Volunteers help asylum seekers in Matamoros

Volunteers with Team Brownsville serve food to people gathered at a migrant campsite by the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros Wednesday evening. Several times a week Team Brownsville volunteers cross the Gateway International Bridge to provide food and supplies to people gathered in a migrant campsite by the bridge in Matamoros, Mexico.( (Denise Cathey/ The Brownsville Herald)

Rain or shine, Team Brownsville continues to help asylum seekers on the Mexican side of the border and at La Plaza Bus Station with food, clothes, water and other much needed supplies every day.

Team Brownsville, a nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian assistance for asylum seekers, was founded one year ago when the number of migrants arriving at the international bridge and bus station dramatically increased. They currently manage the “assistance at the bus station” and the “breakfast and dinner at the bridge” programs.

Andrea Rudnik, one of the cofounders, said they deliver food to at least 150 people every day in Matamoros. They also help with medicines, diapers, wipes and other things they see migrants waiting at the bridge need.

“We provide supplies, medicines as needed, bedding, some clothing, shoes. We are trying to meet the needs of all the people that are there and it is always changing, every day,” Rudnik said. “We are trying to meet the needs of people in their greatest time of need.”

The organization currently has about 25 local volunteers who help at least once a week either by cooking, dropping off the food in Matamoros or providing aid at the bus station for migrants who arrive.

Rudnik said the organization received more attention when a heartbreaking photo that became a worldwide portrait of what happens at the border shows the bodies of 25-year old Oscar Alberto Martinez holding his 2-year-old daughter tucked inside his shirt for protection. They both drowned in June at the Rio Grande in Matamoros.

“All of a sudden our Facebook page exploded with requests and people saying ‘I’m coming tomorrow’,” she said. “It brought Matamoros and Brownsville to everybody’s spotlight. Everybody is focused on what is happening here and nobody knew it.”

Rudnik said that even though the community is very divided about helping migrants, one of the problems the organization currently faces is not having enough room to store all donations. She said after Martinez and his daughter drowned, people from outside the Rio Grande Valley were offering to donate large amounts of food. Rudnik said nowadays migrants are in great need of water. In a recent blog post on their official website, Ann Finch said water is costing Team Brownsville $2,060 per month.

“It was swelteringly hot and we were only providing 192 (water) bottles per day, for approximately 100 people, that is less than two bottles of water per day,” Finch said in the post. “My friend Michael and I were able to arrange a deal with five Methodist churches in Matamoros where they pick up, deliver and distribute 480 bottles of water each day at the bridge … it is costing us $475 per week.”

Asylum seekers in Matamoros wait every day for Team Brownsville to deliver food every morning and night. In this past year, they have fed thousands of migrants several different dishes such as pasta, rice, chicken, eggs, among many other.

To donate or volunteer at Team Brownsville, visit teambrownsville.org

“They expect us. When we walk across the bridge we see that as soon as we get to the Mexican side of the bridge and we look across, we already see the line of people behind the barricades,” Rudnik said. “They wait for us and they know we are coming.”

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com