An Encinitas man is rallying the community to gather donations for Haitian refugees who are living in camps in Tijuana.
Orthodontist Torin Chenard is preparing for his third trip to take donations of food and blankets to one of the shelters at a Tijuana church, as part of a blanket and food drive he calls “Bussin’ Blankets to Baja.” He delivers the donations in his VW bus.
“The response was just amazing,” Dr. Chenard told NBC7. “Our patients went to Costco they went to Walmart they bought new blankets. The kids have got really involved in it.
He says he’s already delivered 26 large bags filled with hundreds of donated blankets and sheets, as well as food.
“They say they really want rice, beans cooking oil and sardines and I think those are just the things they can prepare easily in a big pot," Dr. Chenard said.
In the last year, thousands of Haitian refugees have entered the U.S. through Southern California border crossings. Many of those refugees have ended up in Tijuana.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as 2016 comes to an end, there is still a steady stream of people arriving and the centers to hold and process the refugees are operating beyond capacity.
Dr. Chenard said the refugees are in great need of clothing, but because of customs regulations he has not been able to take clothes across the border.
A monetary donation from other dentists did allow him to purchase dozens of shoes for the refugees on his second visit.
"As the guys are trying on their shoes,” he added. “I saw lots of really scuffed up and scarred legs and I know they've been through a lot just to get here."
On his next trip, he plans to take tent repair kits he purchased to help fix their tents, which he said are falling apart.
"As long as people keep bringing things I'll keep I'll keep getting it there," Dr. Chenard said.
If you would like to contribute to the Bussin’ Blankets to Baja drive, you can find information at the Encinitas Orthodontics Facebook page.