Susan Brandenburg Giboney and Megan Managhan

Recorded January 25, 2020 Archived January 28, 2020 35:52 minutes
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Id: lsk002280


Susan K Brandenburg Giboney (58) and Megan Managhan (24) talked about Susan's mission trip to McAllen, Texas.


  • Susan Brandenburg Giboney
  • Megan Managhan

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00:00 Hi, my name is Megan. Manahan. I am 24 years old. Today is January 25th of 2020. I'm here in Portland, Oregon and I'm here with my Aamco Providence caregivers to hey, good morning. My name is Susan K. Brandenburg giving me I'm 58 years old today is day this January 25th 2020. I'm in Portland, Oregon and I have the honor of being here with making my Coco Coco Coco caregiver at Providence.

00:35 All right. So thank you for being here. I want to hear a little bit about your time and miquelon and your experience how you got there your story. Thank you so much for this opportunity what such an incredible honor for me to be able to go to McAllen, Texas and also just to to serve in a way that I have never got to serve despite serving internationally and domestically quite a bit. This is a really different experience. You asked how it started. I guess I would begin by saying I was having a one-on-one monthly meeting with our mission leader here to Providence since we got to talkin in something triggered in the conversation in this was in May. I don't remember exactly what it was. But basically our mission leader told me about a urgent call. It was coming from Catholic Charities for help down at the Mexico US border and is one of those moments as a Providence caregiver that and as an individual I think that you just known that moment that you're called and that

01:35 You really don't have an option not to act and so is immediately I reached out to our Global Partnerships some department and had volunteered with them and let teams in Guatemala prior. So I knew them and so this is something I'd be really interested in helping with and it happened very quickly a team of six of us were gathered. We all LED teams before so we were seasoned volunteers and season leader volunteers. I'm and we were sent down to McAllen Texas not really knowing what we were going to walk into and frankly. I don't think we could have imagined, but we are not that what we walked in to see ya at the time as you know, this past year and Beyond has been very political in our in our country and and Portland is very political, since it's very polarized and politically and so I I guess the store I want to share with you today as one more of humanity and dignity and compassion. It's got a foundation of politics behind it.

02:35 I just really compartmentalize it that way because I think that's for my heart is in this work and I'm where I came how I approached it and how I continue to share the story today, even though I'm not ignoring the politics. I don't want to have a political conversation. So it was just a different experience. What were some of the emotions to feelings? How did you start this experience? That's a great question. We we as a team because you had a great team leader. She provided us a lot of. Materials, which was interesting to prepare has kind of some of the background, you know, that's what was happening at the ice and you know, the Detention Center Etc.

03:24 We got down there and we had a rough time getting down. There was like 24 hours. Flight delays and everything which was fine. So we arrived about 4 a.m. We got to a couple hours of sleep and then we would merely to the the center and I think what was most striking to me is it was downtown McAllen, Texas right across from the bus station. So pretty abandoned kind of had some business sort of area. So this is not a real welcoming sort of place at that moment. I'm in the walls and the windows are either we're all darkened and there was a armed kind of police like looking person outside of the door that was kind of the initial impression and we walked in and I'll never forget that first impression though. It was dark inside as well. There were wall-to-wall people standing lying down in on filthy like those blue mats. You might have used in PE or at least in my day and it was just like

04:24 Set an alarm noise. There was some overhead Pages a little maybe a cry here and there from children, but mostly pretty subdued and just a lot of coughing just a lot of costume. So shocking with the first walk in there and then I guess the word I would most say is it was it was chaotic and there wasn't a lot of structure around anything and maybe the back up a little bit, you know five years prior sister Norma Pimentel out of the Rio Grande Catholic Charities area understood that there was a need for help for individuals refugees.

05:03 She had gone to the Detention Center was you know, that individuals are being held by Ice to ensure that there are free to enter the country and she remembers and recounts talking to children and and what she called the cell. I don't know if that's the right description or not. But and reciting the Lord's Prayer to them and then just having them cry and asked to be taken out and it was that moment for her her call that she said I'm going to come out and make something happen. So she established this Respite Center, which really was individuals that have been cleared through the United States are free to be in the country. But now need to get to their sponsor or their family whoever, you know, I has facilitated there. They're getting here illegally, but yet what was happening was the and again, I'm not being critical. I'm just reporting what happened the government ice would drop off about 200 people just to the downtown McAllen bus stop and there you had it.

06:03 If you can imagine, you know having traveled 30-45 days in the same clothes, you know stories were heard we're running from cartels and coyotes and people have experienced family loss and Raven all sorts of horrific things and they're in the you know, they're in a place of safety and they're just going to get dumped into a world and I can't imagine that the feeling that that that must have been to not be able to speak the language or noted how to I mean, it's hard to get around an airport Cinnabon get when you live here and you speak the language let alone, you know having a Fear Factor everything else. So she saw that and she also saw it was kind of doing the City of McAllen frankly. And so she created this Respite Center for about 200 people a day, which was great and they were able to bring folks in and get him some donated but newer clean clothes and opportunity for shower and then help them with Logistics of getting to their family. So that was what she said up and that was working.

07:03 But this last year as you know, the government and the Border situation changed quite a bit and so the urgent call that I got from my mission later was that we were sister Norma was actually receiving up to a thousand people a day day or night without notice. And so what we walked into to your great question was just that thousand people in space that was designed for 200 and it was chaotic and they just moved to this new location, which also kind of you know does exponentially change the chaotic nature of it. So that's kind of maybe longer answer to your question, but about how we got there and what we saw when we first walked in there because they were moving into new facility. There are tons more people than I expected and how were they are acquiring resources. How are they keeping on top of the resource needs?

08:03 Also because of the trauma that many of these people are experiencing outside of physical care showers and clothes do they have any sort of was there anybody there considering their mental health and how they were doing in that Arena great question. I would say no until Health we're talking basic needs and not a mental health isn't but in the hierarchy of survival that exactly why I probably wasn't quite to the top yet and I do say and I want to make sure that I am not at all son and critical they did they had just moved and so a lot of the processes that I think we're in place a month after that we're different. Our timing was just such that it was shocking and chaotic and if you've done volunteer work before but I'm sure you have a lot of time she'll go and they'll give you here's your volunteer station and here's your sheet. And here's what you do and you have a break in 15 minutes and then you hand off to the next knowledgeable person that will take

09:03 That's the reason I wasn't nothing like what we saw the six of us came in and just a quick summary for my fabulous colleagues. Becky was a nurse practitioner Pat was a retired social worker and now chaplain Gladius was a community resource person and actually of Mexican heritage and actually had herself erroneously been deported as a youngster. So she's not a lot of passion to why we were doing what we were doing Susan was in the spiritual area and Home Health Department. Carry who is our leader was is in the global Partnerships department and she actually lived in McAllen as a as a young individual and serve there as well and then myself I come from a clinical background and radiology sonography and then I at least our patient experience work here in Oregon. So the combination of us was in

10:03 First thing and maybe by Design. Maybe just by Providence design because we got there without any instructions. We almost naturally found our our Niche to the best that we can support Becky winnin be a nurse practitioner really started doing some medical assessments to the best. She could with over-the-counter options for treatment and I remember I'm helping her with several people. Excuse me, but one little boy in particular on two of them. Actually. I am absolutely confident. They would not have survived had she not intervene with hydration and everything and two sorry might get emotional here in some of these stories that I'm too to see her helping a father who's just wailing helplessly because he knows his son is very near, you know is to see that simple but yet miraculous change for for that family was pretty impressive and she did that.

11:03 Time again. She also set up a lot of the medical station if you will and advocated for nurse practitioner presents Etc because you're right the volunteer set up the supplies aren't there and you nail that was her special nature Susan was fabulous and there's a one picture of her washing a refugees feet. That's just Priceless and she she really own a lot of the logistics. So she helped people understand what the bus station ticket is and she walks houses of people over the bus station. She help people get to the van that was going to take people to the airport. She made sure each of them had a sack lunch with them so that they could eat and have beverage on their way travels because some of them were going in a Faraway if they were going to a cold environment she trying to see if they had a warm coat to take with him. They're really trying to ease their way in that regard.

12:01 Pat spoke really fluent Spanish, which was very helpful. And in fact, he's gone down and worked in the galleys across the border since our trip as well. Just an amazing person. Also everyone was but he he was really the logistics guy. He started looking about the about the flow and looking at people in these huge queues of lines that were just like almost a zombie like standing in these lines really not even knowing what the line was for, you know, cuz there weren't signs in Spanish or signs and Copeland she or any other language that they might be spoke and so up at night once went to Home Depot and got a bunch of tape and we made lines and signs and just added some process to that and that help people feel like they were fairly in the queue to you know, what I mean is as people get fearful and desperate sometimes they

12:56 They think they're not, you know the next in line or the fairness or something. So kind of just to create that it wasn't a lot of that but there was some into that was that removal some of that chaos of the unknown of this is the food line. This is the shower Line This is where you get your you know, Travel Assistance, excetera, excetera was really really helpful. I'm glad he's was found herself initially in the kitchen and to your question. I remember the first day. She's like there was a call from the the kitchen mess hall area, if we need some more food and Gladys just got there. She standing in the kitchen looks around and tries to find something to make and she ends up making a massive tub of Top Ramen and threw a bunch of vegetables that I mean she just again no recipe no no cue cards nothing and she just made it happen that first and then after that, we actually I'm had her come back out into the two main a big room is because she was so impactful.

13:56 To help people and not again to say anything more than just the truth. She look like them. She sounded like him she could talk their language and that element of trust really help them ask questions and you know people like myself as very limited Spanish couldn't answer. So she really could she gets really relate she been through something like they're going through so that was really magic to have her along as well carry spend a lot of time working with sister Norma to make sure that what we did during that week plus could be sustained and moving forward and then any Advocacy she could do back to Providence st. Joseph Health on the aspect of continuing support. That's what she was doing. I found myself with my limited Spanish. My myself assigned roles were I really initially started just realizing that the people in this in this

14:56 Didn't have water and they didn't have any water and it was so crowded. So again, the basic needs we went and made sure that all the water buckets that were or the drugs that were there were accessible that there were cups because people didn't want to leave their mat or their place in line to go get get those things. So also there was a lot of a lot of nursing moms and you could just tell clinically that they weren't producing a lot of not because they don't have the art hydrated and so I just kept taking cups of water to these women as they are nursing and would say something like you no muy importante for late are some really poor Spanish thing and they smile but at the end of the week, you know, they started smiling as I approach them, you know, at first it went from

15:42 Can I trust what she's giving me to drink honestly to oh my gosh, you know and it's just that leaning in compassion and making I contacted I think it's some ways it was almost better. I didn't speak fully there only because I really had to connect with them, you know with my eyes and my body and you know just really connect with them on a human level and I would say all about you know, as people are waiting in the line. I started asking them donde volume to where you from and they they would tell me and with such Pride they would tell me Honduras El Salvador Guatemala and then I'd ask him if they knew where they were going one gentleman said, you know, he was going to do something and I couldn't quite understand what he said and we worked on it worked. I finally I understand you a thing Virginia and so for the next day or so, I helped him how to enunciate Virginia and we laughed about you know, how much progress he's made and how poor my Spanish was it was it was a really neat moment and it was nice the next day to come and have those people kind of lighting up.

16:42 Smile when they saw you coming in that sort of thing. But what I noticed when I was watching folks move around and I was moving around was there while shuffling and I couldn't understand what was going on and look down and nobody has shoelaces and that was something I had to read about it and basically in the Detention Center this shoelaces are are are taken away and it's for suicide prevention that sort of thing which you know, I understand the reason why but they're never returned. And so if you can imagine trying to have respect and dignity with yourself and you can't even walk or you've got, you know babies on your ankle babies in your arms and shuffling so we would get a a few donated shoelaces and so two days, I believe I had a small box of shoelaces and so I got to hand those out to those in most need and that was really powerful and came back full circle when I got back and did some shoelace, you know, an inspired others to collect shoelaces to send down but the joy that some of the children had to have

17:42 Just have shoelaces and let him have pink ones or he have red ones or whatever was just the simple things. Right and there wasn't anything for the children to do you know it and there wasn't any coloring books or anything like that. We wouldn't got some of those things as well, but the other and probably most

18:00 Most impactful thing. I think I did when I look back on it was the individuals had a shower room. It was called it was a makeshift platform ahead eight showers and it was incredibly filthy dirty. When I went in there. It was the doorways with monitored by a uniformed officer again, and you just think about you know, the women even though the officer most of time was female still, you know, she was telling them to hurry up and you know process process and when you went in there there was I'm not joking about an inch and a half of standing Brown rosewater with more hair than you've ever seen and it was actually so kind of flooded that it was leaking down into the kitchen below and the shower stalls, although very new we're already completely Brown and there weren't any hooks for clothes or places to put things and what I watched when I went in there was

19:00 Women got the clothes. I just been given and you know, we handed out clothes some fit some really didn't but they took everything I had into the shower stall which is a standard small shower stall shower and got dressed and then came out dressed. So it was there was I think a sense of lack of security and safety and so and cleanliness was really quite awful. And so when I went to Home Depot, I dislike bot mr. Clean and mops and gloves and I just made it my sole purpose to spend every minute. I couldn't that shower space and got it clean and got it wipe down between each person showering and they watched me do that and what was transformative and just made me feel so good was that my Hope was to restore some dignity back to them as they were going to travel and meet their loved ones for the first time ever for the first time and however long or whatever. How can they feel good about it? And it it was just so meaningful to me over.

19:59 Over the time that it went from very standoffish to you know, I'll never forget Sonia picked up a mop and started mopping with me another little gal that I give them pink shoelaces to earlier in the day came over and asked me to lace her shoelaces, you know, I don't look anything like them and I can I'm tall and I'm big I'm a been scary. And so those are the moments were just so impactful to me. Another another woman asked me to hold her child while she bathed and that sort of thing and then little boy came over and handed me something and I I reached out and it was a coin and I said oh and thank you so much. I don't I don't need that. But his mom said no we do that in Guatemala. They were tipping me. They had nothing and they were tipping me for cleaning their shower. So it was just amazing. That was very very powerful and I think

20:58 If I could I'd like to show you one other story. It was outside of the shower room. I was walking down the food line. Once in this woman kind of animated fashion was trying to tell me something and I didn't understand her. She was speaking very fast Spanish. I could say hear something about Guatemala, but I went got Pat my friend who actually in a mister Home Depot buddy, and I and he he translated for me and her name is Lillian and Lillian was from a small Village open in Guatemala The Hills San Antonio Bella Who and the reason she was so animated and in trying to connect with me was she recognized me from working in her Village the year before in Guatemala and I tell you this not because it's about me but because I had the blue Providence shirt on she felt safe enough to self-identify at step out of that very long food line, and I think it just was a sign of of humanity.

21:58 Trust and compassion and also the work at Providence does globally and how that blue shirt met something. You know, my my steam later. Carrie was teasing me. She said you know who you're not that special, you know, the only blonde in here in the tallest one in the place, you know, so we had some we had to laugh a little bit about it, but

22:18 On the last day. We were there I am I came out of the shower room and I heard music and I stopped in my tracks and what Pat had done when we were at Home Depot is about some rope Bunny and had this inspiration to do jump rope with the place was so packed. There's no even place to do it. But the last day we were the census was a little bit lower and he found this little corner and as I came out the shower, he was playing a harmonica in one hand and doing a jump rope in the other and the coolest thing happen again because the kids started jumping and there was laughter and the adult started putting their chairs around this and they were all clapping and there was this one young man who had downs and he got in the circle and was jumping higher than anyone else and doing a great job and everyone was encouraging him and I thought you know, the showers can wait and so I sat there and I started braiding girls hair and I'm out. I know how many hair a weave braided how many songs we jump rope to but it was just the transformation from day one.

23:19 Today for 5 whatever it was was amazing. I had mom's coming up and asking me if I would hold their baby. So they could go to the bathroom, you know asked me what the ankle bracelet on their ankle was before they were hiding it. You know what I mean? So that the transformation that some well-intended sisters and volunteers and you know Providence folks. I believe help those individuals and I will tell you on my way back to Portland I gave up my flight sabacc in pakka go together and it was again providential because I ended up on the flight with someone from the from the Respite Center and that's a whole nother 40 minutes, but how he would not have gotten to his family in the Portland airport without you know, a little assistance just gave me reinforcement that you know, these folks are legally here. We can help them more than just dropping him off at a bus station. So

24:12 So anyway, I I'm sad to say in one hand that the respite centers no closed because of the Law changes around the Border folks are being detained on the other side, but I'm hopeful that we as an organization individuals and hopefully Beyond is Providence has a larger voice in the country that we can look at the Humana Dairy at element of folks coming in especially as everyone's doing ancestry and 23andMe or whatever. Those other things are. We none of us are that many of us can't Tracer origin to where we are right now. So sad I just ever chance of having this opportunity to 2 Cervin see how blessed we really are and how much we can give back to others who need it cuz it anytime that could be us. The Respite Center is closed is it

25:04 I'm assuming it was a permanent building not a temporary setup. Is it at least I'm being semi maintained so that it can reopen if needed or is it now being used for some other purpose or by a different organization nuts a great question. I don't know what the lease operation factors of that were I just know it's not it's not being functional was arrested Center as it is. I guess this is our normal to have to know that I'm yeah. Yeah. Yeah, but you know we're looking at Providence st. Joseph. How can we help on a different organization? So I think I think what we took back and the ability to tell the story all of us are has helped us think about it differently and I have been surprised and elated at how many people outside of Providence are curious about what what's going on because your things on the news and they

25:58 Either Believe it or they don't or whatever in this is just one small glimpse, but I wanted to see it for myself and it was life changing for me and I'll and everyone that we went to we have the six of us who didn't know each other going in have a bond like no no and you know what? I mean? That's what these things do. We always get more than you give him if you give a lot and so absolutely

26:21 How did the experience change you?

26:25 Yeah, great question. Like I said, I volunteered quite a bit and led teams around and rebuilding Country Inn and other catastrophes that have happened. I think the one that the differentiation for this song for me. I was going to mug someone people have to specially cuz I think the difference was it is horrible as everything I've ever served and has been around natural disasters. It's kind of a nature against man. There was a lot of elements about this that were man against man or woman against women, whatever I don't mean to do gender c a b in that but I that was the hard part for me because there was so much things that we could do and then the summer just the horrific stories that those that spoke Spanish for able to assert and then shared with me about the the horrible things humans went through to even get where they were there. So that's that's how it's changed me and it's giving me I think even more of a voice to share and and an advocate for sharing.

27:24 The stories I have to do something like this so that it's not just me. I shared it an event and next thing. I know one of my colleagues had established a rally and they they got like fifteen hundred shoelace pairs, you know and ship down there. So it's about activating an inspiring others. True true that that has always been there a little bit but I think it is just really changed me in that way and then you know why I just think you carry these things in some form or fashion with you wherever you go hence forth. So I'll see how do you process all I mean in a matter of days you seen things. I probably never even understood or thought that you would have to experience. I mean, what do you do with all of that afterwards all this knowledge outside of trying to rally and apply the effort into something productive. But yeah, there's a lot of self-reflection and I think the bond that you have with the people that experienced it with you is even though you go home and you tell your spouse

28:24 Your family and your friends, there's something about having witness that and I think that's the bond that you you cry together you process together you go. What are you doing next to help continue? I think it's as part of it.

28:42 Yeah, I I I think for me it was also kind of an interesting time cuz I went to my calendar in 2 weeks later later. I let a team and Guatemala again. And so

28:52 I I kind of jumped right back in and had some really wonderful and Powerful connection fit in time some hard ones to because it was so close. That was just by chance. I wouldn't trade that for anything. It was great. But it it made a little more for a full circle for this time. But yeah, you don't forget this stuff and you don't forget the please in the cries in the helps in the Gratitude and you notice the appreciation for I mean, I'll never forget these guys coming in that we didn't have to spend enough tools. They just bring their hands over and help me. They were watching me clean their space and they just would help. I mean, there's just there's a lot you can give when you have nothing and

29:33 I just left the lesson. I won't lose I guess.

29:37 See you before we started this you shared with me that there were with the Detention Center the restrictions around photographs and getting the information out there and all of that. So when you go to share and communicate with others, it's by word of mouth and a couple of photos. But how do you I mean communicate just the depth of how severe this was?

30:05 Yeah, I think I think the restriction on the photos is more of a de respect for the people that are there and rather than not wanting to tell the story, you know, photo releases and stuff in our world are really important.

30:20 So my hope is that just through honest genuine passionate sharing with maybe a stock photo here and there, you know what I mean. I've done presentations reviews Dino shoes that don't have laces in it that are in a Dorito whatever to try and I'm give a picture to the story but I think it is it's a storytelling one of us Becky also on the trip is a mention. She wrote A A prose that was beautiful about it and shared it in her church. And I mean, so we we have shared with each other what we've done and I think collectively we all want to come out in a different way, but continue to share the story amazing. Yeah.

31:06 Something I want to ask obviously there was a lot of Heartache a lot of strife a lot of difficult situations we experience but what were some of the happiest moments like you cared about the jump roping in the braiding what were some of those kind of experiences? Well, actually the whole thing was happy in the sense that you knew you were making a difference that's really a driver for me.

31:34 And meeting new people that were also committed you note to the unknown and just leaning in made me really happy. So they're there wasn't a time. I wasn't happy but I think you're just so you can be more reflexive intensive in this sense. But I also realize that if I could bring joy to these people that were scared and frightened or just, you know, welcoming them to our country.

32:01 I wasn't running around like nothing was happening. You know, I mean it that serious but yet the kindness I think extension. So yeah, it was all wonderful. Actually, it was heartbreaking but wonderful, if that makes any sense to put yourself out there and being vulnerable to and you know, there are a couple pictures of me after being the shower stall for days and they aren't pretty so you know, that's probably an unhappy moment.

32:37 You know, the only thing I might share those that might be listening is there's things to do in your own Community very easily and there's need everywhere. And so if you haven't taken that next step to just give a little bit of your time even it's an hour a month a year whatever there's opportunity to give back to others and I think you'll find that you will desire more of it and you will get way more from that than you ever thought you were giving at the time you were doing whatever you're doing. So I would just encourage you to give back to your fellow neighbor and 11 kindness.

33:13 I love it.

33:23 Can you say again the context how this group came together a problem?

33:33 Give me have the group came together because Catholic Charities reached out to our Global Partnerships Group, which is a department of Providence. St. Joseph Health that works on domestic domestic violence. Here is an international volunteerism and Catholic Charities reached out to are the executive director there a Miku and asked if there's any way that, you know, we could help in any in any form or fashion and it was a very quick call that I think conversation went down to our mission later than the different regions that I'm in the Oregon region and I just happened. Like I said to be having my normal one-on-one with our mission later, and he he knows my passion for serving and volunteering and he's also one of the reasons actually when I decided to come to Providence, he was an inspiration to me because he he serves a lot. He was at 9:11. He does a lot of content in a really big Disaster Relief Center.

34:33 Excetera and so's we were talking he said oh my gosh, I just got word of this opportunity. And you know, we we talked about it and then so I immediately reached out to Amy who I knew and and they pulled together very quickly the six of us who would had prior experience and then things and I think that was wise cuz it might not have been the best experience for a first-time ball in there. You know, it was it was that chaotic and you just had to really figure it out, you know yourself, so that's how it came to be in it just turned out to be a real blessing for sure that answer the questions. That's perfect.

35:12 Are any other questions or anything else you want to share or contextual stuff?

35:20 No just said thanks for listening to this from your heart and not your political brain perhaps and I know that we have to deal with those issues too. But this particular moment is take her story was about human to human connection compassion empathy dignity and recognizing that

35:37 We all we all could fall upon hardship at any time. So

35:47 Thanks.