Youth creating change for migrant communities

By Maria Creamer | February 6, 2020 | The Americas | Education, Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

In December 2019, we came together with youth from the United States, Mexico, and Central America. These young people displayed the diversity among migrant communities and shared how they are creating positive change for a better world.

The youth convening was co-hosted by our partner Voces Mesoamericanas in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico, in a small building tucked alongside a cobbled road. On the first day, youth excitedly trickled in as music boomed from the speakers. In the backyard garden, Voces Mesoamericanas created a gallery walk highlighting the journey of migrant people. This “Museum of Migrants” helped to remind everyone why we had come together.

The youth took their time and circled through the gallery, as colorful origami birds hung from above. Birds emerged as a theme during the convening, becoming a symbol of freedom and truth.

The venue quickly became a safe space for participants to open up and share their stories. Many of the participating youth had migrated or were members of migrant communities. Through their words, art, and friendship, we had the opportunity to hear their stories and experiences.

One young woman shared how gang violence had forced her to leave her home in El Salvador. She now lives in Mexico and volunteers for Espacio Migrante, a GFC partner that supports migrants, refugees, and returnees. Another young woman works directly with indigenous women and children, so that they can make better-informed decisions and find employment. She explained that her goal is to provide representation for indigenous communities.

But one group of youth didn’t have the opportunity to share their stories, because they were detained at the Mexico-Guatemala border on their way to the event. For nearly 24 hours, we didn’t know where they were. Eventually, we were able to connect with them, and we learned that they were on their way back home to Guatemala.

Despite having the necessary documents, they were not allowed to cross the border into Mexico. Their absence highlighted the difficulties migrant youth face in exercising their rights and having their voices heard.

We are inspired by all the youth who shared their time, their stories, and their experiences with us during the five-day convening. Whether in words or through different forms of creative expression, these courageous young people showed us the importance of freedom and of sharing their truth.

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