First Person

At Tijuana shelter Casa del Migrante, every meal is holy

I take the morning shift to give the longer-term volunteers a few hours of rest.

I’m up at 5 a.m.—just me and the neighborhood roosters. My morning responsibilities at Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, Mexico, include the essential task of making sure the coffee is hot before the shelter’s residents rush to catch their buses to work.

I unlock the kitchen and flip on the lights. The cauldron rests on the gas burner. I have already mixed the instant granules in water and made the coffee the night before. Enough for the 50 adults in the compound, as well as the dozens of people from the streets who wait at the gate for breakfast—café y pan.

While the cauldron warms, I set out bread and cereal and then pull yesterday’s leftovers from the walk-in refrigerator and start scooping food into containers for workers to take with them for lunch. Soon other volunteers make their way down to the kitchen in time for the steady stream of residents—first the people who depart early for jobs, then everyone else a couple hours later: parents with children and adults without work.