The road to El Paso
Shortly before she graduated from college, Keisha Branch, High School Coordinator and Border Fellows Assistant for Ciudad Nueva, made a decision that would have a lasting effect on her faith and her career: She chose to complete her internship at a refugee center.
“I fell in love with the work and wanted to continue working with refugees, asylum-seekers, and other people who are marginalized,” Keisha says. “I grew up in poverty and as a person of color, so I have been marginalized myself.”
After graduation, Keisha decided to apply to the Border Fellows program at Ciudad Nueva, a 10-month work and service-leadership development program on the U.S.-Mexico border. “I was drawn to El Paso to experience a different culture and to continue doing what my heart is passionate about,” Keisha says.
As a Border Fellow, Keisha worked with the after-school programs, but she worked most closely with the high school students in the Catalyst job training and college preparatory program. “I fell in love with the kids,” Keisha says, “and I’m still here.”
A commitment to incarnational ministry
In her current role at Ciudad Nueva, Keisha spends several nights a week working with our high school programs. She also makes time for incarnational ministry, or ministry through living life together, during the week. That might mean bringing pizza to her students during lunch at school, taking them to a picnic or a movie on the weekend, or inviting them to help her make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for recently arrived asylum seekers. “I love talking to the kids and getting to know them,” Keisha says. “We want to walk alongside them and let them know we love them.”
When she’s not with her high schoolers, you’re likely to find Keisha helping out at one of the asylum seeker sites across the city. As an asylum shelter connector, Keisha helps find volunteers to help out at emergency shelter sites. Along with many other staff at Ciudad Nueva, she also helps the Church of St. Clement host asylum seekers periodically. “Witnessing our brothers and sisters and what they have to go through—it breaks my heart,” Keisha says. “But I’m so grateful to be able to do it. I want them to know that they are loved, no matter what other people might say about them.”
“I want to love”
When asked where this desire to serve comes from, Keisha doesn’t hesitate. “My dad is the biggest servant I know,” Keisha says. “My dad and my Nene, when she was alive. I pray someday I’ll be as selfless as they are. I’m grateful that I was able to see that growing up and that I can say this is where I want to be, this is how I want to serve. I want to love.”