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Californian turns remote-work flexibility into opportunity to help migrants along border

Instead of working from the comfort of home or a rural resort, Adam Eberwein is taking his engineering skills to where people need them.

YUCATÁN, Mérida — Being able to work remotely, at least for some people, means being able to work from the comfort of home, the beauty of the beach or maybe the mountains. 

For Adam Eberwein, it means going to places where people need help and could use his skills. 

Last fall, the California native took advantage of working remotely to spend about three months living in a migrant shelter in one of the more dangerous cities in the world—Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso. 

“I enjoy that I have this engineering background,” Eberwein told KENS 5 via Zoom, while waiting to start his next project in Haiti, “and I'm able to find these interesting projects to be involved in.”

Eberwein’s day job is for a nonprofit working to bring electricity to places with little to no access. 

This fall, he continued his work while living in a migrant shelter, where he too was able to use his skills. 

“There'd be some guys that would be in the shelter that had a construction background, so we'd be working together to fix something, or maybe a new arrival of people would come in, and a third of them are sick. I had my truck, so I would drive them to a health clinic or a hospital to get them checked out and taken care of,” Eberwein described.

“I don't think I came across any situation where people wouldn't have stayed back home, if they could,” he added. “They want to move because they don't have another opportunity.” 

Eberwein was able to volunteer at a shelter in Ciudad Juarez through an El Paso-based nonprofit, Hope Border Institute. The institute works on any number of immigration and migration-related matters, including the development of policy, and provides humanitarian support to shelters and migrants.

Marisa Limón Garza, deputy director of Hope Border Institute, told KENS 5 Eberwein was one of the organization’s first volunteers. 

“There's some people that would run and maybe have this as an idea,” she said. “And it would just stay that: an idea. Then, some people would actually roll up their sleeves and come down, and then others might flee after a day or a week, especially as things get hard. For him, it was a testament to who he is as a person.”

Limón Garza told KENS 5 while Hope Border Institute doesn’t yet have an official volunteer program, anyone interested in helping can inquire at info@hopeborder.org.

For Eberwein, the “why” for doing this is simple.

“I'm able to meet my own basic needs, and then focus on more of a humanitarian side of things,” he said, “where I try to bring that basic level for other people. That sounds like the perfect job, really.”