Since 2002 the Winnipeg YMCA has been a supporter of the Casa programs. Here is a brief report on the current status of the Mexican YMCA's Homes for Migrant Youth.
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.
The YMCA Homes for Migrant Youth were established in 1990 to respond to the needs of young people under the age of 18 who were repatriated to Mexico after crossing the U.S./Mexico border without proper documentation. Before the creation of the YMCA Homes, migrant youth were left by border authorities in cities along the Mexican side of the border without protection, services or shelter. The youth lived in extreme poverty and risk. Most could not find food or shelter. Many were abused by criminals involved in prostitution, drug trafficking and gang-related activities.
The YMCA of Mexico, with support of U.S. local YMCAs and Canadian YMCAs, organized a network of YMCA homes that provide vital food, shelter, counseling and reunification services to migrant youth in four cities. It is now considered a model program by the Mexican and United States governments and by a wide range of non-profit and human service organizations working along the border. The YMCA Homes have helped over 50,000 young people since 1991.
Collectively, the YMCA Homes served 3,949 youth in 2008. This number is consistent with previous years and current YMCA capacity. The YMCA Home in Tijuana served 1,935 youth, the YMCA Home in Ciudad Juarez served 536 youth, the YMCA Home in Piedras Negras served 944 youth, and the YMCA Home in Agua Prieta served 534 youth. 80.3% of the youth served by the four homes were males. 71.5% were between the ages 16 and 17, and 23.6% were age 15 or younger. The YMCA successfully reunified 79.66% of the youth with their families in Mexico.
The YMCA of Mexico has made significant progress in the Capital Campaign for the YMCA Homes for Migrant Youth. In 2008 the YMCA raised $1,509,063.12 Mexican Pesos (approx. 120,000.00 USD) for the construction of two of the YMCA Homes, Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. The capital campaign will run until 2010.
The new model of the YMCA Homes will allow the YMCA to serve the current population of migrant youth and to reach other groups in the local community through prevention programs for local youth and families at risk. The ground breaking ceremony is planned for the fall 2009 and the construction in Piedras Negras is expected to take seven months.
To support this project, the YMCAs of Western Canada led by the YMCA – YWCA of Winnipeg created a task force that will join the efforts of the Mexican Federation of YMCAs to complete this project. The YMCA plans to mobilize resources and support from local and state governments for this project. This new YMCA Home will benefit 1,500 migrant youth as well as the local community.
For a personal perspective on the experience of day-to-day life at the Casa in Tijuana, take a look at this article from the Winnipeg YMCA-YWCA International Newsletter, Summer 2007.
Reported by Don Fraser
International Working Group Member