A set of brand new beds will link --- for as long as the beds last --- a group of teenagers in Mexicali and their peers in Torrance.Twenty Bishop Montgomery students participated Feb. 25 in the bunk bed project collaboration between the school’s Habitat Club and Concordia Club. The 20 bunk beds were sent the same day to the recently opened St. Jude orphanage in Mexicali, which will house 48 youth ages 11-17.

The project was spearheaded by Religious Sister of Charity Margaret Farrell, spiritual director of Covenant House in Hollywood, who has been voluntarily assisting the Niño Jesús orphanage for children in Mexicali.

After the 2010 earthquake that hit the city, many low-income families moved to the desert and a large number of kids lost their parents, increasing the number of orphans wandering the streets, and being subjects of abuse, Sister Farrell explained.

The Mexican government’s arm that cares for children and families, DIF (Spanish acronym for Family Integral Development), saw the need for opening a new orphanage and sought support from other local and foreign organizations, including Covenant House, whose residents have taken part in service projects, such as car washes, to raise funds for the orphanage.

With minimal funds available, and having been involved at a personal level with the children’s orphanage and other projects in Tijuana, Sister Farrell contacted longtime Covenant House supporters at Bishop Mongtomery School, the Concordia Club, a group created to advocate for the needy and promote social justice.

Without hesitating, the group jumped in, offering the construction of bunk beds in partnership with the Habitat for Humanity Club. Parent Al Borgo lent his carpentry shop for the project and educated students and faculty volunteers on the “ins and outs of finished carpentry.”

The “model” beds were loaded into a truck the same day for transportation to the orphanage and on-site assembly.

In addition, Bishop Montgomery coordinated a collection of linens for the beds with American Martyrs Church’s religious education students and St. James School’s eighth grade families. About 40 new pillows, sheets and blankets were collected, plus an anonymous donation of 40 mattresses.

“The beds looked wonderful in every room, ready with the new mattresses and covers on each,” Sister Farrell told The Tidings, after returning from the orphanage’s official opening March 6.

Since orphans in that area are prey to human trafficking, the local government spent most of its resources in making the building secure and safe for the kids, she said.

 “All around the property there was new razor wire, and even the courtyard area as you enter was totally enclosed with strong wire,” she noted. “It’s sad to see that they have to have it prison-type secure, because these teens are really vulnerable. The greatest problem is to make sure no one can break in as these kids would be raped or stolen to be sold for sex, especially the girls.”

Children had been living in different locations and were moved to their new home March 8. The building was donated by a local family.

Although the locale is fully furnished, the need is ongoing, said Sister Farrell, especially for hygiene products and food.

For donations to St. Jude orphanage in Mexicali, email Sister Margaret Farrell, Covenant House California, [email protected].

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