Chicago volunteers do community service at La Posada

HARLINGEN — The physical stamina.

That’s what seemed to be on the minds of volunteers from typically chilly Chicago as they braved the South Texas humidity to clear weeds and build beds at La Posada Providencia.

“As a student, I don’t really exercise as much as I should,” said Ash Harrington, 29, one of five volunteers who spent the week working at the shelter.

La Posada is a ministry for people in crisis from around the world who are seeking legal refuge in the U.S. Many bring their children and sometimes remain for months.

Three of the volunteers were students in Danny Cortese’s class inequalities course at Governors State University in Chicago.

“We are doing our service learning project,” Cortese said. “Every student has to do some sort of community service, so these students volunteer to come down here to serve the community.”

He knew of La Posada’s ministry through St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Chicago where he’s a parishioner. The church has a relationship with the mission here.

“I immediately recognized that this could fulfill the mission of my class for sociologists,” Cortese said. “My students all study sociology and anthropology. Our niche is that we look at our societies and our culture through the lens of social justice. So this dovetailed completely.”

Sarah Jones, 23, was enjoying the experience.

“I wanted to come down here to actually interact with the refugees and actually get their point of view and grasp and process a different life,” she said.

And what has she learned from them?

“I would say passion to meet a goal,” she said. “They value things a lot different than where I’m from,” she said.

She had plenty of experiences from which to learn. The shelter currently houses refugees from Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Angola, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba and Russia.

Sister Zita Telkamp, La Posada program director, appreciated the work by the volunteers.

“It’s fantastic,” she said. “I think Danny was sent by God because just to assemble 12 metal beds and get the dorm ready for occupancy within two days, it was great.”

It’s especially important to the immigrants currently living there.

“They have a nice comfortable bed,” she said. “Maybe it’s the first bed they’ve ever been able to sleep in. We don’t know. We’re just grateful.”