The Kino Border Initiative is “a program that takes teenagers to Nogales, Mexico to show them what life is like for people on the [US/Mexico] border,” NDP senior Kendra Niderost, co-president of the Kino club, said.
“Kino is an American Jesuit organization based in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico that serves refugees,” Noemi Santaella said, the teacher advisor for Kino. At NDP, students are given the opportunity five times a year to take a trip down to the border to volunteer at the “comedor,” which means “dining room” in Spanish, to serve the refugees and listen to their stories while they wait to enter the United States.
Kino gives students a new perspective of what struggle is. It is easy to think that we have it hard with our small struggles in the bubble of Scottsdale, but this trip fully immerses students into the daily struggles of others: “Seeing how much all of these people go through on a daily basis is eye-opening,” said Niderost.
This trip also shows students how lucky they are to be American. On the trip, the students walk around downtown Nogales and learn about the history of the city and immigrants and also about the process of gaining a VISA to enter the United States legally.
Obtaining a VISA to visit the US is a very long process for Mexican citizens. According to Business Insider, in order to obtain a VISA, a citizen must have normal identification and a passport, as well as documents showing the purpose of their trip, proof of employment, and reasons for them to come back to their country, such as property or family. Refugees and impoverished citizens cannot meet all of these requirements, and therefore try to enter the US illegally.
Kino is also a gratifying experience for students. “It makes you feel really good because you get to hear all of the stories of what problems people are facing and even just giving them water or giving them a meal makes you feel good because it is something positive in their lives,” NDP senior Jagger Jones, who has been on Kino two times, said.
“It is comforting to know that people still have hope in these difficult situations, which gives me hope because they are much worse off than I am,” said Niderost. In fact, at the comedor, you can see people holding white papers in their hands as they walk in, which means that they just got deported from the United States, but they still have hope that they will re-enter again soon.
Niderost also loves interacting with the children at the comedor because “while some of the parents are enjoying what they have for them, we get to hold the babies and talk to people about their stories.”
If you are interested in joining the Kino Border Initiative at NDP and traveling to Mexico to serve, please contact the supervisors, Noemi Santaella, Kendra Niderost, Brianna Amireh, or Vanessa Mati, to get information about the next trip. Spots are limited to eight students per trip.