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This Is About Humanity began a year ago with a few woman who wanted to try to fulfill Amazon wish lists for children detained at the border. Now, a year later, the group has organized 12 bus trips to the border and raised more than $600,000 for beneficiaries including Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego, Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles and the This Is About Humanity Fund.
On Friday, the group celebrated its first anniversary with an event at Henry Winkler’s Los Angeles home dubbed Tacos, Tequila and Talking Points to Benefit Separated Families and Children. Reflecting on the first year of This Is About Humanity and her involvement, event co-host Zoe Winkler Reinis told The Hollywood Reporter, “I feel emotional because I found my calling at 37.”
“Nothing is ever too big as long as you pay attention and have a voice,” Winkler Reinis said. ” I have these two incredible partners who grew up in Tijuana [Elsa Collins and Yolanda Selene Walther-Meade] and have access to the places no one else did. We knew the money we raised was going to places that needed it. We were getting to the people that were untouched…. Twelve trips later, we have raised over $600,000.”
The daughter of Emmy-winner Henry Winkler, Winkler Reinis co-hosted the night, which took place in her parents’ front yard, along with Collins, Yolanda Walther-Meade of This is About Humanity and Chef Ruffo Ibarra of Oryx Capital. As the sun went down, the yard was transformed, with lights around the house and dining tables throughout the lawn. Chefs from around California, all with ties to the movement or who grew up on the border, set themselves around the yard serving different types of tacos, ceviche and other dishes.
Collins told THR how This Is About Humanity started. “On our first trip to the border, someone asked what we were going to call this, and a few weeks earlier I had gone to a protest in Texas where I had a sign that said, ‘This Is About Humanity,’ and this is really what it is about — not about politics or whether you fall on the left or the right. It is about what you feel as a human being and what you think is OK in this world,” she said.
She and her sister, Walther-Meade, grew up on the border and said they understand the situation. Walther-Meade explained that “the situation requires this” and added that their hands-on work “is very different from reading words on a screen or even seeing images.”
“When you are in it and feeling and observing, and hearing, and looking into children’s eyes. It is so incredibly powerful and moving,” Walther-Meade said.
Supporter Lake Bell told The Hollywood Reporter that “I’m lucky to finally be aware.”
“My ignorance kept me in the closet. Collectively, the country and the world are finally sensitive to something that is ripping families apart,” Bell said, adding that “we are in a humanitarian crisis.”
As the night progressed, individuals who have benefited from the proceeds spoke about their experiences. Some of the children who were unaccompanied and separated from family spoke of their journeys to the border and experiences with the law firms, with a few recounting their trip to Washington, D.C., to speak at a congressional hearing about unaccompanied minors being detained.
Toni Malfavon, a son speaking for his mother who benefited, held back tears during his speech, explaining that his mother could not be there due to lingering mental and overall health implications of being detained and separated.
He later told THR that these organizations “truly care and are doing this for the right reasons.” Malfavon added the money donated is “going to the right resources to help people who desperately need it.”
Jamie-Lynn Sigler, an attendee and the daughter of an immigrant from Cuba, spoke of how her mother was lucky. “Things could have gone really differently for her,” she said. “She left a situation that was terrible for her like these people are doing. The more awareness and more stories of the realities these people are escaping and going through at the border is necessary.”
“The news is desensitizing us now. To be able to go down and see and touch and hold the children and see their faces and hear their stories. You are forever changed,” Sigler added about the importance of the educational bus trips This Is About Humanity makes to Tijuana.
Also attending the event were representatives from Casa Cornelia Law Center and Immigrant Defenders Law Center, and individuals who have been helped by the organization at the border.
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