We continue, during this Hispanic Heritage Month, highlighting the work of community members and also of hard-working allies. In this story, we feature Holly Patrick, a board member of El Refugio, a ministry of hospitality for immigrants detained at Stewart Detention Center and their families. Holly has a Master’s Degree in Public Health
Rollins School of Public Health from Emory University, a Master’s Degree in Teaching ESL/Applied Linguistics from Georgia State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in English
from University of the South
Holly Patrick has an infectious smile. She learned Spanish through years of study, as well as through living in Spain, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Holly entered the community while working as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher for many years at the Latin American Association in Atlanta. Later, she would become the Executive Director for an ESOL program at the Holy Innocents church (now part of LaAmistad) and is currently is a communications specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Her “FREE” time, is invested as Chair of the Communications Committee at El Refugio and also a coordinator for the house in Lumpkin, just over two hours south of Atlanta, where families can stay while visiting their loved ones in detention.
“Some of my favorite people in the world are people at the board members of El Refugio” says Holly. “These are people who have deep empathy and a real understanding of the pain that immigration detention causes families.”
Holly goes down to Lumpkin once a month to volunteer overnight during the weekend. “I am lucky; I have an opportunity to provide a service that meets a very real and immediate need – the need for a place to eat, take a shower, and rest after a long and often difficult trip. At the hospitality house, I can help make sure that our guests are welcomed into a warm and safe community with people who understand the heartbreak of having a loved one locked up in detention. I found a very real way to help that helps to give meaning to my own life.”
Holly believes people in the U.S. are finally waking up to the plight of immigrant families fleeing violence and profound poverty because of the child separation issue. But families have been separated by this system for decades.