In the wake of her recent trip to the California/Mexico border (along with supporters like Scooter Braun, Benny Blanco, Amber Heard, Zoe Saldana, Ashlee Margolis, plus Clare Vivier and others) we caught up with this good-hearted mama of three. Here, she talks This Is About Humanity and its efforts in helping separated families in Mexico, as well as the power of community, and learning as we go (both in life and motherhood). @zoe.winkler.reinis @ThisIsAboutHumanity
Tell us about This Is About Humanity?
This is About Humanity is a movement geared towards raising awareness on refugees, migrants and asylum seekers at the border. We aim to educate others to be allies and advocates on behalf of this population through first-hand experiences at the border and educational salons. We also host dinners throughout the year to raise money for legal services for these asylum seekers as well as improvements to the shelters where they are currently housed. Plus, we support and work with separated and reunited families.
Why did you go on this mission to Mexico?
On Wednesday morning January 30th at 6 am, as part of our efforts to bring relief to the separated families in Mexico, we made our way to visit three different shelters in Tijuana. One for unaccompanied minors (kids who cross alone), one for women and children and one for families. We took 53 people on a bus who were willing to listen and bear witness to the humanitarian crisis happening south of the border. It was an incredibly emotional day filled with highs and lows. This particular trip was our third one and our most significant to date.
How did you begin this work?
When the family separation issues began, I could not let it go and had to do something. I’d been introduced to Elsa Marie Collins numerous times through mutual friends, and I saw she was collecting supplies for the families separated. I reached out to Elsa to become her westside liaison and began gathering supplies from all of the mamas in my neighborhood. The outpour was incredible, and every day endless boxes of supplies were sent to my house.
When we had enough to truck down, we asked people to help pack up the truck with the supplies via a post on Instagram. Countless unexpected people came and helped; the support was phenomenal. We separated everything to go between South West Key, which is the detention facility, Border Angles, and Casa Cornelia Law Center. A dear friend and mom Shannon Wollack gifted us her U-Haul and driver for all the boxes, and separately we rode down on a bus with 30 people. Upon arrival, we set up a lunch with speakers from The ACLU, Border Angels, and families affected by the deportation in San Diego.
On that first trip to Mexico, Elsa came up with the name This Is About Humanity, and since then Elsa, Yolanda Selene Walther-Meade (Elsa’s sister), and I started as three moms working tirelessly together to make a change and bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis at the border. Every step of the way has evolved organically. From that point on, we came up with our next idea to do a salon, followed by a dinner party at my parents’ house where we raised over 100K for The Immigrant Defenders—more than they’ve ever made in one night.
Why focus on Mexico?
I believe this is not a political issue, but a human rights issue. While I recognize that we have homeless problems here in the US that need addressing, the difference is we’re not separating those families from each other or taking away their right to live here. Every single person we saw at the detention center has left the comfort of their home because they’re afraid for their lives. No one chooses to walk for three months and be homeless unless you’re desperate for change and a better life. At the end of 2018, nearly 250 children were still being detained, according to government data analyzed by the American Civil Liberties Union. An Amnesty International report showed that more than 6,000 people, including at least 3,000 children, were separated from family members from late spring to the middle of August. It’s reason enough to take action.
On our recent trip, we went to each shelter and assessed what they need so we can adequately raise money and provide for them. With past fundraising, we have built a bathroom at one of the facilities, and we’re planning to install a playroom at another center.
That’s incredible work. Can you describe the living conditions?
It was difficult to see the way these families are living. Each family gets one tent, ONE TENT for their entire unit and all of their belongings, no matter how many people they are—be it six or two! Moreover, the shelter for women and children has only 40 beds, and 130 people are living there, so they sleep on mats on the floor.
What were you doing before This Is About Humanity?
I’ve always had a passion for children. I was a preschool teacher for over ten years. When I had my oldest son Ace, I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. However, when he was nine months, I got this incredible opportunity to work as a Therapeutic companion. Along with my best friend, we were hired by parents to go into their children’s school and shadow their kids throughout the day for social and emotional development alongside their curriculum. We were a great team as I worked a few days a week with the child and then she would take over for the remaining days so that neither of us worked a full week. It was fantastic.
Do you believe in the power of community?
Absolutely! Recently Paola Mendoza, who is fighting the good fight in NY, emailed me at 5:50 AM and said a woman she had been following through the caravan was in danger and needed money to move into a hotel. She was a single mom of four kids, one of whom was a four-month-old that was very ill with a fever and in urgent need of medical help. Paola asked me to raise $2000 to get her into safety. I immediately emailed ten moms asking for their support of $100 each and I would kick in $1000. By 7 am that morning (less than two hours later) I had raised $5,500 which was double what was asked of us. It’s insane what moms can do when they come together on an issue. I was proud that people wanted to help and we were able to get the job done swiftly. Two days later Rosa was in a hotel.
You take care of everyone else. When and how do you care for yourself?
I’m exhausted all the time. However, I just started working out again. I used to hate going to the gym but now I’m enjoying it, plus I got a trainer who has changed the game for me. My husband and I have also been trying to put our phones down from 5:30 pm, when we get home until the kids go to bed around 8:30 pm. The idea here is to prioritize quality time with them and each other. I’ve been realizing more and more that this time with them is short and it’s essential to focus on being a family. There are days when I lose it, days that I am present and days that I’m ready to check out, but it’s fleeting nonetheless because there’ll come a day that we’ll look back and wish we still had babies.
Best and worst part of parenthood?
My parents have always said to me that being a parent is hard. To their point, life would be much easier if we just said ‘yes’ to everything our kids wanted. However, it’s doing the real work that shapes and molds them into quality people. Sometimes there are fights that you have to fight, even if you don’t want to. However, they’re necessary. My top priority is that I raise kind and considerate humans with a strong sense of self; this is all that matters.
Best and worst part of raising kids in LA?
I can’t imagine raising kids in NYC. I have three boys, and when they get home from school, I open the door and let them run around like animals outside. Life is easy here. I also have an incredible, life-changing nanny. Plus, my parents and my husband’s parents are very involved. It takes a tribe.
The perfect mom is imperfect. I find this sentiment very reassuring as we all put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. However, that’s not what it’s about, and the truth is we’re all learning as we go. I found it hardest to go from zero to one kid because I always stressed about “getting it wrong,” and I was nervous about every little thing. However, with each new baby, I’ve realized that we’re bound to make mistakes and that’s OK. With that understanding, I’ve become a better parent. If only we could all learn to parent our first like our second, or better yet, third!
For more information on how you can get involved, please reach out to @ThisIsAboutHumanity