Around the globe, conflict is escalating at a frightening rate. The issues are complex, many with no resolution in sight. No country is immune from the turmoil. And, in many situations, those left most vulnerable are the children.
Here in the U.S., we have an escalating humanitarian crisis at our border with Mexico. Increasing numbers of women and children from various Central American countries are fleeing violence and insecurity. Every day, more and more mothers are putting their lives - and the lives of their children - on the line by crossing the Rio Grande near McAllen, Texas, seeking refuge in the U.S.
I traveled to the Texas border with my colleague Sarah Colamarino from Johnson & Johnson's Corporate Equity group, and we met up with representatives from Save the Children, an organization for which I am honored to serve as a Board member and that Johnson & Johnson has supported for many years.
Joaquin Duato, left, Worldwide Chairman of Pharmaceuticals for Johnson and Johnson, and Sarah Colamarino, right, Vice President, Corporate Equity, Johnson and Johnson carry boxes of supplies donated by Johnson and Johnson into the shelter at the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, TX where recently arrived families from Central America have received shelter and aid before traveling on to their final destinations within the United States, on Friday, September 5, 2014.
While in Texas, I toured the new U.S. Customers and Border Protection facility in McAllen, Texas, and visited the Save the Children / Catholic Charities Child-Friendly Space at Sacred Health Community Center.
At the community center, where families make a quick stop to get food, clothes and items for personal hygiene, my Spanish served as a familiar, comforting sound. As I spoke, the women smiled and prompted the children who were clinging at their sides to wave at me, to say "hola."
For the next hour, I sat with these women and listened to their stories. I wanted to know why they were running away from their homes, and why they would risk their family's life on an uncertain future.
I heard stories about poverty, extreme violence and other atrocities these families endured every day in their home communities. One mother simply told me, "I ran to protect my babies. I had no other choice."
As I write this, Save the Children is responding to a number of humanitarian emergencies around the world, many of which have stemmed from armed conflict or political issues.
Joaquin Duato, Worldwide Chairman of Pharmaceuticals for Johnson and Johnson plays with a young Central American immigrant boy at the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, TX where recently arrived families from Central America have received shelter and aid before traveling on to their final destinations within the United States, on Friday, September 5, 2014.
In any crisis, children are always the most vulnerable, and their voices are rarely heard. We know children don't choose sides when it comes to political conflict or religious debate. Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of Save the Children, said this: "I have never met a political child."
Here's what I need to say: Debates about immigration and other issues will--and should--continue. But in the midst of often-heated and lengthy political battles, we cannot allow children to be caught in the cross fire.
Maybe you cannot make a trip to a vulnerable area and hear firsthand about the suffering that takes place in our world. But there are things you can do to help.
Share this blog. Tweet about the topic. Tell all your Facebook friends to visit the Save the Children website to learn more about how you can help the innocent children in our world who are abused, neglected and forgotten.
Whatever you decide to do -- do it now.