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How we’re keeping children and youth safe at home

POSTED November 2, 2018

How we’re keeping children and youth safe at home

Watch the impact irregular migration is having on teens in Central America

Teen with backpack

We’ve heard about it in the news too often — families, children and youth leaving their homes in South and Central America in search of better opportunities.

Carlos didn’t realize he was putting himself in danger when he decided to leave Nicaragua for a chance at a better future: “I just left, and I didn’t know it was that dangerous,” he says in the video. “But, when I was travelling, I realized it wasn’t easy.”

That’s why Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, with funding from the Government of Canada and partners, launched the Preventing Irregular Child Migration in Central America (PICMCA) project. It will improve child-protection systems and create safe spaces; provide skills-training, scholarships and other education resources; as well as encourage children and youth to be leaders in their community.

Watch the video below.

Photo (top) by Juris Kornets

Hope at Home I Documentary   


Each year, hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied youth from Central America travel in alarming numbers.

Seeking to reunite with their parents, [they] are hoping to find work to help support their families back home.

Youth are mainly migrating from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, to what is known as the Northern Triangle.

For youth, lack of education and limited job opportunities are critical issues.

Many of them will have been migrating for both employment and family reunification purposes.

Carlos, who agreed to share his story, migrated because of poverty in his community and lack of opportunity to gain an education.


Well, in the first place, I think that it is basically because of a lack of education, lack of access to education, or better opportunities related to staying in the country.

If a country does not have those conditions, it is difficult for society or the youth will want to stay here.


Like many families in this community, Carlos lives with his mother, in a shanty built from plastic sheets.

There are no paved streets, no sewage system, no electricity or potable water.

In order to one day get an education, Carlos thought he had to get away from poverty and leave home.


I just left, and I didn’t know it was dangerous. But when I was travelling, I realized it wasn’t easy.

I was difficult to leave … and know that maybe I would not come back, or that I would be away for a long time or that something would happen to me.

I walked for quite a long time. I went through places where there were no people.

I had to sleep for some time in the streets. I missed my mother a lot, but I didn’t realize how much she worried because of me.

Maybe she was worrying with relatives or her friends, and maybe she was in church praying for me.

Carlos’s mom:

Ever since he told me he was leaving, and knowing the trip was difficult, because he was my only son…

Many had left and there had been deaths. If I let him go, I knew I was going to be left alone.


Carlos left in search of better opportunities, but, in the end, he returned, because he couldn’t live so far from his homeland and his mother.

He came back after five months.


I decided I would come back, because I didn’t feel good and missed my country.

It is better to work here in our country, to look for opportunities, just like I’m doing without the need to leave.

Carlos’s mom:

Family is the most important thing — and to look after one another.

As a mother, the best thing is to try hard in your own country, instead of losing your family.


Approximately 60 percent of the population in Central America, lives on less than $4 per day.

Overall, 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

In the countryside, poverty rates are especially high and almost 50 percent of households live in extreme poverty, they have limited access to good schools and job opportunities.

Delia Torres, PICMCA project coordinator:

For irregular migration, and migration in general, we found that there are at least
three causes.

First one it’s, you know, it’s violence in the communities. And, the other one is education; there are less opportunities to have an education. And, the third one would be to find a job or to be engaged in something.

The other issue that is big is domestic violence. So, in Nicaragua, we always say, that it has a woman face of migrating. Women just decide to travel and get out of Nicaragua because of that issue.


Many women migrants who travel become victims of human trafficking.

Women are particularly vulnerable, and quite often they have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Maria (not her real name) was struggling financially to support her and her child, when her neighbour offered a well-paying job abroad.

She agreed but had no idea what lay ahead.


A woman came to my house and told me there was a shoe factory.

In order to prosper, and get ahead to buy my own home and because of so much poverty, I said I was going to leave. She told us to give her our papers because she was going to keep them safe.

We gave her our documents.

We trusted her because we never imagined what they were going to do to us.


Soon after, she realized that she had been sold to a prostitution house and would be forced to work as a prostitute.

Luckily, she managed to escape.

Maria now lives with her 13-year-old daughter, who teaches her how to read and write.

Maria believes the only way to prevent migration is providing education opportunities to youth. She hopes that her daughter will have a better future than herself by gaining an education.


I would have studied. For example, if there would have been opportunities that exist now, I would have learned, and I would have had a good job, right? But it wasn’t like that.


Lucas was the oldest of three brothers, and because his father had left, he was the only breadwinner in the family. He made a difficult decision to leave the country despite the fact that he was only 16 at the time.


I thought about going, because I couldn’t find a job here. I felt desperate. I didn’t want to be here anymore, because I didn’t even have one cordoba, nothing.

So, I thought, the solution would be to go somewhere else. I left in the early hours of the morning.

My mom was there. When I was saying goodbye to her, when I was leaving, she grabbed me.

She told me not to go, that it would be better for us to wait. God was going to sort everything out.

It was hard to say goodbye, because I was leaving the people I had grown up with. I didn’t want to go. I could feel the tears falling.


Lucas travelled a couple of days, switching to multiple buses and walking long hours. He finally arrived in Costa Rica, where, through a relative, he found a job on a farm.

After several months, Lucas decided to go back to Nicaragua. He was no longer able to live away from his family.


I love being in Nicaragua. It’s the place I was born and grew up. I would like to learn many things, so that in the future I could be ‘someone’ in life.


Lucas represents many youth in similar situations. Despite high levels of unemployment, poverty and violence, youth in Central America can be optimistic about their future.

They consider themselves leaders, but lack the decision-making power to make change.

The PICMCA project — Preventing Irregular Child Migration in Central America — is known as CONFIO in Spanish, is being implemented by CCFC (Children Believe), ChildFund International, EDUCO and supported by the Government of Canada.

This four-year project is being operated in five Central American countries: El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Delia Torres:

Project of Prevention of Irregular Child Migration in Central America and Mexico, it’s a project that is regional and is $15 million. This project tends to get to the root causes of irregular migration.

So, we also put into this project a lot of campaigns and information about the risks of irregular immigration and (youth) trying to look for solutions in their own country instead of deciding to travel to another country.


PICMCA focuses on three key areas.

First, by keeping children and youth safe through training at all levels.

Secondly, improving employment opportunities for youth through vocational skills-training and providing scholarships to youth.

And third, improving youth leadership through youth forums, community-awareness campaigns and influencing government-level policy and program changes.

Delia Torres:

With this project you will have an opportunity for education.

You will have opportunity to have a protection network. Participating in activities, participating in changes in your community.

So this project is not just giving protection to yourself, but it also gives you opportunity to get a job and have a new opportunity for your life instead of just travelling or deciding to migrate again.


This regional project supports and inspires youth to focus more on their education. For example, JUPAC is a youth-leadership program in Nicaragua.

It creates a safe place for children to socialize and to study — and training to prevent irregular child migration.


We have been working with young boys and girls and teenagers who are at the risk of migrating.

For example, we have organized meetings with teenagers, where we can teach them handicrafts and things like that — and how to make T-shirts and caps; entrepreneurial skills so that they may find a job and not want to migrate.


As an adult, I wasn’t aware of this information; now I have it, so as a mother I pass it on to my son. There are many projects that give opportunities for young people to study, to train and to be someone in life. In my days, I didn’t have this.


I think they need to know more about their rights, about the employment opportunities in our country, so that they can stay at home and not migrate to another country.


All youth and parents that we have interviewed have only one wish — to stay in their country and get the opportunity to study and work in their own homeland. None of them wants to leave the country, and PICMCA makes that possible.


We have the power to change our future and get ahead in our country. I love Nicaragua, I love my family. My desire is to always be with them and to not go somewhere else.


I’ve never been interviewed like this before nor had the chance to get everything that happened to me, off my chest. I feel like new, and you give me hope to encourage my daughter to continue with her studies. I feel thankful to God and to you.

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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.

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