Here’s how Catholic Extension is helping traumatized immigrants heal—even during a pandemic

Last fall in Morton, Mississippi, 8-year-old Jonathan was living a nightmare. He left for school on the first day after summer vacation and came home to find his mother gone.

On August 7th, 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided seven chicken processing plants in the area, detaining or deporting 680 members of the community. Jonathan’s mother was among them. 

Jonathan shared his pain in a letter to Catholic Extension: 

“There are many destroyed families, children who are suffering, waiting to see their dad or their mom who are still in detention.”

Through our Holy Family Fund, Catholic Extension has helped families like Jonathan’s with financial support to pay the bills when a breadwinner is detained or deported. Now with the help of our donors, we are going a step further—providing the emotional and spiritual support needed to heal from traumatic experiences.

Through our Trauma Intervention Program, in February and March, a team of mental health professionals were able to host two “healing retreats,” each of which were attended by hundreds of families, parents and children in Jonathan’s community.  

Additional retreats and classes for parents and 1:1 sessions for individuals were all planned for the spring when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, no time was lost.  

Recognizing the urgency of the situation and added anxiety brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, Catholic Extension implemented tele-counseling.  Over 500 hours of such counseling is supporting the families each month. 

COVID-19 social distancing measures cut off these healing families from classmates, friends, and family—adding additional stress. This made healthy communication and behaviors even more essential at home.  

Olga Lucia Villar, Ph.D.,  who coordinates the program, helped with a fundraiser to provide used tablets and laptops for families to use for the counseling:

Families are learning to plan together, to pray together, to play together, to spend time together.” 

Initiatives like the Trauma Intervention Program are only possible through the generosity of donors like you.

Read Jonathan’s full letter to donors:

Let me say that I am grateful for all of the help you are giving to our families, because so many people are in need who have been deeply affected by everything that is happening here.

There are many destroyed families, children who are suffering, waiting to see their dad or their mom who are still in detention. We ask you to keep helping people who still have family members in detention.

Please do not abandon us. Because we the children are the ones who are suffering the most after August 7th.  Many days have passed and the children still have hope to see their mother or their father come back home. We are very grateful for all that you are doing for us and for the help that you gave to my mom.

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