Migration Video story

A touch of humanity in a ghost town left behind by migration

The ever-present pull of migration has left communities in and around Quetzaltenango, Guatemala almost empty as adults, children and teenagers embark on a risky journey towards a better future.

The village of Chuicavioc, at the foot of the Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala, has all the appearances a ghost town. The houses and streets are empty, with only the occasional person or two walking around. The rest of the villagers have decided to migrate, in search of a better life. Among them were many young people and children who left their homes and families in search of opportunities outside of Guatemala.

“Migration, especially of an adolescent, is a problem that affects the whole family,” explains Silvia Escobar, director of the National Institute of Basic Education of the Chuicavioc village. For Escobar, who works daily with young people in the community, the phenomenon of migration has increased in recent years, especially in the case of adolescents who decide to make the journey. “Of all the boys who studied in this school class, only one graduated,” she says.

But what about those who remain in the community? “Not all of them have this opportunity to migrate, to achieve their dream,” says Susana López, a resident of the community. “When they get through, it’s a happiness for the family because it changes their lives. The children have better opportunities to study. On the other hand, when they don’t make it across, many lose their house, their land, or are left with nothing because they have to pay off the debt they acquired to travel to the United States.”

Juan Poyon, a Guatemalan Red Cross volunteer, regularly visits the Chuicavioc village to help those who have decided to stay. For him, raising awareness among the population about the risks of migration is fundamental. However, for those who remain in the community, the focus is on strengthening community resilience through health projects, support to local schools and the establishment of health commissions.

The support provided by the Guatemalan Red Cross to adults, young people and children a few kilometres from the Mexican border is vital. From water, food and information to providing a safe space for unaccompanied migrant children returning from the Mexican border.

Support on the way

One of the places where the Guatemalan Red Cross supports the migrant population is the “Nuestras Raíces” (Our Roots) home in Quetzaltenango, a mid-sized city about 120 kilometres from the Mexican border. This shelter receives unaccompanied children and adolescents over the age of 12, who are returning to Guatemala from the Mexican border. “During the week we receive around 50, 60 and up to 100 children,” says Amira Lucero, Guatemalan Red Cross administrator in Quetzaltenango. Volunteers and the Social Welfare Secretariat work together at the shelter to provide the children with emotional stability and to help them recover from the difficulties they have faced along the way.

But the work of the Red Cross is not limited to this home. All along the Central American migration route, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has set up different humanitarian service points to support migrants on their way. Volunteers at these service points also provide “general information that can help people who make the decision to migrate, so that they know who to turn to or who to go to in any risky situation,” explains Lucero. Migrants are also provided with water and food, charging stations for mobile phones or access to phone calls so that people can get in touch with relatives back home.

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This story was produced by Fernando Escobar,
a talented storyteller from Guatemalan Red Cross.

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