Scholarships and farm animals to curb child migration

An IOM expert talks about human trafficking with representatives from the Municipal Women´s Offices. Photo by Juan Manuel Fernández

Unaccompanied migration is a reality for hundreds of Guatemalan children who travel to work in southern Mexico or the United States every year.  To counter this dangerous practice, IOM and the Development Association Nimal Tnam (ADINT by its Spanish acronym) established a scholarship program in 2010 in the Guatemalan department of San Marcos, near the Mexican border.  Two years later, the benefits are clearly showing.

"I received a scholarship to study last year and I am now in second year of high school. In the past, I used to go to Tapachula (Chiapas, Mexico) two months a year to sell candy and cigarettes  or polish shoes so that I could buy my school supplies and help my family with a little money" said Luis * 14, one of the beneficiaries.

With funding from the U. S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), IOM has assisted 239 children aged between 10 and 17 years, along with their families from the municipality of Concepcion Tutuapa, San Marcos.

The initiative has also provided vital income generating support to the families in the form of domestic animals, such as pigs, chickens and sheep, as well as training on the dangers of irregular migration and human trafficking.

"They taught me the risks associated with migration such as hoaxes, human trafficking, kidnappers and thieves.  When I was in Mexico, a man offered me a better job caring for flowers, but another told me it was a lie. The real job was selling drugs so I refused," Luis explained.

“One of the main features of this IOM project is undoubtedly its comprehensiveness,” Walter Arreaga, the IOM official in charge of the project in San Marcos, affirmed.

"This is because while we educate children and their parents about the dangers of migration, we also help them with income generating projects for families to support themselves, perhaps the main reason which pushes them to migrate," Arreaga added.

The project also relied on an information campaign with the slogan "Camina Seguro" or Walk Safely, which included radio spots, posters and a radio drama to warn people about the risks of migration in Concepcion Tutuapa and six other municipalities of San Marcos.  More than 700 local authorities were involved in the awareness campaign

As a result of this project, there has been a significant reduction in the number of unaccompanied minors migrating north from San Marcos.

"From 2010-2011, the program assisted 139 children with scholarships and 63 productive projects in raising animals to help families towards self-sufficiency.  Sixty percent of the children benefitting from the project were reintegrated and forty percent did not return to Mexico again" said Arreaga.

“Furthermore, 100 percent of the children completed the school year, while 90 percent of the productive projects succeeded," adds Arreaga proudly.

In 2012, an additional 100 children participated in the project with the same results in the municipality of Conception Tutuapa.

"My grandson and my daughters received scholarships and sheep, thanks to God." said Juan Leonardo Tenax, another beneficiary of Concepcion Tutuapa. "When will the project return to the municipality?” he asked.

"Now my 12 year old grandson, who used to go to work to Mexico, is taking classes and he has not emigrated, and my 13 and 16 years-old-daughters are studying in first and third grade of high school. We also take good care of the animals," he added.

Temporary labor migration in San Marcos is more frequent from October to February during the coffee harvest in the southeastern state of Chiapas, Mexico.  Parents and children migrate temporarily to Tapachula for work. Others travel to the US.

The results achieved will allow other municipalities in the department of San Marcos to benefit from the program soon.

Candido Carrillo, from ADINT, said the project will begin to give scholarships in April 2013 in the municipalities of Tajamulco and Tacaná to help 120 children.

He said: "IOM's contribution to this initiative has been very important and a great benefit to raise awareness among children and parents about the risks they face when they migrate to work".

Carrillo hopes these efforts will help reduce the migration of unaccompanied children in Tacaná and Tajamulco, as in Concepción Tutuapa, since all three municipalities share the same characteristics: notably high rates of poverty and a border with Mexico.



*Fictitious name*