Our organization was born The Day

we took Vidal to
the hospital.

Building on several years of short-term trips, the Baja Mission 2009 team was serving families of agricultural field laborers, bringing food, clothing, and other help to improve their lives.

Arriving at a labor camp to treat the children living there for lice, we heard the young voices calling for their usual piggyback rides. But the team focused instead on a woman carrying a young boy in her arms—Vidal. Fevered for several days, he lay unconscious, and his mother had no way to get him to the doctor.

With some of the team caring for a younger brother and infant sister, others drove Vidal and his mother to the local clinic. There, the doctor sent them to a public hospital in Ensenada, two hours away, as Vidal needed to be hospitalized, receive IV fluids and antibiotics, and have x-rays taken. “Drive quickly,” the doctor urged.

The team raced to the hospital, and Arturo—now our Executive Director—carried Vidal through the doors. Mexican law guarantees its citizens the right to health care, so there were no insurance cards to produce or concern over in-network doctors. But despite our insistence that Vidal, now unconscious for almost 24 hours, be seen right away, there seemed to be a delay.

The doctor came to the waiting room. Looking at Vidal, he said simply, “I’m sorry, but we can’t treat him.”

In the ensuing conversation, our team learned that the hospital could not treat Vidal without his papers, which would enable him to be registered in the system. When the team offered to pay cash in American dollars for treatment, the doctor insisted: “I’m sorry, but it’s not legal to treat him, even if you pay. We can’t take the risk.” The ride back was quiet, with Vidal and his mother asleep in the back row of the van as the team discussed options. Following a tip from our community liaison, a kindly private physician opened his door to us in the middle of the night. He provided x-rays, IV, and medication for Vidal’s multiple intestinal and bronchial infections, as well as malnourishment. Totaling $50, the cost of his treatment seemed a small sum to our team. But to Vidal’s mother, who supported her family by picking tomatoes for less than $20 a week, it would have been an insurmountable hurdle.

Our team had worked on short-term missions and community aid projects since 2002. But our experience with Vidal forced us to realize that although we had done some good, we had not done anything to change lives. We could do more—and do it better.

Our First Projects

Over the next several years, we studied the needs of the migrant communities and piloted projects stretching in many directions.

The Diaper Project, which ran for three years, served families in the labor camps where lack of water meant diapers could not be washed, while a lack of money meant disposable ones were a luxury item, purchased infrequently. Mothers would scrape disposable diapers clean and dry them in the sun to reuse them. With the help of many generous donors and organizations, we distributed several thousand diapers to families throughout the camps each year.

Next, the Knit Me Together Project took volunteers to the camps to teach pre-teen migrant girls to knit scarves on specially designed looms. The scarves were sold in the U.S. with proceeds given back to the girls, empowering them to make something they could sell and nurturing their money management skills and sense of personal accomplishment. It also gave the girls an extra year or two before they had to join their families picking fruit in the fields. Knit Me Together was wildly popular with donors and buyers, and the girls loved participating.

In 2011, we headed to a new labor camp, one that had never been open to missionaries or aid groups before. Through a local friend, we heard of Alberto Moreno, who had been born with a degenerative condition that left his bones extremely fragile and a neurological condition that caused seizures. After suffering many broken bones, Alberto was left unable to walk. While his parents worked in the fields all day, his younger sister would care for him and their four other siblings. Nevertheless, Alberto had a beautiful smile and a remarkable happiness that brought joy to those he met.

Getting to know the family, our team took on what we affectionately called The Alberto Project. A family from California donated a child-sized wheelchair, and Alberto was mobile again.

Working closely with his parents, we helped finance his healthcare and medication and connected him with specialists. Eventually, we helped the family rent a home in town so that Alberto could recuperate in more sanitary conditions after a difficult surgery.

Although Alberto passed away in 2013 at age 13, we had made his life and his family’s better: He had been mobile for two years; he regularly received medication; and his family lived in a real home, with enough beds for everyone.

A Different Approach

Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2014, the newly named Baja Mission Ministries seemed to be better at helping people.

At the same time, our trips continued to open our eyes. Listening and learning, we saw first-hand what sociologists wrote about: we approached people as though they simply lacked money, when what they really lacked was dignity—due to systemic injustice, prejudice, and even our own heartfelt but misguided response. We were depriving people of the dignity of self- sufficiency, creating a community dependent on foreigners, unable to overcome the obstacles that kept them from thriving.

Thus, over the last two years, we have refined our approach to serving Mexico’s migrant communities, moving from short-term trips to enduring relationships, replacing charity with dignity, and exchanging temporary solutions for permanent change. Instead of importing resources, we have made it our purpose to identify local assets—resources that are already in the communities but inaccessible to the people who need them. Instead of building dependence on our provision, our goal is to close the gaps in access, building bridges that will outlast our presence in the community.

The last two years have also made us more mindful of the broader picture of migration, the ebb and flow of human movement not just to and from harvests in Mexico but across the world. Realizing that the challenges in Baja California reflected challenges for all migrants, we sensed the world growing smaller and the work before us bigger. In 2016, we renamed the organization Inalienable, continuing with established relationships in Mexico with an eye toward global expansion

Regardless of country, Inalienable defends the rights and dignity of migrants to seek and secure their well-being. And it comes back to the story of Vidal—we are committed to doing everything we can so that no migrant mother ever feels powerless to help her dying child.