MEXICO: Youth Camp Held to Provide Education and Assistance to Migrant Youth
(MissionNewswire) Camp Cagliero, a supportive weekend meeting for migrant youth, was held Feb. 28 – March 1 at the Casa del Hombre Nuevo in Tlazala de Fabela, a municipality of the city of Isidro Fabela in Mexico. The camp was requested by Father Ángel Fernández Artime, the Rector Major of the Salesian Congregation, was coordinated by Father Miguel Ángel Rojas Lezama, delegate of the Mexico-México Province, and was attended by close to 30 youth.
Educational materials and assistance were provided during the camp by Dr. Cinthia Pérez Trejo, director of the General Coordination of the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees, an organization that provides for the protection and return of migrants as well as refuge or asylum to foreign applicants including child migrants arriving from Central America.
“The goal for this year is to give attention to the humanitarian emergency of unaccompanied minors across Central America,” says Fr. Rojas. “We want to strengthen our missionary work and also our community service wherever there are youth in need. Our focus is on supportive services and connecting them with education and eventually stable work.”
To meet the needs of youth who have fled their Central American homes alone to make their way to Mexico, Salesian missionaries already working in border towns in Mexico such as Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, Ciudad Juárez, Ciudad Acuña and Nuevo Laredo (among others), are responding with emergency shelter, food and other assistance. The journey these young people take from their Central American communities into these Mexican towns is fraught with danger. Many youth have died or have become seriously injured along the trip and others, faced with little food and water along the way, have fallen prey to theft, sex traffickers and other violence.
Once youth reach the border towns, Salesian missionaries provide the essential first step of meeting their basic needs and offering them a safe place to stay. After settling into Salesian shelters, youth can access other Salesian services such as structured recreation and social activities that provide a way for them to bond with their peers and develop additional interests and skills.
With 1,969 miles and more than 20 checkpoints along the border of Mexico and the United States, constant migration is taking place between the two countries. Mexican migrant workers travel to U.S border towns seeking employment, immigrants from both countries cross back and forth and undocumented Mexicans are often repatriated.
Many border towns are plagued by crime and violence such as the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people, and the consequences of social and political tensions between the two nations are felt. Salesian missionaries have been working in Mexico and in these border towns for more than 25 years with a goal of working together to try to address the increase of violence and insecurity in the region and launch proposals for education, social integration, drug prevention and combating the effects of organized crime.
According to UNICEF, there are 52 million people living in poverty in Mexico, approximately 45 percent of the country’s population. For children, the rate rises to just over 53 percent with more than 20 million youth estimated to be living in poverty and five million of those in extreme poverty.
Salesian missionaries in Mexico primarily direct their efforts toward the country’s at-risk youth, including girls and young mothers. Creating safe havens and improving educational opportunities are essential to deter youth from life on the streets where they are susceptible to drugs and gang violence.
“Youth need environments where they feel safe,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “In many Mexican cities that are branded as violent and chaotic, Salesian work has revealed many young residents who are full of dreams, talents and high hopes for a productive and happy future, free from violence.”
Today, there is a Salesian presence in poorer frontier communities in Mexico and on the outskirts of border cities. Since the inception of the Salesian Frontier Project in 1987, 13 educational youth centers and two community centers have been opened. In addition, Salesian missionaries are collaborating in six parishes (one in the US) and operating a school with three levels of study as well as a welcome center for migrants and the destitute.
UNICEF – Mexico