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Minnesotans can learn more about life on the border during COVID-19

This Saturday, people all over the world can join a virtual, free, family-friendly event to highlight an effort to help those living in border shelters during COVID.

MINNEAPOLIS — No question, we’ve all struggled with challenges during this time of COVID-19.

But now imagine dealing with social distancing, masking and other precautions as a migrant family on the move, looking for a new home.

“Families that are experiencing migration are feeling very stuck in the moment. Borders have been closed because of COVID for almost a year. There is a lot of risk to outside exposure. So right now, families in shelters are just working to keep themselves protected and safe,” said Annie Nolte-Henning, Director of the Americas with Minnesota-based Alight.

Alight’s history on the border 

For years, Alight – formerly the American Refugee Committee – has worked on the border alongside Catholic sisters and others to help deal with what experts and others call a humanitarian crisis. KARE 11’s Karla Hult traveled to the southern border in 2019 to document both that crisis – and the organization’s efforts to deal with it by capitalizing on the relationships already formed by nuns throughout the region.

“We know humanitarians when we see them, and the Catholic sisters wrote the book,” Nolte-Henning said.

But then came COVID and the need to change the organization’s approach.

‘A Little Piece of Home’ 

Recognizing the challenges of this moment, Alight has teamed up with other humanitarians – including Burners Without Borders, world-renowned architect and UC Berkeley Professor Ronald Rael and others – to try to bring the familiar to shelters along the border. They’ve called the movement “A Little Piece of Home.”

“There are humans at the border. There are people at the border who have the same experiences and emotions as people all around the world. And they are in dire need of assistance,” Rael said about the effort, the need and his involvement.

Rael has received international awards for his recent “teeter totter wall” project at the U.S.-Mexico border. Today, he’s bringing his talents to this latest humanitarian project by specifically helping to design an “horno” -- a traditional mud brick oven built and used by people living in the border shelters.

“When you bring together something very central like a hearth and fire and food and recipes you can really bring these communities together and they can grow,” Rael said.

And now Rael, Alight and others are helping all of us also grow our understanding about life on the border.

Breaking Bread… Virtually 

On Saturday, Feb. 6, people all over the world will have an opportunity to join a virtual, free, family-friendly event to highlight this effort to help those living in border shelters during the pandemic. Participants will be able to cook alongside celebrity chef and activist Chef Charles Michel, see a short movie about “A Little Piece of Home” and hear from Rael, Nolte-Henning and others about life on the border during this difficult time.

“We’ll meet each other, we’ll cook a meal together. We’ll eat together and screen a new short film,” Nolte-Henning said, adding, “We’ll also have the opportunity to connect and start a conversation about what home and belonging really means.”

“This is an opportunity to open up a shelter to the world and that there are families and children who are coming together and going to school, sharing meals and doing the things that people do all over the world. So it’s really an opportunity for people to visit a shelter and understand what goes on there,” Rael said.

To learn more about this free, virtual event, just go to: https://www.wearealight.org