A ministry for migrant families in New England

By Hugo Bravo

In September of 2022, Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts received approximately 50 Venezuelan asylum seekers from San Antonio, TX. Since then, the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) has been working with government associations like FEMA to learn what are the needs of these new migrant families. Months later, migrants are still being sent to states like MA that are ‘right to shelter’, which guarantees any resident a legal right to safe and decent shelter or housing. EDS is now facing a different type of ‘emergency disaster’.

“The organizations that we work with have identified that baby supplies are a big need for the families staying in hotels in the area,” says Emily Mew, Deputy Director of EDS for the Massachusetts Division. “Many of the migrant women don’t leave their country pregnant, but due to unfortunate circumstances, they arrive pregnant here in the states. It’s a traumatic experience for these mothers to be in a new country and care for a newborn child at the same time.”

Heather MacFarlane, director of communications, marketing & public relations for the Salvation Army in Mass., suggested that a mother-oriented project such as this would be appealing to the New England Patriots Foundation and the Patriots Women’s Association, made up of the wives, girlfriends, and mothers of the New England Patriots.

“We’ve developed a great relationship with Josh Kraft, president of President of the New England Patriots Foundation, having received donations from the Foundation to help with hurricane relief this past year,” says Mew.

On May 24, members of both the New England Patriots Foundation and the Patriots Women’s Association, met with the Salvation Army at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Together, they created 500 emergency infant care kits filled with blankets, diapers, bottles, socks, and other baby essentials. Kits like these will go to both migrant families and families impacted by fire and other natural disasters in New England.Mew says that the housing capacity in the state is being tapped to its limits. One hotel in Methuen, MA has 100 families making up close to 500 individuals.

“When EDS helps after a hurricane or a fire, the hurricane eventually passes, and the fire is put out. They leave a specific amount of displaced people to help, and the recovery can go on for years, but the actual disaster is gone,” says Mew. “But for an emergency like this migrant crisis, people are continuing to come, and no one knows if it’s ever going to end.”