Friday, Dec 20th at The Hood Bar and Pizza

By Esther Sanchez

Manos a Manos: Helping Hands Across the Border, is a grassroots charity that is aimed at gathering the most basic and practical necessities, and delivering them to desperate refugees in shelters awaiting trial where they will eventually find out the fate of their future. This charity is still just a seedling with a long way to grow, and is the brainchild of Coachella Valley resident, Talitha Chernick, who sees it as her labor of love. This Friday, Dec 20th The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert will be hosting a show where the public can bring donations of all kinds to be delivered into the hands that most desperately need them, all while rocking out to some stellar local bands.

CVW: Tell us about Manos a Manos.

Chernick:  “It’s really pretty simple. Once a month I cross the border to deliver toiletries, clothes, food, medicine, blankets, dish soap, baby supplies, contraceptives.. anything and everything is needed. There isn’t any government assistance in Mexicali and the refugees who are lucky enough to make it that far have already been through so much from domestic abuse, to rape, extreme poverty, etc. I want them to know that there are people out there listening to their struggle and that they are not alone. Because this charity is fairly new, I do not have all the resources I’d like to offer them. I’ve  been funding this myself, and I’m by no means wealthy…I’m just a student who works full-time, but every little thing they receive is helpful.”

CVW:  What inspired you to start Manos a Manos?

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Chernick: “At first, this charity didn’t have a name. I was sitting in my room after finishing the season finale of Orange is The New Black and was reading an article about how OISTNB featured an immigrant hotline that offered legal counsel, (Immigrants in detention facilities have little to no access to legal aid in any form), and how in real life, two weeks after the premier, ICE shut the hotline down. I decided I wanted to go to the facilities and offer them phone cards myself, and numbers to immigration lawyers that could possibly help at least some people. But, after reading more articles I quickly found out the public wasn’t even allowed to offer basic necessities and were being turned away. So, then I started looking into how the asylum seekers were awaiting trial in Mexicali, many separated from their loved ones. I thought okay, I’ll reach out to charities on this side of the border. I was immediately stunned to find there was only one in Calexico; one outreach program for the hundreds waiting across the border while they await trial. I called a well-known outreach program but they only serviced Tijuana, so I decided to go there myself. I harassed all my friends for clothes or items they didn’t need. I even asked my dentist to help and Dr. Lagos donated boxes of toothbrushes. I chose a date and called shelters trying to find one that would allow me to personally deliver the food and basic necessities to the refugees and asylum seekers. I found one, and after communicating made my first drop off in September.”

CVW: Tell us about that first trip across the border.

Chernick: “For my first drop off, I brought my friend Samuel Meza to help with navigation and communication. I’m glad he came along because we got lost twice. Eventually, we found the shelter and we finally found the shelter and were able to bring everything in and see all the little kids…it was really overwhelming. I remember one woman asked who I came with. She kept mentioning the charity in Calexico and after I told her that I just came by myself, she was shocked. She told us that people forget about them. I think that’s what cemented my decision to try to make this bigger than just a one woman operation. I asked her what she needed and told her I would be back next month. So that’s what I did.”

CVW: How many times have you made the trip and what are your ultimate goals for Manos a Manos?

Chernick: “I’ve gone twice, with this month counting as my third trip. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the trip last month because I simply didn’t have the funds to do so. I’ve learned that we need to do more as a community to help our neighbors in need. They just want to be with their families and be safe. How…with all of the resources we have available, can we deny them that?

My ultimate goal is to have my own shelter/after school program in various locations in Mexicali and Central America with a focus on Guatemala. These shelters will offer mentorship, educational services, legal services, family planning, therapy, shelter, and of course freedom from their past atrocities. I want them to be able to have the opportunity to succeed just like we do. I believe it’s possible.”

Talitha Chernick will be at The Hood Bar in Palm Desert this, Friday December 20th to collect donations for her next trip across the border. Donations of clothing, shoes, baby supplies, toiletries, blankets and of course, cash will be accepted and delivered directly into the hands of refugees at the border. Plus, it will be a great time!