What a Difference a Volunteer Can Make

As I look back over┬ámy year at NCJW Greater Dallas, I can point to a number of organizational achievements of which I am very proud. The project I was most proud to be associated with, though, was one that perhaps I had the least influence over: NCJW’s Aid to Immigrant Families program.

In the summer of 2014, Dallas County faced the possibility of an influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children. Social service organizations all over the county tried to understand the problem and came up with all sorts of potential ways to help. NCJW did what it always does: took a hard look, assessed existing resources for the kids, and found the place where it could best make a difference..

Early on, volunteers realized that our immigration courts were working hard to expedite children through the process. This might have served the court, but certainly didn’t serve the children, many of whom were being deported without having the benefit of legal representation.

NCJW volunteers organized themselves to monitor the court and collect data about the so-called “rocket docket,” which information was eventually used in a national class-action suit on behalf of the kids. The court took notice and began to take a more thoughtful approach.

Later, these same volunteers helped develop workshops to teach immigrant families how to apply for asylum, to avoid returning to dangerous situations in their home countries.

We’ll never really know how many children were ultimately helped. One thing we do know: if even one life was saved, it was certainly worth the effort.