word of mouth, the needs of other communities caught the attention of the Mission. For instance, the Mission also helps feed and clothe the needy in Mecca, a poverty stricken area in the Eastern Coachella Valley, with bi-monthly trips taking whatever supplies they can gather. It is always humbling to witness the poor look at the staples delivered as a feast for their table. It is not unusual to watch a parent dress their child at the van with the clothes donated.
The saying, “it takes a village” has never been more true than with the Tijuana Mission Outreach Program. The volunteers come from different socio-economic back grounds; they are female and male, at least 15 years of age, in school and out of school, retired and working, all with different talents to add to the mix. Fr. Travers credits them for their stewardship in helping him as the only way the Mission can proceed and is grateful for the compassion and love they show towards those less fortunate than themselves.
Dorothy Garcia is General Office Clerk at Holy Innocents Parish in Victorville.