By Mónica Sarmiento and Carlos J. Guízar
When staff across Mission Mexico learned about Operation Allies Refuge, many on the team weren’t sure how they could contribute, but still wanted to join the worldwide Department of State effort. Officers, local staff, and family members from an array of agencies across the Mission found a way to do so through Mission Mexico’s consular team’s remote support for the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Task Force. Volunteers sought to provide hope to hundreds of distressed families who were seeking safety and security in this historic moment.
Like others who had viewed the images and videos of what was happening in Afghanistan, the Mission team understood that risks were mounting by the minute for the people on the ground in Afghanistan. Therefore, when the Department’s request for volunteers came out, Mission Mexico was literally there to answer the call.
“That email was a call to action to not only be concerned or sad about what people were experiencing there, but to do something, even if it was the smallest deed, to help change that reality and to support the personnel on site who were risking their lives,” said Embassy Mexico City Public Affairs Specialist Mónica Sarmiento.
Despite the uncertainty and anxiety that came with trying to assist Afghans and Americans who were experiencing some of the worst moments of their lives, embassy staff members say they were filled with a sense of purpose as they joined their Department colleagues in an unprecedented worldwide humanitarian effort.
“After reaching some people in Afghanistan, we realized that our small actions could make a difference for a father, a mother, a grandfather, a daughter, or a son to find a path to a better future,” said Embassy Mexico City speechwriter Carlos J. Guízar. “We experienced how small deeds can make a great change when you are part of a great family, such as the Department. We understood that each call could become a ray of hope not only for the person who answered the phone but for a whole family.”
Sometimes when the emotional toll of responding to so many dire requests or having a critical call cut off in mid-sentence became overwhelming, embassy volunteers would commiserate with and provide encouragement to their colleagues sitting near them. Though it was often impossible to reconnect with a lost call, the volunteers found solace when they were at least given the person on the other end of the line the information they needed to take the next steps in their challenging journey.
“It will be impossible to forget the hope in their voices when they answered the phone because, probably deep in their hearts, they felt that that call could represent a new opportunity for them and their families to be safe and pursue a better life,” said Guízar.
Each call made by the Mission Mexico team represented the broader efforts of thousands of Department employees and other volunteers from across the U.S. government who were united by the same desire to support those in need.
“We are proud of having been part of those efforts that reminded the world of the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity and how solidarity can help us overcome any obstacle,” Sarmiento said of the team’s work. “We were all connected through technology and united by our willingness to help.”
Mónica Sarmiento is a public affairs specialist at Embassy Mexico City. Carlos J. Guízar is a speechwriter at Embassy Mexico City.