An Independence Day Message from Dr. Julie Avina

July 2, 2018
Dr. Julie Avina with humanitarian mission group

Migration: A Purposeful Journey

July 2, 2018

Photo Above: Dr. Julie Avina (second from left), GPH Senior Associate Dean of Student and Alumni Affairs, with fellow volunteers on a humanitarian mission in Arizona, last month.

Dear Colleagues and Students:  

The past few weeks have altered me forever.

I returned home recently from two weeks in the desert of Southern Arizona, where I had the honor of serving with a humanitarian aid group that works tirelessly to drop gallon bottles of water, food, socks and love for migrants traveling to a life of better fortune and safety for themselves and their families.


Collection of gallons of water and canned food


For two weeks, I had the space and time to consider all that I have and am grateful for -- largely due to my grandparents crossing the border illegally many years ago. In 100+ degree temperatures, I walked in the deadly beauty of the desert, under the scorching sun, struggling with constant thirst and a loss of direction. I was simply carrying things, and had the privilege of doing so without fear of the border patrol and the unpredictable, armed militia chasing me; without the sensations of a hungry belly and a deep thirst that drives one to eat cacti regardless of the spiny thorns.  I didn’t suffer from overwhelming exhaustion, or the dreadful worry for the safety of my children, my loved ones, my travel partners, or my own well-being.


Border fencing


I found myself trying to imagine those untenable pressures, and concluded that any person who was able to survive this deadly crossing should be honored as a hero, a warrior, and the exact kind of person we need in our country. Instead of being greeted with a rifle, or the threat of separation from their children, or treated as a hardened criminal, these travelers ought to be greeted with kindness and a hand ready to help.


Grave in the dessert


The deadly desert crossing is purposeful. It was engineered to deter and to kill. I witnessed this, felt it in my dried and tired body, and literally saw the results. The people crossing are doing so for a better life for themselves and their families. We cannot fault this, as most of us whose families had the choice to come to the U.S. did so seeking the same -- but likely in much safer circumstances. As this issue remains in the headlines every day now I ask you all to have compassion in your hearts for migrants -- and to please consider taking up the call to action.

If you want more information or to learn how to help and get involved, I can share what I know.

In gratitude,

Julie Avina, Ed.D.
Sr. Associate Dean of Student and Alumni Affairs
Clinical Associate Professor