Alex Zikakis wrote -
I'm going to swim the entire Na Pali coast of Kauai - about 16 miles - in one day. It might be a crazy idea, but it's for a great cause…to finance a new shelter for women and children in Tijuana. I started working with the Salvation Army's men's shelter in Tijuana about 10 years ago and have seen first hand the difference they make in the lives of these men. However, there is no longer any shelter that will take in women and children, and there are thousands of women and children being deported into Tijuana from the US every year.
So together we are starting a new shelter that is going to focus on getting the women and children that are deported from the US off the streets - hopefully the first day they arrive. Last year the US deported over 15,000 children from the US into Mexico. Most of these children came across the border with only their mother or without either parent. Tijuana has become the main deportation location for the US government handling one-third of all deportations from the US into Mexico. And many of those being deported into Tijuana have absolutely no connection to the city – no family, no friends and no one to turn to for help.
For a majority of those deported, Tijuana is not their hometown and is as foreign to them as it is to most Americans. This process of Lateral Repatriation, officially called the Alien Transfer Exit Program (ATEP), provides no sort of safety net or social welfare program for any deportees. Sadly, once deported, many of the women and children are vulnerable to kidnapping, violence or being forced into the international sex trade.
This new shelter will provide the much needed care for these women and children as they piece their lives back together, and most importantly work with them to reconnect them to family and friends and provide resources and transportation assistance within a safe environment.
We've already secured a facility in Tijuana and have a proven model program in place from years of experiece with the men's shelter. The start up costs are $35,000 to outfit the facility. The operating budget is estimated to cost $100,000 per year. The International headquarters of the Salvation Army is looking at this shelter as a model for future Women and Children centers to be located at other boarder cities. We've got the backing of a major donor but we need more financial help.
This project has been created with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is an international aid organization that is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.
About the swim: My friend Matt Hunter and I are going to start the swim at Ka’A beach, which is fittingly at ‘the end of the road’ on the north shore of Kauai. The 16 miles we are swimming have no road access and is the most remote portion of the island. Most of the shore is lined with cliffs, and there are only a few beaches along the way. This is an Adventure Swim, and as such we plan on using snorkels and fins. When we get tired we might take a break on one of the remote beaches. We will have a support boat. It's going to be a long, grueling day and finishing it will be a rewarding physical achievement for a great cause.