Tuesday, November 28, 2006


“LETTERS FROM THE OTHER SIDE interweaves video letters carried across the U.S./Mexico border by the film’s director with the personal stories of women left behind in post-NAFTA Mexico, giving voice to 4 amazing women who feel the effects of failed immigration and trade policies on a daily basis. Focusing on a side of the immigration story rarely told by the media or touched upon in our national debate, LETTERS offers a fresh perspective, painting a complex portrait of families torn apart by economics, communities dying at the hands of globalization, and governments incapable or unwilling to do anything about it”.

Friday night, November, 17th, Hands On Gulf Coast hosted a ‘Dinner and a Movie’ event featuring the documentary film LETTERS FROM THE OTHER SIDE. Partnering with the United Methodist Hispanic/Latino Ministries, HOGC invited members of the gulf coast community to have dinner and watch the film together. The director and two of the women from the movie were present for a question and answer session afterwards. There was an excellent turn out with more than 50 community members in attendance.

On a personal note, for me it was a wildly successful evening. My job since returning to HOGC in late September has been to start up the Latino Outreach. It was slow going at first, but once I was introduced to Mary Townsend and Sally Bevill of the United Methodist Hispanic/Latino Ministries the pace of my life has been in constant acceleration. I now spend my days working in a rapidly growing and shifting Latino community that is trying to find its feet and be more than just the invisible hands rebuilding the gulf coast. I have the distinct pleasure to call many of my colleagues friends and have been accepted into this community with open arms. Many days I feel as though I have discovered a buried treasure, something so amazing and beautiful all I want to do is dance and shout at the top of my lungs “Look! Come see what I have found!”

Last Friday night was a chance for me to do just that. Many of my friends and colleagues from the Latino community came to the event. They sat at dinner tables with fellow HOGC volunteers and were visible, in fact the focus of the evening. The documentary is done in Spanish with English subtitles, so for at least one night they did not have to worry about translating. The movie was very powerful for them. I watched their faces change with the emotions of the people on the screen. For many of them it was a mirror of their lives. I watched young men struggle with the images of families left behind. I could see in their eyes they were thinking of their own families, their own mothers. I saw the guilt. I felt the guilt. There I was sitting with all of these amazing people who should be home, sharing their talents and hearts with the land and people they love. But instead they are sitting in a church auxiliary building in Biloxi, Mississippi, tired and weary from endless hours of manual labor. How had it come to this?

I also watched the faces of my fellow HOGC volunteers. In many I saw compassion, disgust, amazement and affirmation. Many of us are aware of the ‘immigration problem’ on a broad scope but it is an entirely different thing to watch its effect on a few families and then have the chance to meet two of them face to face. The volunteers welcomed our guests with smiles and kind words and they contributed significantly to the question and answer portion of the evening. I appreciated their insight and honesty. I was touched by their openness and empathy. I was elated by the positive feed back that followed for the next few days. The treasure chest had been opened to a few more eyes.

I am so happy and excited to be a part of what HOGC is doing on the gulf coast. We are truly rebuilding communities from ground up. Not only are we building people’s homes but we are helping them build neighborhoods and a united community that will be stronger than it was before and able to face whatever challenge comes its way, be it mother nature or uncle sam.

I leave you with a quote from one of my friends, Sergio, “With understanding, we can conquer anything”. I encourage you to seek out true understanding of the issues we face today, to dig deep into the messy, complicated side of life. Let your heart be entangled, your mind confused and your soul touched. Live life with understanding and emerge with the ability to conquer anything.

Que le vaya bien,

Elly Lehnert HOGC Biloxi

(If you are interested in viewing the documentary please contact your local PBS affiliate or contact me at elehnert@handsongulfcoast.org)

No comments: