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How is the changing world impacting our next steps in making meaningful change?

POSTED November 22, 2021

How is the changing world impacting our next steps in making meaningful change?

As one project closes, see how the issue surrounding it has evolved, spurring renewed efforts

By Fred Witteveen, CEO,

Fred standing in park

Four years ago Children Believe began a project to address the root causes of irregular migration. The issue was complex: youth from Central America and Mexico were leaving their countries because of growing violence and a lack of employment options leading to low involvement in their communities, among other challenges.

We partnered with the Government of Canada to make positive change. As the project lead, we joined with ChildFund International-(USA) and Educo — sister members of the ChildFund Alliance, a group of child-focused international development agencies — to make greater impact.

What did we do to help children and youth in Central America and Mexico?

  • Nearly 500 decision-makers and nearly 5,500 caregivers were given training and tools to strengthen child-protection services to keep young people safe from violence, irregular migration, human-trafficking and exploitation, among other issues.
  • Technical and vocational training courses, life skills learnings as well as business development and seed capital investments propelled thousands of youth onward in their journey toward gainful employment.
  • Leadership and gender training benefited 8,000+ young women and men, while 600+ were connected to local committees and civic organizations.

In the end, as a result of the PICMCA project (Preventing Irregular Child Migration in Central America and Mexico, we reached 180,000+ children and 600,000+ youth at risk of irregular migration.

The good-news stories and lasting results of PICMCA abound, but a lot has changed since we started the project in 2017.

Children walk away from camera through poor neighbourhood

Youth and families face increased risks of irregular or other forms of migration today

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced family income as the cost of living skyrockets
  • Vaccine inequity is making it difficult to move across borders, regularly or irregularly
  • There’s increasing inequality, conflict, civil unrest and natural disasters due to climate change

As poverty, inequality and conflict increase, often leading to humanitarian crises, more and more people are making the difficult decision to leave their homeland in search of a better future for their families. Evidence shows this affects women and girls disproportionately. Mothers struggle to support their families, women who often work in the service sector are vulnerable to job loss in a tough economy and young women enter early marriages and face teen pregnancies. Many women and girls are also victims of gender-based violence in a male-dominated society.

How we’re planning to keep more families safe at home in Central America in the future

We’ve accomplished a lot through PICMCA, but this progress is at risk. We won’t give up. We’ll be doubling-down with our partners to prevent violence against children, helping them realize their rights and access services to keep them safe.

In fact, breaking barriers to education is more important than ever. That means creating alternative ways to boost income through training on overcoming adversity and learning new skills to make a living.

We’re exploring similar projects to PICMCA and how best to join with other organizations to overcome the new challenges too many youth in Central America and Mexico will face long after the COVID-19 pandemic becomes a memory.

We’ll keep you updated as this situation continues to evolve. In the meantime, you can help by supporting our refugee child education fund through our Gifts for Good catalogue.

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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 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 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.

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