Friday, October 30, 2009


The following are a few examples of the lives of youth who are served by the YMCA Homes.  These youth try to enter the U.S. looking for better economic opportunities and/or to join parents, siblings and relatives.  Many end up going through horrific border crossing experiences filled with exploitation and tragedy.  Most arrive at the YMCA Homes mentally and physically traumatized.
Mario Montes de Oca

From Ecatepec, State of Mexico

My name is Mario; I’m from the Estate of Mexico. I was born in March 23 1992. My parents were divorced and my dad once told me that my mom lives in Baja California, maybe in Tijuana or Rosarito. Since their divorce, my grandmother took care of me. Since then I talk to my dad once in a while over the phone, but never with my mom.

My friend and I decided to try to cross to the U.S. and find some work. When we arrived to Tijuana, we had no place to stay. We asked for help at the salvation Army shelter and we stayed there for 2 nights. Then, we decided to cross. Like many others, we got arrested when trying to cross through the mountains. As my friend was older, we got separated and I was interviewed by many people and got sent to the Casa YMCA.

During my stay here at the Casa YMCA, I have been trying to help Mari (YMCA staff in charge of the Home) in whatever she needs. She is very kind and always tries to help me to remember any address or phone number. I hope soon I will be able to remember them. Today it will be my first day at work in a carwash. I wish I could find my friend so we can both be together and maybe settle here in Tijuana. But for now, I know that my home is the Casa YMCA and even if Mari is not my family, she takes care of me and other guys that come in the same situation as me.

Annual Report 2008, Mexican Federation of YMCAs

Friday, October 23, 2009

CASA - YMCA Homes in Mexico

The mission of the YMCA Homes for Migrant Youth is:
To contribute to the holistic development of youth along the Mexican-U.S. border in spirit, mind and body, seeking the maximum protection of their human rights, providing migrant youth with safe and secure shelter including food, clothing, health services and access to a means of communication, with the ultimate goal of reuniting them with their families
  • 500,000 people migrate from Mexico each year
  • Many send money back to Mexico to help their families
  • Remittances from migrant workers in the US are now the country’s second highest source of income (over 25.1 billion dollars!)
  • The YMCA Homes have helped over 50, 000 young people since 1991
  • 3,949 youth were helped in 2008
  • YMCA Homes successfully reunified almost 80% of youth with their families
  • 2008 saw an increase in crime in border towns, when organized crime declared war on local state and federal authorities
  • 2800 people were murdered in 2008 in connection with organized crime

Once the youth are caught entering the US illegally (either at the border, or other location in the country), the repatriation process begins. They’re brought back to the border and placed in a detention centre. “A migrant youth going trough the typical repatriation process has already been interviewed by 5 or 6 US and Mexican authorities before reaching the YMCA Home” (Annual Report, 2008)

Without YMCA Homes like Casa, these youth would then be released onto the streets to fend for themselves. Without food, money or shoes and released into border towns such as Tijuana, with high drug and child prostitution rates, the youth were extremely vulnerable.

Since 1991, they have had a safe place to go. The YMCA “is recognized as the lead provider of services to migrant youth in the areas of basic food and shelter, psycho-social counseling, medical and social referral services and family reunification” (AR, 2008)

Each home is managed by a residing host-family, attending to the migrant youths' basic needs. Once they're are settled in the Home, YMCA social workers begin a dialogue that will hopefully lead to reunifying the youths with their families, helping them to pursue healthier and safer life choices.

Most migrant youth stay for 3 to 8 days, but some stay for several months depending on economic or family circumstances. It costs $54 per day, per youth, which covers shelter, food, health and reunification.

Annual Report 2008, Mexican Federation of YMCAs

NEXT WEEK: Faces from the Border

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Formal Introduction!

I bet you're wondering ... what IS the International Working Group anyway?

The YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg is part of a network of YMCAs and YWCAs located in more than 90 countries worldwide.

Through our overseas partnerships, we support community development projects such as youth employment, healthy living, community economic development, youth shelters and day care centres.

Locally, through newsletters, displays, special events (such as Peace Week and International Development Week) and fund raising, we provide opportunities for members, participants and the general public to learn about international issues and develop a sense of responsibility to each other and the global community.

Thank you for visiting our blog - we look forward to sharing with you what we're up to and how YOU can get involved!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The International Working Group is looking foward to

Watch for more information at your local YMCA-YWCA!

Do you know an individual or group that contributes to peacebuilding in your community?
You can nominate them for the PEACE MEDAL to recognize and share their achievements!