The Compass Blog

How and Why We Choose to Migrate

Kathi Noaker

In 1978, when I was 18, I got in my Datsun with two friends and $1000 in my pocket and drove west from my hometown in Pennsylvania to Park City, Utah. My older brother lived there so he provided a bit of a soft landing for us teenage migrants. I left a comfortable life behind, and my main goal in life at that time was to become a ski bum.

I spent my twenties and the first half of my thirties migrating from seasonal job to seasonal job. It was really all about fun – new places to explore, new adventures with new friends. I spent so much of my formative years living season by season. Even though I’ve been working one job (with CoolWorks) for the last 22 years – I still experience my life a season at a time. So fast forward to this past summer season.

I had the opportunity to get to know a much different migrant population – those from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Moms with kids, dads with kids, as well as teenagers on their own, who traveled from their home countries by bus, by foot, some on top of the train known as The Beast, to our port of entry in Nogales, Sonora/Arizona to request political asylum in the U.S. Most weren’t really migrating to something, but fleeing from something – violence in all its forms. So fearing for their lives and their children’s lives, they left everything behind in search of safety, many with only the clothes on their backs.

A few of us on the US side formed a non-profit called Voices from the Border, and in coordination with a nurse and his non-profit on the Sonoran side we became a binational aid organization, and together we have spent countless hours, and days, helping these migrants, taking food and water and clothes, helping transport them back and forth between the port and shelters and to medical clinics. All while they hope and wait for their opportunity to request asylum in the U.S.

Working with this population of migrants, I’ve reflected on my own migrating movements throughout my life. And how I’ve been able to do so with great privilege.  Never having to run away from something, but always simply running to the next grand adventure.

We’re all migrants on the path, in one form or another, some of us so much more fortunate than others. May we all be safe in our travels. May our hearts be open to those less fortunate than us. May we both give and receive kindness and compassion.

Migration isn’t a one-directional process; it’s a colossal process that has been happening in all directions for thousands of years. ~ Mohsin Hamid

If you’re thinking about migrating this winter, and have an interest in contributing to a cause, here are some opportunities to get you on your way!

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