When Sarah Jackson was asked to go to the Mexican-U.S. border in 2010 as a representative from her church to learn about immigration issues, she gladly accepted. She saw the trip as an opportunity to travel, learn about Mexican culture, sample margaritas, and enjoy a relaxing vacation. She didn’t think twice about immigration, nor did she think it affected her. Little did she know, this “vacation” to Mexico would change the trajectory of her life. “I wasn’t prepared to meet people who were suffering due to U.S. immigration policies,” says Sarah of that initial trip. “I met fathers who were deported and separated from their children and wives. I was shocked. I could see myself in their eyes. If this was me and my family, would we want to be treated this way? Definitely not. We would want to be treated with love and compassion.”
Sarah came home from that trip with an idea that she needed to do something. She wasn’t sure what that was yet, but knew she wanted to help. “Family is the most important thing to me,” Sarah continued. “I knew I had to do something, I just wanted to help one family. I felt like if I could show love and support to just one family, then I’d be doing something.”
This idea led Sarah to open her home, a small one-bedroom apartment in Aurora, Colorado, to immigrant families who were in the state via the ICE facility near her apartment. In 2012, Sarah hosted her first family in what she dubbed “Casa de Paz” or “house of peace.” Sarah wanted to create a welcoming space where families could stay when visiting their family members who were in the ICE detention center or going through the immigration or deportation process. She purchased food, supplies, toiletries, and extra bedding. During the first few years, she shared her tiny one bedroom apartment with these families. Now Casa de Paz operates out of a larger house, but Sarah still shares the space with the families and individuals she supports. “Casa de Paz is 100% volunteer run,” says Sarah. “We have a core group of about 200 volunteers. Each day we go to the ICE facility to see who has been released. Our volunteers take them to the house where they are given a warm meal, a place to stay, assistance with travel plans or connecting with relatives, and any toiletries or other necessities.”
On an average week, Casa de Paz will host 10 to 15 individuals or families who have been released from the ICE detention center. Since opening her door in 2012, Sarah and Casa de Paz have served more than 1,820 guests from 29 different countries. The majority, 65%-70%, are from Central America, Mexico, and South America, but immigrants also come from Africa, Asia, and Europe. Most don’t speak english, but Sarah and her volunteers use Google Translate to help communicate with the guests.
When asked why she opens her home to so many strangers Sarah responds “I grew up in a very loving family. Our door was always open to others; it was always a place where strangers were welcomed with open arms. I want to make world a better place, a place where others have the opportunity to experience the same happiness and love. My mom describes Casa de Paz as a ‘party every day.’ And it's true. When people walk into the house they tell me they can feel the love. We provide hope and kindness for our guests during a very difficult time in their lives.” Casa de Paz is funded by Volleyball Internacional, a community league that Sarah started, whose proceeds are used solely to fund Casa de Paz, and through community fundraising efforts such as the recent “Cervezas for Causes” event held at Cerveceria Colorado. Casa de Paz is run solely on volunteer hours from Sarah and her group of dedicated volunteers who work solely out of the goodness of their hearts. Someday Sarah hopes to buy a larger house so that Casa de Paz may have a permanent home with more room to support her families and a legacy that will last long after she is gone. For more information and to support Casa de Paz, visit www.casadepazcolorado.org. For more information on Cerveceria Colorado’s Cervezas for Causes events and to request to be a beneficiary, visit www.cerveceriacolorado.com.