While Deming New Mexico is a place I never in a million years would have imagined I would one day end up, I’m grateful for the time I spent there. It was a challenging three months, to say the least, but it taught me a lot, lessons about life, team members, the politics of our country, immigration laws and loopholes, and most importantly humanity. Deming is one of the poorest cities in the country, but the amount of generosity, passion and love that came from the people of Deming was remarkable and something I won’t forget. The team and I began this round with hesitation, not sure what path our project would take, where we would be living or how we would be received in the community, but over time those worries were answered and we managed to discovered the beauty lying under the dusty surface of Deming.
There were definitely moments in Deming where I wasn't sure if I or the team would make it, I recall researching the consequences of quitting the program early (or maybe that was back in Festus), but I ultimately stuck it out. For 3 long months, full of ups and downs, bad attitudes, dust storms, missing and inconsistent work plans, I stuck it out. I could not have made it through had the community of Deming not been so welcoming and grateful, their constant reminders to how much we were needed and appreciated in their community are what got me through. Our house mom, Ariana, was a constant source of support and a great example of someone who just keeps giving, no matter how tired, stressed, or worn down she may have felt, that woman never gave up. I sometimes felt guilty for feeling tired when I would see her come home after an overnight at the refugee shelter followed by a day of taking care of her kids, answering phone calls and text messages from other volunteers AND doing what she could to help take care of us.
Living with Ariana and her team was probably the teams luckiest move in Deming, but it wasn't the only silver lining. There were numerous other individuals that welcomed us, thanked us and made our stay that much better. It took time to establish ourselves, let people find out who we were and why we were there, but once they did they never wanted us to leave. Towards the end of our stay there were constant questions of "When will you be back?" and "Do you have to leave?", clearly the town had grown accustomed to our being there. Aside from verbal confirmation to a job well done, there was a flurry of celebrations in the works. Beginning the Sunday before our departure (the following Friday) we were booked for lunch or dinner every day. Sunday night kicked the week off with a dinner party at Wendy and Eric's, volunteers we had met at the refugee shelter where we were able to say goodbye to many others we had worked with there. Monday was lunch with Dave, a community member we met at the Senior center who wanted us to have the chance to try his favorite restaurant in town, Balboas. Tuesday evening, Chris Brice, the city manager (and head of the Detention center) treated us to dinner at the Adobe Deli, a Deming must and somewhere we otherwise would have missed thanks to that government budget. Then finally the week wrapped up with our dinner party on Wednesday, complete with way too much food, many [new] friends and 100 degree temperatures to make us all sweat a little.
While our work in Deming looked nothing like what they originally had planned for us on paper, I'd venture to say both the team and the city were better because of this. Instead of focusing our work only on the Pit Park lake project and a vineyard at the school, we were able to lend a hand in almost every corner of the community. From working at the refugee shelter on it's first days of inception, being there when the city needed extra hands, to delivering meals to the disabled and elderly with the senior center, our work was varied, but always needed and appreciated. I may not have learned as many hard skills as I previous had with Habitat for Humanity or Disability Resource Association during round 2, but I still grew. I was thrown into a role unexpectedly, adding the hat of project coordinator on top of Team Leader. I was responsible for not only ensuring the team got their work done, but also that we had work everyday which sometimes meant scraping at the corners of the city for something to do, hoping it wouldn't be as bad as the infamous 'poop tarps'.
I sometimes failed at letting things get to me, stress taking over and throwing me into a bad mood, but after 10 months of living, working and traveling alongside a group of young adults, I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner or more often. In these moments of frustration I again found aid from the community, supervisors, peers and directors who acknowledged mine and the teams work, those few moments of thanks were what often got me through long days, moments of frustration and thoughts of giving up. So while they were always the ones thanking us, for our work, hours, sweat and sometimes tears, it's also me who truly appreciates them.
Thanks Deming, for the laughter and the tears, it's been fun. Until next time...
A Year of Service
My life, being anything but predictable, has taken another turn. Rather than moving to Jeju, South Korea - my original plan for Fall '18, I'm going to test drive Denver, CO and its surroundings, an area people just keep telling me "I'd love".