In the Cañón de Alacrán (Scorpion’s Canyon), west of Tijuana, Mexico, and near the United States border, a small sanctuary has a big vision for helping immigrant refugees―with the help of funding gathered by Commonweal’s Gift of Compassion program.
This sanctuary, the Foundation Gifting Love (in Spanish, Regalando Amor), has been providing spiritual and physical sustenance to those in the process of transition and transformation since 2016. Their programs rely on principles of kindness, equanimity, and self-awareness in the service of humanity. Currently hosting 500 migrants and refugees, the vast majority women, children, and teens, the shelter provides food and shelter―as well as yoga, conversation, meditation, and holistic health.
Now, the sanctuary’s founders, pastors Gustavo Banda Aceves and his wife, Zaida Guillén, are working on a larger community effort to provide more stable, and more permanent, housing for these homeless refugees. With Teddy Cruz, a Guatemalan-born architect, and Fonna Forman, a political scientist from Milwaukee, they are working to develop not just emergency housing but a stable community that made use of the resources at hand in the canyon and region. Eventually, their master plan will house 350 homeless immigrants in replicable, modern stacked dwellings, similar to the adobe dwellings in New Mexico. But instead of adobe, the housing is being built with concrete and modern steel framing that can be easily expanded and replicated in other parts of the canyon to accommodate the growing community. If you are a New York Times subscriber, you can read the recent article written about this project. If you want to find out more or support the mission of the Foundation Gifting Love sanctuary, email Angela Oh at firstname.lastname@example.org. (photo is from the article: John Francis Peters for The New York Times.)
Back in Los Angeles, Gift of Compassion’s home base, program directors Angela Oh and Ying Ming Tu have other projects working to bring healing to their diverse community.
“We See You” is a four-part Sunday supper series hosted by the Black-Asian Circle and the Zen Meditation Group at Gift of Compassion. At these dinners (offered in person and virtually) participants explore together how systemic racism affects and infects a community. The first Sunday dinner took place October 3, with upcoming dates on October 17 and November 14. (The final date is yet to be set). You can find out more on their website: gocompassion.org/we-see-you/.
Angela and Ming have also been hosting Sitting for the World, a Wednesday evening meditation, since 2016. These 45-minute sessions allow people who have their own practice to join with others to experience harmonizing self with others. Participants experience the difference between sitting alone and sitting with others, with the intention that the silence and stillness is not just for self, but also for healing of the entire universe. You can find out more on their website: gocompassion.org/our-offerings/.
Other Gift of Compassion programs include the Black-Asian Healing Circle, held every other Tuesday since last July 2020, as well as Healing Circles for former prisoners, young undocumented adults, and the African American community.
From Angela Oh: “Each of these activities is a meditation―a way to put your compassion into action. This part of the work at Gift of Compassion gives everyone a chance to be generous with time, creativity, and resources. We have a high school student in Southern California who is organizing an art exchange with the kids in Tijuana: gathering art supplies, and engaging her fellow students in designing a weekly Internet workshop. In Tijuana, kids at the Sanctuary will make art with them by watching a big-screen television. Then, the California kids hope to create an art exhibit at their school to tell the migration story through the eyes of the migrant children. We are thankful to Commonweal for support for Gift of Compassion.”