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Texans Helping Texans | Galveston nonprofit helps guide families through drowning tragedies

In this month’s Texans Helping Texans, we introduce The Jesse Tree Survivor Support Network, a local organization that helps families through difficult times.

GALVESTON, Texas — In this month’s Texans Helping Texans, we introduce The Jesse Tree Survivor Support Network.

It's a local organization that helps families through difficult times. Specifically, the nonprofit group's intent is to assist the families of drowning victims.

The group of volunteers was created after the Galveston Beach Patrol chief felt like someone needed to be with loved ones during search efforts.

"When there is a traumatic incident or drowning, the family is also there on the beach with us. We don’t have enough manpower to help coordinate with the family as well as all the rescue efforts," Galveston Island Beach Patrol Lt. Austin Kirwin said.

The volunteers get donations that provide families with food, hotel and spiritual help. They also have trained counselors.

"It’s the whole navigation of the process ... what transpires during a situation of this nature and how we can be there to walk them through that process," Jesse Tree Director of Program David Mitchell said.

The Jesse Tree is run by volunteers and they’re in need of more people who are bilingual. If you’re interested in helping, click here.

The volunteers step in to provide comfort for families from the beginning of the search to the end.

"It's like a nightmare ... my worst nightmare. You need to figure out the situation," volunteer Iris Guerra said.

First-hand experience

If it wasn’t for the Jesse Tree volunteers, Cinthia Perez said she doesn’t know where she would be.

Cinthia said she lives in a low-income family and the group not only guided her through the hardest moments of her life but was also her shoulder to cry on.

For the first time, she's opening up about the tragedy that became her reality last month.

It was March 5 when Cinthia's twin 13-year-old boys, Jefferson and Josue, disappeared while swimming in Galveston waters.

"Sentí como que mi mundo se me había acabado allí," she said.

She said she looked down for a couple of seconds, and when she looked back up, the boys were nowhere to be found in the waist-deep water in which they were last seen.

"De repente ya no estaban en el agua as de cuenta que agache mi cabeza por 3 segundos y ya los niños ya cuando voltie ya no estaban," she said.

That's when the frantic search began. The only problem was that Cinthia didn't speak much English and she said it was hard to communicate with police and firefighters to tell them what happened.

"Había policías y bomberos y era muy difícil para nosotros comunicar con ellos todos hablaban ingles. No podiamios decirles como pasaron las cosas," she said.

Fortunately for Cinthia, the Jesse Tree volunteers were there to help.

"They are hurting. The fact that we can talk to them in Spanish ... explain what is actually happening ... why it's happening," volunteer Carlos Guerra said.

Carlos and Iris Guerra were among the volunteers who helped Cinthia and her family on that fateful day.

"Gracias a Dios la gente nos apoyó muchísimo monetaria mente emocionalmente," Cinthia said.

The bodies of Jefferson and Josue were found within days. They were laid to rest in Honduras last week.

Anayeli Ruiz on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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