Tijuana Youth Group Prepares for Corona Virus Arrival

Overlooking part of ever-growing Tijuana

By Rich Reader and David Rizo

As Los Angeles seems poised to have more cases of Corona virus, we can only imagine that Tijuana will follow suit.  However, Tijuana could be worse off both medically and financially.  Medically because the healthcare system would quickly be overrun and financially because layoffs would immediately create significant hardships.  As the Church we want to be ready to help.  We have had a couple of planning meetings, purchased some food, discontinued large group sessions including SEARCH, masses, and Lenten events, and are doing a few other things related to social distancing and hygiene.  Schools have closed.  Businesses are doing some social distancing practices.  You see a lot of people wearing masks, and restaurants (at least those that still offer table service) require the use of hand sanitizer.  Although there is not a lot of testing going on here, there does not seem to be many cases yet.  Consequently, people’s concerns remain mild. But the question is, to what extent should we prepare for the worst?

We did buy $1000 worth of food staples and recruited ten youths to help prepare 120 despensas.  It took us 5 hours to repack the bulk items into family size units.  That won’t go far, but it is a start.  As we assembled the despensas, everyone wore masks and gloves and used hand sanitizer.  The purchase of the food was a long day.  In order to get reasonable prices (we are seeing a lot higher prices on our usually purchased items), we went to a large wholesale clearance center, where many businesses buy items directly off the trucks and resell it on the spot.  We bought beans, rice, dried milk, toilet paper, tuna, oil, oatmeal, and sugar.  We added tomato sauce and some can goods from existing supplies to make the despensas.

Fr. Marek Stroba, OMI

We continue to visit families, but we are trying to be careful with masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.  Some of the people we visit are especially vulnerable, since we focus on clientele that have medical  conditions.  But it is so hard to not greet with familiar hugs.  Fr. Marek, our Oblate priest with chemistry knowledge, helped us manufacture some hand cleaner since we have not been able to buy any.  We continue to research best practices for prevention, checking internet and talking with local doctors and nurses.  We consider it highly important to protect our youth volunteers, since they are so important for all that we do. Elbow to elbow bumps have replaced hugs and handshakes, work spaces are further separated, and minimal meetings are conducted.

We have reported on Señor Nico a few times, and how we have had to try to find care facilities for this bed-ridden stroke victim.  At one point we asked an elder care facility, run by the Sisters of Charity, if he could stay there.  The wonderful polish nun who talked with us explained that Nico has far more going for him than the typical person they take in, given that he has family and friends.  We explained that his family wasn’t responding to his needs.  The nun said God might use this situation to repair relationships, one doesn’t know.  Well, we needed to move Nico again, as the clinic where he was notified us that they could no longer have permanent resident care.  We were in the process of trying to find yet another alternative, when we got word that his daughter and her family had decided to take him in.  We got him moved.

On a slightly related note, we have another person (above) we visit with the identical symptoms, but he has a wife and family that really work with him.  When we visited him yesterday, we were astounded to see him get up out of a chair and walk a few steps.  For someone with no feeling in one side of his body, this is incredibly difficult

Arlette Cortez Merino

Our featured student is Arlette Cortez Merino who is studying languages (Japanese and English).  She is in her 6th semester, with 3 more to go.  She helps at the youth center by teaching younger children English.  Recently her university picked her and two other students to be translators for a special cruise ship that takes youths from several countries around the world.  It was quite an honor.  Our thanks to her donor Cindy Colburn.