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Addressing root causes of irregular child migration in Central America and Mexico

POSTED October 25, 2021

Addressing root causes of irregular child migration in Central America and Mexico

Our country director in Nicaragua shares the impact of a transformative project led by Children Believe

By María Isabel López, country director, Nicaragua

Juana holding her baby son

This month we celebrated the end of the successful PICMCA project (Preventing Irregular Child Migration in Central America and Mexico). Four years have passed since it began, and we’re excited to share the results of this effort in the region — all possible thanks to the Government of Canada, which contributed $12.6M to the project (2017-2021).

PICMCA engaged governments, business, community leaders and more to address complex challenges such as violence, lack of employment and low youth involvement in their communities. To do that successfully it addressed root causes of irregular migration, promoting gender equality and equal opportunities among genders. That resulted in better access to services and resources for people at risk of irregular migration due to factors of environmental, social and personal vulnerabilities.

The result? The launch of more than 17 community-based violence-prevention programs and the training of more than 2,700 national and municipal decision-makers, community leaders and non-governmental organization personnel in child protection and violence prevention in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico. This helped us reach 180,000+ children and 600,000+ youth at risk of irregular migration.

We worked at 179 school and education centres, which supported project activities, 42 local partners, 56 institutions and 35 youth groups. It was a huge collective effort among teachers, community leaders, potential employers and local authorities committed to improving the well-being of children and youth.

You can find an example of the transformations in Juana, a 20-year-old from northern Nicaragua. She recalls being invited to participate in the project when she was at home, unable to work, as she cared for her young son.

Many socially vulnerable women like Juana benefited from PICMCA, which offered support programs that gave opportunities to develop technical competencies and life skills.

Juana (pictured) received training and seed capital to start a bakery; this changed her life overnight. “All the bread we baked the [first day sold],” she said. “It was both great and exhausting emotionally, because we were on our feet from five in the morning until four in the afternoon. We always sell everything, and people even come from other nearby communities to order bread from us.”

Young people with an entrepreneurial vision, like Juana, often experience difficulties accessing seed capital, especially in rural areas. PICMCA helped by offering three pillars of support — technical and vocational courses, life skills and business development as well as seed capital — to economically empower young women and men, helping them land a job or start a small business. This has helped many youth, especially those who may have felt compelled to search for opportunity elsewhere.

Juana shared that she feels irregular migration becomes an option for people when they do not see possibilities to grow in their communities, and it has more to do with a personal vision than with the environment in which they live. She’s one example of a young person who has realized the possibilities for growth in her community.

Of course, it hasn’t been easy. PICMCA took a lot of work to address complex issues, but we’re happy we contributed to reducing violence in the communities where we work while also creating opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, especially among young women.

Now, we’re looking to the future while continuing the work started through PICMCA. Thankfully, the youth within our program communities know more about the risks of irregular migration, and they’re raising their voices to help others see there’s hope to grow in their homeland with the ones they love.

It was amazing to see so many stories and faces of children and youth who now feel they’re equipped to make positive change in their lives.

Indeed, PICMCA was a life-changing experience for all those involved.

Read our PICMCA case study to learn more about its impact.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

Preventing Irregular Child Migration in Central America (PICMCA):

Children Believe is leading a $15.2-million regional project in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua, designed to improve the well-being of children and youth who are at risk of irregular migration. The Government of Canada is contributing $12.6 million to the four-year project. The initiative addresses a number of the root causes that fuel irregular migration — from high levels of crime and violence, limited employment and educational opportunities, to social exclusion and a lack of information on the inherent dangers of migrating without following the normal immigration procedures. For this project, Children Believe is partnering with two non-governmental organizations: ChildFund International-USA and Educo.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 12 child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in more than 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.