Rachel Bohstedt Estes will discuss her work with immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border as guest speaker at the Wednesday, February 10, meeting of Altrusa International of Oak Ridge, hosted by the International Relations Committee.
Her topic is “Learning and Listening at the Border.” The meeting will be virtual, hosted on Zoom, beginning at noon, a press release said.
Estes, director of outreach and missions at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, began volunteering at the border in the summer of 2018, when immigrant children were being separated from their families at the border.
“I began thinking of how we can be the best community for each other,” she said. Estes called a friend and said: “I think we need to go there and make sure they know people with love are around them. Even if we can’t extract them from the horror, we can be present.”
Estes and her friend volunteered for three days at a center run by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas, making sandwiches, wiping children’s noses, and holding babies when mothers needed to take showers, the press release said. She returned a few more times, once when the border was closed to immigrants, so the volunteers walked across a bridge over the Rio Grande into Mexico, taking water, tarps, children’s books, and items for teenage girls and boys.
At home in Birmingham, Estes thought about what else she and others could do. She became involved in an interfaith refugee program and in visiting immigrant men being held in the Etowah Detention Center, and then arranged a letter writing program for men there when visits were no longer permitted because of the pandemic.
Estes grew up in Knoxville and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee and master’s degrees in higher education administration and in library science from the University of Alabama. Her brother, Jake Morrill, is the minister at Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, and her mother, Jinx Watson, is former director of the Oak Ridge Schools Teachers Center and a retired UT professor.
There will be a short business meeting at noon followed by the program. Visitors with a reservation are welcome to attend the virtual meeting and may make a reservation by sending an email to [email protected] by noon, Monday, February 8. Members will be sent information on how to log in to the meeting.
When gathering in person for lunch and meeting, the International Relations Committee arranges a meal to reflect the region of focus in the program. While meeting from home on Zoom this year, members are encouraged to prepare their favorite recipes from south of the border for lunch during the program.
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