On March 15th through March 19th, SACIV hosted four Colombian visitors for a program on “Vulnerable Populations and Victims’ Assistance”. Their program aimed to explore national, state, and local policies, programs and institutions committed to protecting at-risk populations and underrepresented communities; examine challenges facing victims of violence, human trafficking, internal displacement, and gender-based violence; observe programs that facilitate reintegration of troubled youth, former gang members, and previously incarcerated individuals; and explore local level programs and nonprofit organizations seeking to support, place, and integrate immigrant and refugee populations.
Specifically, their program in San Antonio focused on three areas:
• The New Orleans Diaspora: Internally Displaced Victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Visitors met with Dr. Sara DeTurk, Associate Professor of Communications at UTSA, for an academic insight into how internally displaced persons were provided with assistance and integrated into the community after the 2005 hurricane. Having grown-up during a war in their home country, the Colombians asked many poignant questions about her advice on conflict resolution techniques. They also meet with representatives of the City of San Antonio’s Office of Emergency Management at their Emergency Operations Center. There, they were able to learn about the City’s role in 2005 in providing assistance and housing for thousands of evacuees from New Orleans and how they work with and serve those affected by severe weather. And they met with staff of BCFS (formerly Baptist Children and Family Services) to learn about their Emergency Management Division and responses to regional hazards such as wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados. They also had the opportunity to hear about the shelters BCFS has set-up recently for unaccompanied migrant minors that have been entering Texas from Mexico and Central America in the past years.
• Supporting Hispanic Immigrant Communities and Promoting Integration. The delegation met with representatives from Texas Riogrande Legal Aid to learn about their work to provide legal services and assistance to low income families and individuals in South Texas specifically, how they aid immigrants and victims of human trafficking as well as migrant and seasonal farm workers throughout the state of Texas. Similarly, they met with the staff of American Gateways to discuss their vision for all people to have a right to equal access to justice and how they provide the legal and educational services immigrants need to navigate the immigration system and begin a new life free of torture and abuse.
•Combatting and Preventing Trafficking in Persons. The visitors attended a roundtable discussion with member representatives of the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking (AACAT), a group of professionals that represents local NGOs and agencies that aim to defend and protect victims of trafficking as well as raise awareness to prevent trafficking at a grassroots level, specifically in underserved areas. They discussed their collaborative efforts and shared training techniques with the group.