green valley-sahuarita samaritan founder,
El Comedor advocate
January 1, 2012 by Cosette Thompson
“When I look into the faces of the migrants we encounter, my heart begins to sink. When I see a smile across their faces, it is worth every moment of despair I have felt.”
January 2012 marks the seventh anniversary of the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans. As a co-founder of that humanitarian group, Shura Wallin clearly remembers how it started.
A few months after moving from California to Green Valley in 2000, Shura got involved with Humane Borders, and a couple of years later joined the weekly desert Searches conducted by the Tucson Samaritans. At the first Border Issues Fair, hosted by the Good Shepherd Church in January 2005, several Green Valley residents signed up to volunteer for the organization. Both the Church’s Pastor, Randy Mayer, and Shura felt that it was time to form a separate group that would patrol the many migrant trails that crisscross the desert south of Green Valley on both sides of the I-19 corridor.
As she talks about her motivations behind this undertaking, Shura often stresses the childhood experiences that carry over to her adult life. Growing up very poor, she suffered from discrimination, but she also learned about compassion. Her parents taught her about the necessity to help those in need regardless of who they are. “Even as a kid I would try to lessen the suffering of any living creature in distress.” Later on in life, when living in Berkeley, Shura spent 14 years working with the homeless as a co-founder of the “Dorothy Day House” food program. In 1996, in recognition of her tireless dedication, the City of Berkeley chose her as one of its “Outstanding Women of the Year”.
Now, Shura is devoting 30 to 40 hours a week to her volunteer humanitarian work. A significant percentage of that time is currently spent in Nogales, Sonora where the Samaritans assist migrants deported from the U.S. Once a week, they join the Jesuit priests and the Sisters of the Eucharist who run a shelter called El Comedor, established by the Kino Border Initiative. One day recently, Shura greeted a very ill and frightened 22-year old migrant deported through Tijuana where he had been separated from his brother. Shura was able to secure medical help and the assistance of the Mexican Consulate that led within a week to the brothers’ reunion.
“I was dancing with joy. That is why I will continue to do this work as best as I can, as long as I live here. When I look into the faces of the migrants we encounter, my heart begins to sink. When I see a smile across their faces, it is worth every moment of despair I have felt.”
Guided in part by the Buddhist principles of kindness and non-attachment, Shura remains deeply focused on the core mission of the Samaritans––saving lives in the desert, one at a time. “Nothing is more sacred. Moral laws have to take the high ground.”