Unaccompanied children returning to their countries of origin often face the same conditions that caused them to leave in the first place: violence, loss of a caregiver, lack of access to education and medical services, food insecurity, and discrimination among others.
KIND’s Child Return and Reintegration Program helps children returning alone to Guatemala and Honduras navigate the challenges they face when they arrive back to their communities. KIND partners with local organizations to help children reintegrate into their families, schools, and communities by identifying their needs, implementing care plans, monitoring their well-being, and connecting them to psychosocial, educational, and other critical services.
Ursula Guzman, a case manager on KIND’s International Programs team, recently traveled to Honduras and Guatemala to visit our partners. A highlight of her trip was a visit to Asociación Pop No’j, an organization in Guatemala whose mission is to support the cultural identity and rights of the Mayan people. One of their areas of work is to support returned children and their families. KIND began working with Pop No’j in 2010 when it was a small organization of just five people based in Guatemala City. Since then, Pop No’j has grown to a staff of over 30 people with three offices: one in Guatemala City and two in the western highlands of Huehuetenango, the region with the highest rates of migration from Guatemala. Today, Pop No’j is a well-respected organization that has built strong relationships with the communities where they work and earned a reputation for being effective in reintegrating returned migrant children and supporting their families. KIND’s prolonged support and model of referring cases has been key to Pop No’j’s growth.
Pop No’j conducts home and community visits to families to which a child has returned to check on their well-being and provide psychosocial services. They also connect youth and families to health and education services, for example helping kids re-enroll in school. Ursula visited Pop No’j’s office in Colotenango and participated in a community visit. Ursula met a family who Pop No’j had helped reunify. Pop No’j helped the teenage daughter reconnect with her family and safely reintegrate into her community. She had recently turned 15 years old and the family held a quinceañera birthday celebration. With the support of KIND’s Reintegration Program, she is now studying again and dreams of being a doctor. In between the family laughing and joking around, the father cried as he talked about the pain of separation from his teenage daughter and the gratitude he feels for Pop No’j and the support they have provided his family.
In San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Ursula visited KIND partner organization Casa Alianza where staff were facilitating a workshop that is part of a multi-session course that takes children through a curriculum of life skills led by a psychologist and a social worker. Of the 15 kids, two were new to the group and looked nervous. As the workshop progressed, their worry seemed to disappear, replaced by smiles. They seemed to feel welcome and part of the group. Two children, a girl and a boy who had been separated from their mother and were now reunified, spoke to Ursula about their studies and how happy they were to be home and with their mother once again.
KIND is proud to support our partner organizations in their work protecting returning children. Our Child Return and Reintegration Program creates a safer, brighter future for children trying to re-build their lives in their home communities after migration and gives them hope and the tools to create new lives for themselves. Learn more about KIND’s work in Central America here.