This is About Humanity’s motto is pretty simple – it is their organization’s name after all. When Elsa Marie Collins, her sister Yolanda Selene Walther-Meade and Zoe Winkler started this mission in 2018, it has grown beyond their expectations in two short years. “That border work is humanitarian; it’s not political.” Wilmer Valderrama tells HOLA! USA of his friends’ work. “It fires me up to kind of educate most people on the humanitarian crisis.”
With Hollywood support from Eiza Gonzalez, Zoe Saldana and more well-respected stars, This is About Humanity is able to continue supporting families and raise funds. Keep reading to hear more about their journey and their hopes for the future.
What was your mission when launching This is About Humanity: We launched in 2018 in response to the family separation crisis at the US-Mexico border. Each of us (Elsa, Yolanda and Zoe) was impacted and had a desire to increase awareness of these vulnerable families and the realities of their situation and raise funds to improve it. Over the past two years, and more recently with the pandemic, we have leveraged our on the ground presence to provide rapid relief to the most vulnerable communities at the US-Mexico/Calibaja border.
How has it grown over the years: We started with providing experiential bus trips and service trips, giving individuals the ability to bear witness firsthand, while responding to day-to-day needs for separated families. During the pandemic our goals are to provide rapid relief to vulnerable families and communities including unaccompanied minors, LGBTQ+ individuals and critically immunocompromised individuals. We have completed several matching grant campaigns focused on COVID-19 relief, personal protection for frontline responders in Baja, LBGTQ+ initiatives and food insecurity.
Best part of starting it: The best part of starting TIAH has been the ability to create a community of individuals who want to be of service to others. We have also been able to ensure that we keep this issue as part of the conversation. We continue to find ways to remind people that families are still being affected and we continue to find ways to support our vulnerable communities on both sides of the border. We know that our community will continue to show up for these families and with their time, talent and treasure, have allowed TIAH to support over nine shelters; give out grants to over 18 community organizations; provide over 40,000 meals served; deliver PPE and medical supplies to four local hospitals, one temporary hospital and frontline responders and so much more.
Uplifting message for the future: Each one of us is empowered to be a part of the change. Whether it is through TIAH, your personal networks or with your children, you can be part of what makes this world better.
Who uplifts you: Elsa: The young children that I meet at the shelters fill my soul with everything that is good in this world. They smile, they laugh and sing - wanting to learn more and all of this amidst heartbreaking and difficult circumstances. Also, the mothers that I meet - who show me in the most palpable way what strength looks like. I will continue to show up for them.
Yolanda: My two children Carlos and Andie uplift me. While they and I were fortunate to have been born with opportunities, as I have seen them thrive, this has also motivated me to do even more for the most vulnerable amongst us.
Who do you hope to uplift with your organization: One of the blessings of TIAH is that we have a community who seeks to learn and listen - and through this we have made it our goal to uplift organizations who are doing the work on the ground to help our vulnerable communities. They should be recognized! We have worked with over 20 on the ground organizations that service everyone from children like Yes We Can, the LGBTQIA+ community like Jardin de las Mariposas as well as Black asylum seekers through the Haitian Bridge Alliance.
Future goals: To always be able to respond to our vulnerable communities with compassion and aid. With our on-the-ground presence and strategic partners such as the International Community Foundation and with our passionate followers, we are committed to improving their lives and having them know that they matter.
Best memory from the many trips you take: Elsa: Some of my favorite memories are from our service trips. Replacing tents for families in the shelters, changing sheets, building playgrounds or painting the shelters. The ability to do something for others and see their smiles is the best gift!
Yolanda: My favorite part of every trip to the border takes place on the bus ride back, observing the gamut of emotions play out on people’s faces, knowing that our TIAH bus experience has enlightened them and that its intensity and shocking reality, will inspire them to take immediate action.