An interview: Can you see the helpers in McAllen Texas?

An interview: Can you see the helpers in McAllen Texas?
New Bright Space

screen-shot-2018-07-15-at-1-37-22-pmThe quote attributed to Fred Rogers about looking for the helpers in tragedies came to mind a couple of weeks ago as I discovered what Bright Horizons, the company that I have worked for since 2001, was doing. Over the years, I have helped create and redo two Bright Spaces, volunteered at the Palatine, Illinois Bright Space many times, and was also a co-connector for that Bright Space as well. I have also donated to the Bright Horizons Foundation over the years, so even though I knew about how we, as a company, help others in need, I cried when I saw what we were doing in McAllen, Texas. The Humanitarian Respite Center Restoring Dignity Bright Space just opened July 12th, so I reached out to find out more about it. Some of the following information comes from letters from Stephen Kramer, the CEO of Bright Horizons and other answers are from people who work for Bright Spaces, a program of the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

What is the Humanitarian Respite Center? The website states that it was created in 2014 in Texas due to the influx of immigrants crossing the border who didn’t have an adequate place to rest. The center provides a place for the countless men, women, children, and infant refugees to rest, have a warm meal, a shower, and change into clean clothing as well as receive medicine and other supplies, before continuing onto their journey.

What was the goal of this Bright Space? Ilene Henderson, the National Director of Bright Spaces, said her focus and goal was to create a Bright Space to replenish the children’s joy and allow them to return, if just for a few hours, to their deserved childhood. As the refugees arrive at the HRC after release from detention hungry, terrified and exhausted, and some with children recently reunited, they need a respite, a place to feel safe, to be cared for, if only for a brief moment.

What is a Bright Space?  Bright Spaces are warm, safe, enriching places in homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and other agencies for children and youth experiencing homelessness or other crises. Over nearly 20 years, the Bright Spaces program has helped hundreds of volunteers design trauma informed Bright Spaces in a variety of settings and locations across the United States. The Bright Horizons Foundation For Children has the knowledge and expertise to help children experiencing the toxic stress of poverty, homelessness, and now detention and family separation.

How many Bright Spaces does the Foundation support worldwide? 351 worldwide, 288 in the U.S.

How did we decide to create this Bright Space? In response to the outpouring of concern from Bright Horizons employees about the plight of children being separated from their families at the border, Bright Horizons CEO, Stephen Kramer, visited McAllen, Texas, to see the situation firsthand and to assess how Bright Horizons could best help and support these children and their families. The decision to do a Bright Space was a direct result of his visit. He said in a letter that childhood knows no borders. Humanity knows no citizenship. We must add our voice and our action to protect the families that need us most, no matter where they come from or where they are going.

How many people volunteered to help create it? A team of 11 Bright Horizons employees: Texans from across the Bright Horizons family including Division 11 (Back-up) RM Sofia Everett, Center Director Lisa Salas, EdAssist Project Manager Divya Sudhir, Division 4 RM Michelle Valadez, and Client Relations Director Sandra Vandemoortele, with support from Home Office team members Ron DiPerri, Steve Geller, and Zac Thompson. They each brought unique skills and enthusiasm for the project, and an extensive history with the Foundation and Bright Spaces. They were supported by our very own Foundation staff—Jane Gibbons , Ileen Henderson, and Mark Mendel.

How long did it take from conception until completion? Stephen Kramer visited the Humanitarian Respite Center on June 25th and decided we could help by creating a Bright Space there. The Restoring Dignity Bright Space was opened at the HRC on July 12th, so two and a half weeks.

What will our Bright Space provide? The new space provides a warm welcome for the hundreds of babies, young children, and teens who come through the facility each week. While their parents receive legal advice, clothing and supplies, these children now have a place to play, read, interact with caring volunteers and to just be children.

How will we offer ongoing support to this Bright Space? The Bright Spaces relationship with the Humanitarian Respite Center doesn’t stop here. Bright Space Connectors will work with the staff and volunteers onsite to make sure that toys and materials are replenished as needed. They are also committed to collecting funds to provide each of the thousands of children that pass through the Respite Center with a small toy to take with them as their journey continues.

You can help support Bright Horizons and the Foundation’s efforts by visiting Humanitarian Respite Center Bright Space Project.

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