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Refugee Safe House Receives Help From New NGO

By Sher Davidson

Two years ago, local artist and writer Sher Davidson, gave a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in San Miguel de Allende, expressing her concerns about the growing drug-related gang violence in Central America. She and her husband Gary have supported a small NGO in the US for the past 20 years that has been helping small Salvadoran communities struggling to rebuild their lives after the Civil War of 1980–1992. They felt an urgent need to reach out to the Central Americans now suffering again and fleeing the crisis of violence.

After her talk, many in the fellowship expressed their concern and desire to do something to help. Last February, Sher, along with a friend, Kimberly Fairbanks, founded a charity designed to help ABBA, a safe house in Celaya that is an hour’s drive from San Miguel. Together they visited ABBA and met its director, Ignacio Martínez Ramírez, a true humanitarian, who explained his deep concern for those fleeing Central America. He said he started the safe house, an official A.C. (Asociación Civil) when he learned that the only other shelter in Celaya had been corrupted by gangs. They were extorting money and harming the migrantes who came through the area on freight trains known colloquially as La Bestia.

ABBA provides beds, showers, and meals for these people, as well as medical and psychological aid. Those who qualify as refugiados (refugees) receive legal assistance on how to apply for asylum in Mexico. Now the many amputees wounded from falling off the trains can get a prosthesis donated by the Celaya Red Cross, and they receive therapy at ABBA.

Sher and Gary were determined to assist ABBA. How to do that? Pastor Ignacio admitted he was having a great deal of difficulty raising the necessary rent each month to keep ABBA’s doors open. The two gathered together a few friends and decided to start an ad hoc group they called the RR Group Project (RR standing for Refugee Relief). They immediately started raising donations from friends and family to pay ABBA’s rent.

Many generous people stepped up to the plate, and thanks to hard-working volunteers, word got out. Sher and Gary went back to the US to wage an educational and fundraising campaign. By September, they formed an NGO, the Latin American Relief Fund, with pro bono help from the law firm where their daughter works. They put on a big benefit concert in Portland, OR and were pleased to raise enough money for six months’ rent for ABBA. An Advisory Board was formed here in San Miguel and met for the first time last week.

On March 3, from 5–7 pm, the organization will present a benefit film at the Bellas Artes auditorium at which the screenwriter and director will be present for a discussion afterwards. Mark your calendars and watch for Part II of this series of articles in next week’s Atención. For more information, you may contact Sher and Gary at



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