People across the state are struggling to make ends meet as Colorado’s unemployment rate has doubled in just a matter of months, reaching 4.5%, as a result of the recent economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic. Some immigrants are feeling the effects disproportionately more than other people, as federal aid for undocumented individuals has been little to none.
Through these trying times, Denver based grassroots organization, Sanctuary4All Colorado is working to support immigrant families living in sanctuary by collaborating with them for “Solidarity Meals With Sanctuary 4 All.” The first event took place May 16, with two families cooking solidarity meals. This will continue each Saturday throughout the summer, with students from the University of Colorado Boulder hoping to extend the events’ reach throughout Boulder in the coming weeks.
Solidarity Meals is a chance for the Boulder and Denver communities to “stand in solidarity with immigrant families” by ordering home-cooked meals prepared by the families that are local to their home countries. All of the proceeds go directly to the families cooking each week.
Ingrid Encalada and her three young children, who are currently living in sanctuary in Boulder, will be one of the families featured in this weekend’s event. Encalada immigrated from Peru and is the founder of No Mas Chuecos, a Boulder-based campaign aimed at educating people on the repercussions of purchasing fake documentation as well as offering alternatives.
Federal resources such as stimulus checks and unemployment insurance have excluded undocumented immigrants, while other unemployment resources are increasingly hard to secure. Makena Lambert, a recent CU Boulder graduate and volunteer at Sanctuary4All, explained that impacted members have expressed a desire to raise their own money in the face of their current unemployment, which she said is exactly what these events hope to bolster.
“When it comes to fundraising, [they] are super hard-working and very talented in numerous ways, so they want the chance to be able to raise their own money,” Lambert said. “So, with Solidarity Meals, this is a chance for them to cook—and they’re incredible chefs.”
As Sanctuary4All’s mission is to be an ally to Colorado’s immigrant community, Lambert emphasizes that this collaboration is to use the Sanctuary4All platform to “uplift their talents.”
Last Saturday’s event featured two families, including Yessenia Blanco Martínez, her husband and her two young children.
“The reason for doing this food event is to raise money, since the pandemic has affected us financially at work,” Martínez said. “And we have extra expenses such as paying our lawyers, renewal of work permits and the priority of paying rent. As immigrants, we do not receive government aid.”
The second family included Vanessa Gutierrez, who immigrated from Honduras with her daughter. Gutierrez had a steady job in Denver until she lost it due to COVID-19. She’s been looking for a job and a place to live ever since.
“I am selling food because we are in a difficult time,” Gutierrez said. “I am without work, and no matter how much I have looked for work I cannot find anything. So I will take the opportunity to cook something from my country so I can generate some income for my daughter and myself.”
“It’s not that they don’t want to find work, they’re trying, but their documentation status makes it challenging to begin with, but the pandemic makes it even more so,” said Rebecca Robidoux, a recent CU graduate and Sanctuary4All volunteer. “So, what Solidarity Meals is trying to do is create an opportunity for these people to sell their delicious homemade food and earn some money out of it.”
Through their work with Sanctuary4All, Makena Lambert, Rebecca Robidoux and other CU Boulder students are working to bridge its mission from Denver to Boulder by extending food drop-offs all around the Boulder area.
Lambert and her fellow CU Boulder students first began to volunteer with Sanctuary4All through CU’s INVST Community Studies program, where they formed a project, self-titled Students4Sanctuary.
“We just wanted to emphasize that there are students, and in this case CU students, who are involved in the sanctuary movement because oftentimes it’s older folk who are part of the faith community,” Lambert said. “But we really do need young people’s energy.”
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Noelle Videon at firstname.lastname@example.org.