DENVER — Sarah Jackson says her passion for the game of volleyball runs deep in her veins.
“I love volleyball,” Jackson says. “It’s in my blood.”
Jackson is the founder of Volleyball Latino, a bilingual league made up of individuals and families of all ages and skill levels. She, and many members of the league, say Volleyball Latino is a special league.
“There’s a purpose behind the volleyball,” league member Roberto Castendada says. “Yeah, we’re here for a reason.”
The families who make up Volleyball Latino play together to support families that are forced to be apart.
“To have innocent people being torn apart and separated from their families because of a piece of paper doesn’t feel or sound right to me,” Jackson says, referring to families dealing with loved ones detained in immigrant detention centers.
Jackson’s concern for these immigrant families lead her to open Casa de Paz, a safe house for undocumented immigrants to stay when they are released from the ICE Detention Center in Aurora.
Families of detainees are also welcomed at Casa de Paz.
Jackson says undocumented immigrants are often released from the Aurora Detention Facility unprepared for what’s next.
“We also host people in this home who have been released from the immigration detention center and are not from the area and they have nowhere to go,” Jackson says. “They have no family, no friends and they are basically left on the streets with no resources.”
She adds that individuals can stay at Casa de Paz as long as they need to make plans to be reunited with their families.
Casa de Paz is also the place Jackson calls home.
A one-bedroom apartment across the street from the Aurora Detention Facility, Casa de Paz is stalked with food, toiletries and care packages for all who stay.
“So if the room is full, I’ll just sleep on the couch,” Jackson explains. “And if the room and the couch are full, then I will find a friend to stay with. So in that sense, I am an immigrant for a night.”
Although life at Casa de Paz can be unpredictable, Jackson says her experience living in the safe house is rewarding.
“I have never been afraid when a guest has been here,” she says. “I have only had my life enriched by the guests that have been here. I have had the honor to meet people from China, from Morocco, from Africa, from Mexico from Australia.”
Members of Volleyball Latino must pay to join the league. The money raised from the volleyball fees keep the doors of Casa de Paz open.
And the league is open to all.
“You do not have to be Latino to be part of the volleyball league,” Jackson says.
Jackson hopes to expand Casa de Paz in order to help more people.
“I would love to find a home in this neighborhood that’s close to the detention center,” she says. “That way we can host more families and we don’t have to turn people away when we are at capacity.”
Jackson is also hoping to find a gym or warehouse she can purchase for Volleyball Latino.
The league is currently renting gym space.
With each dig, dive and spike, the families that make up Volleyball Latino give their all on the court while giving back to families they don’t even know.
“Obviously when it comes to the game, they are like, I want to win,” says Volleyball Latino player Andrea Gomez. “But I think at the end of the day, everyone is like, ‘I’m going to keep joining’ because this money is not only for my entertainment, but it’s for a good cause.”
Visit Casa de Paz’s website for more information.
Go to Volleyball Latino’s Facebook page for information about how to join and contribute to the cause.