IOM helps improve job skills and self-esteem of Guatemalan returnees in order to promote their social and economic reintegration

Returnees participate in a reintegration workshop. Photo by Mario Hernández

“I'm doing well.  I've been working steadily for four months.  In fact, I received a new job offer but I'm still thinking about it,” said Julio, one of the participants in an IOM workshop organized to improve the job skills and self-confidence of returnees in order to promote their employment and social reintegration.

Julio lived in the United States for 25 years but was returned to Guatemala on October 24, 2012, where he faced a difficult economic situation.  “It was very depressing. In the U.S. I had my job, my car and suddenly I had nothing,” he recollected.

Upon arrival in Guatemala, he was invited by staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to participate in the workshop held in the capital.

“The workshop was very interesting and it provided the motivation I needed.  Arriving at IOM and knowing that their door is always open to returnees meant a lot to me.  At that time I was not working but soon found a job,” added this 51-year-old Guatemalan.

Since December 5, 2012 Julio has worked for a call center in Guatemala City, and his life has been changing step by step.  “Now, I feel lucky to have a job; my economic situation has improved.  I hope to continue in this job and get better every day”, he said.

A total of 54 returnees participated in three interactive workshops, held in the capital and in rural areas, where they shared their testimonies, experiences and where IOM staff spoke to them about managing frustration and improving self-confidence.

Participating returnees also learned how to prepare for a job interview and how to write a CV in order to increase their prospects of finding meaningful employment.

The trainings, held from November 2012 to March 2013, used dynamic exercises and multi-media to encourage the full and open participation of all participants.

Henry, a 27-year-old returnee, is looking for employment and is sure that the workshop he participated in on March 8 will increase his chances. “This is very important because we have learned how to write a good CV so that our job application is not rejected,” said the young man who lived for 14 years in the U. S. State of Tennessee.

Lesbia, another returnee who lived for seven years in the U. S. State of Florida, said: "At first I felt really bad because I left my husband and my children in the United States. But the motivation I received at the workshop has helped me a lot.  Now, I am looking for a job."

Other returnees have achieved multiple employment opportunities.  Otto has two jobs.  “For my second job application, I applied several things I learned at the workshop during the job interview including my personal appearance,” said Otto who lived in U. S. State of California for 25 years before being returned in 2011.

He participated in the workshop held in November 2012 and now works for the customer service department of a photocopier supplier and for a courier service company in Guatemala.

Otto added: “Financially, I can’t complain because I have two jobs and I'm doing pretty well, although is it a big change to live in Guatemala again.”

Last year, 40,647 persons were returned by air from the United States and 38,514 were returned by lad from Mexico.  About 6 per cent were women.

Upon their return to Guatemala, migrants face myriad difficulties and obstacles to their successful reintegration, such as limited economic opportunities and the lack of access to formal education, social services and credit.

IOM, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides counseling, job training and referral to employment vacancies in the private sector, for returnees as part of the IOM-managed Guatemala Repatriates Program.

"What we do is help these returning Guatemalans to know themselves in order to improve their self-confidence and skills in order to facilitate their employment opportunities,", explained Lucrecia Monterroso of IOM Guatemala.

She continued: "We also try to create an enabling environment for the returnees so that they can organize themselves to share interests and opportunities, as a group rather than as individuals."

Returnees are now planning to establish an association where they can share their interests, concerns, actions and experiences to help address the needs of the migrant community within the country.