The Christian Children’s Fund of Canada has responded to the irregular child migration crisis with PICMCA (Preventing Irregular Child Migration from Central America): a project that prevents irregular migration by building opportunities for youth in their communities.
PICMCA is a government-funded project led by the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada. It started about two years ago and focuses on the communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua. By creating education and employment opportunities in these communities, the project will help children and youth who are at risk of dangerously migrating from their homes.
“This project, for me, is really about keeping families together and helping parents and young people see that maybe there are other alternatives in their community,” said Philip Tanner, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada senior director. “Maybe there are certain things they can do to affect positive change, to change attitudes.”
The three pillars of the project are to give youth the protection services they require, provide education and training to foster employability in the future, and encourage youth participation in the community.
The protection component is based on the idea of creating a healthy environment for children in those communities. The implementation of child protection services and violence prevention programs will support the well-being and safety of at-risk children at the local level.
The second pillar focuses on employability, aiming to teach youth the skills they need to attain sustainable jobs in the future with flexible education programs, connecting with private sector companies to create workshop and internship opportunities, and conducting market research to identify what particular skills youth will be needed to be employable.
The last pillar emphasizes youth participation and developing the leadership skills of the youngest citizens in the community. PICMCA will encourage youth leadership through training sessions and forums where topics such as entrepreneurship, gender equality, civic participation and irregular child migration will be discussed.
“The idea in the third pillar was to raise the youth voice, to enable them to make more informed decisions around their actions in their community,” said Tanner. “By doing so, they’re able to identify gaps, look at areas where ideas can be strengthened and, then, put them face to face with decision makers in the community.”
Not only is PICMCA intended to respond to the irregular child migration crisis, but it is also meant to promote growth and dialogue within the international communities. With the project’s gender strategy also in play, both males and females will receive equal representation and participation in the decision-making process of the project and will receive equal access to the education and employment opportunities it will create.
Earlier in December, the ChildFund Alliance partnered with UNICEF for an event in New York called The Protection of Children at Risk of Irregular Migration. Speakers at the event included representatives from United Nations, UNICEF, ChildFund International and Educo, to name a few. Topics discussed at the event ranged from the dangers children would face with irregular migration, the effect poverty has on children’s education and the importance of youth civic participation.
“From many different perspectives, whether it’s humanitarian or whether it’s to improve safety in our communities and their communities, I think we have a requirement to be involved in this from a preventive point of a view, from a view of giving opportunities,” said Tanner. “Canada supports the transformation of at-risk youth, especially women and girls, from being victims to being agents of change in their families, communities and nation.”
Since its launch, PICMCA has operated in 129 communities and 38 municipalities. Additionally, the project is expected to benefit more than 77,000 people directly and more than 160,000 indirectly.
Tanner says that the next step in this project is to take a look at city twinning, a concept that promotes social and economic collaboration between cities around the world. Currently, he says, they’re looking into partnering with municipalities like Whitby, Oshawa and, possibly, Markham.
“I think, in our communities, we have a humanitarian imperative,” he said. “Canadians are about helping in humanitarian situations. We’re not about building walls. We’re about diversity, we’re about accepting, and looking at alternatives to make people’s lives better.”
Visit childfundalliance.org to keep up to date with project activities.
Photo: Youth participating in one of the many workshops that PICMCA has organized.