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  • Writer's pictureMara Cao

Desert Writings: An Introduction

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

This is a collection of short vignettes and photos of my experience volunteering with No More Deaths (NMD), a humanitarian aid organization based in Tucson, AZ. I first went out to volunteer in April 2016 as a month-long volunteer. I had been volunteer at Street Level Health Project, a community center and free health clinic in East Oakland. Most of our patients were undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America. I had heard about NMD through peers and felt I needed to go see what was happening at the border for myself in order to better understand what our patients had experienced before they came through our doors.

During my month in the desert, I helped run a humanitarian aid camp where migrants who are crossing the border can rest and get basic medical care. We also went out on the trails in the desert that migrants walk and put out gallons and water and canned food. It doesn't seem like much, but I know this simple act of putting out water and canned foods has saved lives.

In April 2021, I spent a few days volunteering out at the NMD humanitarian aid camp. Covid-19 was still looming, but I was fortunate enough to be fully vaccinated as a medical student. Due to Covid-19, NMD was not doing as many water drops, partly for safety reasons and partly because their volunteer base was getting thin with people moving away. However, the small stronghold of local NMD volunteers continued to keep the camp open 24/7 for anyone who needs medical aid in the desert. I admire the passion and commitment of the volunteers who keep No More Death going, who continue to do this work for years, even decades because they truly believe that no human being is illegal.

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