Changing the World through Community

A blog post written by Executive Director, Melanie McCarthy in application to the Toptal Scholarship: Empowering the Next Generation of Female Leaders to Change the World

Nosapo, Inc., a 501(c)3 Boston-based international non-profit of which I am the Founder and Executive Director, provides thoroughly researched, culturally sensitive, and demographic specific human rights, health, and educational resources. Nosapo distributes vital human rights information and healthcare support in attempt to reach those that need it most, working at the borders in the United States with Mexico, the shores of Sicily in Palermo and Catania, as well as in migratory hubs such as Rome and Athens. Alongside this work, I have offered yoga to the communities we work in; to staff of organizations on the front lines as well as to refugees and asylum seekers within refugee camps and alternative settings such as community centers and ‘squats.’ With the Toptal Scholarship, I plan to expand Nosapo’s offerings, which intersect the need for accurate and safe information, and healing through healthcare and yoga.

 

The $10,000 from the Toptal Scholarship will support a community space along the migratory route from Central America to the United States of America in Guatemala. For the project to be sustainable, the space will dually act as a guesthouse, where we can educate guests on the issues and populations we serve, creating lasting change through that avenue of education—education as activism and spreading awareness. The guesthouse profits will support the rent of the building while the Toptal Scholarship will support the sustainability and growth of Nosapo’s programs. Those programs will be: legal aid, healthcare, and yoga practice.

 

Legal Aid: Nosapo expand from our Arrival Pamphlets (information for asylum seekers arriving to the United States). As of now, this information (online and in abbreviated booklet-format) is distributed by organizations and legal teams working on the border in Tijuana and San Diego, Mexicali, and Calexico, as well as organizations working in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. These resources include pertinent material regarding how to apply for asylum, with the most accurate direction and current news on United States policies and individual policies in Arizona, California, and Texas. To magnify this project, we will have legal volunteers at the ready to prepare migrants at the center. In doing so, migrants will have accurate expectations as well as have their necessary paperwork in order. Very often, migrants arrive without proof of credible fear, and even their own identification. Documentations such as letters of threat, death certificates of family members, and hospital and physician letters, are crucial to establishing credible fear which allows one to apply for asylum. Without identification for themselves and their family, not only can an application for asylum not be established, but also without this they will indefinitely be separated from family members and placed in detention centers. Providing this information through workshops, individual interviews, and distributions to have in hand, is vital for migrants to continue their journey safely. A percentage of the Toptal Scholarship will support translation and printing costs.

 

Healthcare: In December it was estimated that at least 4,000 migrants traveling to the United States have died or gone missing in last four years[1]; we know this number has only grown. Alongside statistics of death and abduction, President Donald Trump announced yesterday that he vows to cut U.S. government aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras[2]. This will inevitably inflate the crisis that already exists and increase the number of asylum seekers; this cut will threaten the lives of Central Americans, whether migrating to the United States or not, that are already on the fringe – and the number of people that will be forced to travel for their safety will rise. That being said, safety through education is one piece, but we must also provide healthcare and have trusted healthcare referrals for migrants; we will continue to provide safe referrals that we have vetted for healthcare services at the border of the United States as well as along the common travel route for those seeking asylum. I have worked in pediatrics for four years and have a community of healthcare professional volunteers ready for the opportunity to step in and support. A percentage of the Toptal Scholarship will provide basic healthcare and first aid supplies such as electrolytes, bandages, infant formula, and supplies to treat common chronic diseases in migrants such as pink eye, scabies, and head lice. A percentage of the Toptal Scholarhsip will also provide two meals a day, as needed, for migrants visiting the center.

 

Yoga: Lastly, we will continue to offer yoga and mindfulness practices to migrants as well as for free to those in the community serving these populations. The need for strength-building, patience, and peace during these transitions and travels is palpable. It is no coincidence that the greatest teachings on peace - the lessons of yoga in the “Bhagavad Gita”— was given in the midst of a battle. I completed my Yoga Teacher Training in Central America, and therefore have a community of yoga teachers also ready with a strong back bone and an open heart to serve as volunteers. A percentage of the Toptal Scholarship will provide yoga mats and materials such as bolsters and blocks for yoga practice.

 

There is no a similar space that exists in Guatemala, especially with this intention and deliberate location. It will be where there is an opportunity for rest and preparation to continue, and it cannot be done without the Toptal Scholarship. I know from experience that these physical spaces are vital. I have spent the last seven years cultivating the experience to execute this project, working in and visiting the archetype of these settings around the world, in the Islands of the Philippines, in Thailand near to the Burmese border, throughout Europe, and here at our border with Mexico. The space acts as a stake in the ground – a safe haven for those in need and a hub of hope, learning, and sustenance for change. It establishes a community to those without one, and with community—change will occur, because there has to be a collective solution.

 

[1] “Migration's Hidden Toll: Thousands Have Died or Gone Missing on Their Way to U.S.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 5 Dec. 2018, www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/least-4-000-migrants-way-u-s-have-died-or-n944046.

[2] Harte, Julia. “Trump Cuts Aid to Central American Countries as Migrant Crisis Deepens.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 31 Mar. 2019, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-trump/trump-cuts-aid-to-central-american-countries-as-migrant-crisis-deepens-idUSKCN1RC013.