Students Participate in Hands Across our Border

Hugs for the children living at Casa Hogar Sion Orphanage in Tijuana are rare, but for one day this spring, they got their fill from Cal State San Marcos and Universidad Autonoma de Baja California (UABC) students who participated in the Hands Across Our Border project trip, coordinated by the CSUSM Office of Community Service Learning.

Fifty CSUSM and UABC students participated on the recent March 20th visit to Casa Hogar Sion, an orphanage that serves approximately 100 children, located in an under developed part of the city of Tijuana. During the visit, students were exposed to an experience unlike many they have encountered. Many were surprised to learn that despite the impoverished conditions, the orphanage was a place of love and happiness.

"All of the children were very loving," said CSUSM student Crystal Ramirez. "They saw us and a big smile was delivered to us. You couldn't help but smile. They were very happy children. It was a big happy family."

Jose Yenque, an actor best known for his powerful performance in the film Traffic, joined the students on the trip.  Yenque, who received the Sol Azteca Award "Ambassador of the Year" in 2007 for his volunteer work with the children at Casa Hogar Sion, provided insight into the lives of the orphans and how the students could best help them.

Another student commented, "I loved how we made an impact on those kids . . . many kids asked me if I was planning on [returning] to visit them again. That made my day!"

Since 2006, Hands Across Our Border has been partnering hundreds of students together to work on various projects on both sides of the border. 

"I want people to see that there are needy communities on both sides of the border, as well as committed university students ready and willing to lend a hand and improve lives," said Darci Strother, director of Office of Community Service Learning. "Despite prevailing images and stereotypes, through this project, it is not the case that students from the United States are always the service providers and our Mexican neighbors are always the service recipients. I really want people to see that the generosity of service extends both ways across the border, and that committed university students from both sides of the border can make a difference."

Hands Across the Border has also provided opportunities for CSUSM and UABC students to join together to clean, sort, and organize a food pantry in Escondido, clean up apartments for homeless families to move into in Escondido, and paint an elementary school in Tijuana.

"We feel compelled to continue offering students an opportunity to serve the regional community on both sides of the border, and to make that a part of their learning at CSUSM," said Strother. "What's next will depend a lot on funding, and we are looking into possible sources of external support for funds that would allow us to make firm plans for the project."

For more information about the Office of Community Service Learning, visit www.csusm.edu/ocsl or call 760-750-4055. 

Felipe Angel

Felipe Angel cuddles an orphan.

"I want people to see that there are needy communities on both sides of the border, as well as committed university students ready and willing to lend a hand and improve lives," said Darci Strother, director of Office of Community Service Learning.