By Beatriz Limon
Phoenix, Arizona, Jul 2 (EFE).- Two ladies from southern Texas have sewn more than 5,000 pillows to soften migrant families’ long stay at bus stations on the Mexican side of the border while waiting to be given a date to apply for political asylum.
What Melba Salazar-Lucio, 61, and her mother Maria Elena Salazar, 83, began doing as a small act of charity has become a project called Pillows of Love, which is receiving donations from all around the United States.
The story began a year ago when they saw the tragedy of hundreds of Central American immigrants left to their own devices by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and were waiting for an appointment with immigration.
“My mom gave me the idea of the pillows. We think those families are feeling lost but with these pillows they can rest up and dry their tears on the cloth,” Melba, who lives in Brownsville, Texas, told EFE.
Since they started the project they have received endless letters from unknown persons who send them donations, like the $200 check they got recently that allowed them to buy a new sewing machine.
“Our old sewing machine broke but with that money we didn’t need to have it repaired. Instead we could buy a new one. God has opened many doors to people we’ve never met,” she said.
With the new sewing machine they now produce some 70 pillows a night, plus the rag dolls for migrant children that they’ve also begun to create.
“Up to now we’ve made 60 little dolls – they take longer. At first we gave them to little girls, but later the boys started asking for them. They snuggle up with them while sleeping on the concrete bridge,” she said
Together with her husband Juan David Lucio, 62, Melba is dedicated to helping the hundreds of migrants waiting on the Brownsville & Matamoros Express International Bridge, some of whom have been there weeks and even months sleeping on the ground and without access to public lavatories.
“We go to the bridge where the dead bodies of a father and daughter (Oscar Martinez and Valeria) were found in the river. When I heard about that I started thinking that I have grandkids who could end up like that little girl. Seeing such tragedies doesn’t soften your heart – what is done to these people who don’t even have anything to eat is an injustice,” she said.
Melba, who is a teacher, said that this experience led her and her mother to create the non-profit Team Brownsville organization, through which they collect money to buy food and rent bathrooms for the migrants stuck in Matamoros.
“We walk across the bridge and take them bags of food. We also take balloons and coloring books for the kids, and last Christmas we took them a piñata so they could have a little fun,” she said.
Melba said it’s not a complicated project. With a sewing machine, some cloth and cotton stuffing they have put a smile back on the faces of hundreds of migrants seeking the American dream.
To contact Pillows of Love, an e-mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’ve now made 5,002 pillows and we hope to make many more,” Melba said.