Bulls Service Breaks (BSB) is a program at the University of South Florida that provides service learning experiences for students to predetermined locations around the United States and internationally in an effort to bring awareness of social issues and injustices.
I had the opportunity to spend a week in McAllen, Texas for Spring Break this year and this was an incredible experience for me. We focused on the issue of immigration and with McAllen being close to the US/Mexican border this was the ideal community to be able to identify the concerns these individuals face on a daily basis. I ended up learning so much more than immigration status; I learned how immigrants are turned away from services and living in the city limits because they do not have proper documentation to live in the cities. It was such a big eye opener!
On our visit we went to a Colonia, a neighborhood that is located outside of the city limits, that unfortunately does not get as much support from the city. I had heard about these in movies but to actually walk through one on roads that were not paved, was an experience I will never forget.
To be able to speak with the residents provided us first-hand accounts of various situations in which the community was struggling to get the city to address. After taking a course in disaster management it was interesting to hear that those living in the community are scared when the rains come or any other bad weather for that matter. This is when the roads become dangerous and they do not feel prepared for a natural disasters.
One family fought to get streetlights to help with safety in the community, and now they are working on getting a sewage system in their neighborhood. As a public health student, it is concerning to see families living in conditions were lack of government support can jeopardize the health and safety of a population.
A week provided just a glimpse in the reality these immigrants face and I really do want to go back to work with this community to see what I can do to make a difference.
Written by: Alexis Salazar