For Águilas del Desierto, the 500th rescue of a living person is a time of celebration but not pause. While joyfully marking this landmark, these brave volunteers just keep on going out into the desert, always hoping to deliver lost people to safety.
Since 2012, Águilas del Desierto has been rescuing crossers in distress in the deserts of the U.S./Mexico border, or bringing closure, by locating the body of a loved one. Acknowledged experts in this difficult work, they find women, men, and children on their searches.
Sr. Maria Louise Edwards, president of Águilas, points to the group’s carefully-recorded data, to demonstrate that funding received in 2019 enabled Águilas to pivot from body recovery to live rescue. Before this funding, 49 lives were saved from 2012 to 2019. Since funding, from 2019 to 2022, 433 lives were saved. By June 2023, they reached the milestone of having rescued 500 human beings.
During this same period, heart-wrenching calls for help have grown from a few hundred to thousands each year. In response to the growing need, Sr. Maria Louise’s upcoming plans for Águilas include:
- creating a 24/7 hotline call center with a dedicated coordinator.
- expanding their communication range with upgraded radios and equipment.
- dispatching more searchers per month by raising funds for the gas, food, radios, gear and permits required for 30 volunteers.
- developing their acreage further with a search and rescue station to house first responders who can react to distress calls immediately.
Violence, corruption and murder continue to be a reality in Central and South America, with El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela having the highest homicide rates in the world. Gang violence, years of drought, and exploitation force starving and desperate families to risk everything for survival and in hopes of a better life. They give all they have to “coyotes,” in exchange for the promise of a journey to the U.S. In return, they receive provisions for 1-2 days, not knowing that it often takes 10-12 days to cross. They risk their lives based on false hopes, false information and false promises. The “coyotes” know they are leading some migrants into the desert to die.
Sr. Maria Louise first learned of migrants dying at the border when she read the New York Times article about Águilas by Simon Romero. “My heart was shaken,” she shared. “I reached out to see what I could do.” During Sister’s first search in the Ocotillo desert, she found: the body of a 19-year-old young man, a human skull, part of a body and a child’s shoe still containing some of her foot. “My heart was forever changed,” she remembers.
If you would like to help Águilas del Desierto work toward their goal of saving more human lives, consider volunteering or making a donation by visiting aguilasdeldesierto.org.