March 31, 2022
MDS volunteers enjoy hard work—and treasured time together
“She’s pretty amazing!” That’s how Valetta Seymour described her sister, Wanda Knight, as the two women volunteered together for Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) in the Rio Grand Valley in February.
Even though both sisters live in Kansas, they had not gotten to spend much time together during the past several years. Both widowed, they decided to make the trip—along with 13 volunteers from Kansas—to McAllen, Texas, to work on homes for flood survivors who bore the brunt of 2018 and 2019 flooding.
“I enjoyed traveling with Wanda,” said Seymour. “And I am humbled that she is five years older than I am, and was able to keep up with everyone else on the work crews.”
Knight, who serves on the board of the MDS Kansas Unit, said that volunteering with MDS is a good way for family members to make time for each other. “I’m glad we could go together,” said Knight. “I know Valetta enjoyed it too.”
The two women both said they felt fortunate to be able to attend a house dedication during their stay. “The family was very pleased to have their new home and begin their new lives in it,” said Seymour.
All the volunteers in McAllen spent one afternoon attending a program on immigration and border issues. The project is currently the only MDS site with this type of education component.
“I enjoyed the hard work, the satisfaction of having helped a few people out of so many, and I appreciated learning more about the border situation.”
— Valetta Seymour, MDS Volunteer
Knight said that the information presented helped her learn about the complex issues immigrants are facing. “It’s overwhelming,” she said. “When people would ask me to explain it, I couldn’t. But the speakers helped tell the stories of real people. I think it would be good to have these kinds of programs at more MDS projects.”
Seymour said she knew nothing about the colonias—the neighborhoods in which MDS volunteers are working—before the trip.
“These neighborhoods, because they are not within a municipality, are left without services we take for granted, such as trash pickup, police, road maintenance—and some don’t even have water or electricity,” she said.
“And we heard from a volunteer who is working tirelessly to help immigrants on either side of the border,” said Seymour. “She regularly crosses into Mexico to take a few supplies to the people living in dire circumstances in tent cities where they are waiting to be assessed for asylum hearings.”
Seymour and Knight agreed their time in Texas was both eyeopening and enjoyable—plus they worked hard to help others.
“This experience was very positive for me,” said Seymour. “I enjoyed the hard work, the satisfaction of having helped a few people out of so many, and I appreciated learning more about the border situation.”