Bringing Dignity and Relief to Migrant Families Who Had to Give Up Everything

What if your children’s safety depended on the price of your morning latte? An everyday purchase we take for granted is the price some parents in the Northern Triangle have to pay to keep their families safe. When they’re late to pay, intimidating people watch their homes, prowling outside their windows. When they can’t afford to pay, they risk losing everything.

More than one million people from Central America have been uprooted from their homes over the last five years. Approximately 200,000 Hondurans have had to abandon their communities due to gang violence. Across Central America, gangs gain control over whole neighborhoods, extorting the innocent people who live there. They force them to pay a fee to exist in their own homes, ripping away their right to safety. When people can’t afford to pay, bullets are fired just outside their doors. Children get forcibly recruited into gangs, women and girls are sexually abused, and those who dare to resist may disappear or be killed. 

For Paul and Sophie*, one hundred lempiras (around $4.04) stood between the cartel and their staying alive. Every week, Paul and his family had to pay the cartel one hundred lempiras as “rent,” the price of their safety. Suddenly, one of their children who suffers from epilepsy had to be hospitalized, leaving Paul and newly pregnant Sophie with an impossible decision: did they pay for their son’s medical care, or did they pay the cartel to avoid violence?

They decided to pay the hospital bills. In response, they received a threatening letter from the cartel. Paul and Sophie realized that if their family was going to survive, they had to leave. “Because if we didn’t pay what we had to pay, they were going to kill her {Sophie} and the children,” explained Paul. 

Paul, Sophie, and their two children fled Honduras with almost nothing. They crossed into southern Mexico, arriving in Tapachula. Because he was a migrant, Paul didn’t have the legal right to work in Mexico. Also, Mexico’s immigration laws prevent migrants from traveling north through Mexico to the US border without special permission papers. Paul and his family were stranded in Tapachula until they received their travel visas. While they waited for documentation, they were stuck in a difficult limbo. 

Our community of peacebuilders wanted to give a sense of relief and comfort back to migrant families like Paul and Sophie’s. You saw families who had given up everything to escape from unimaginable violence, and you took action to bring them relief. Thanks to your generosity, our community has given families the ability to buy what they need with a food voucher program we started in 2022. This program supports migrants to buy basic food supplies, diapers, prenatal vitamins, or a treat to put a smile on their child’s face. 

Recipients are given a voucher with an amount of money to spend as they like (other than on cigarettes and alcohol). The voucher functions like a credit card, giving the recipients agency over what they buy without calling attention to their plight. Instead of being treated like a burden on the city by locals, a feeling all too familiar to migrants in Tapachula, migrants in the food voucher program are treated with respect and dignity by our partners running the store redeeming the food vouchers. Between August and October of 2023, your compassion gave 199 people the means to feed and provide for their families while they waited for travel or work visas.

Moving on from her life in Honduras, Nina*, 24 years old and pregnant, left her mother at home and traveled alone with her son, James*. Like Paul and Sophie, Nina fled Honduras to escape violence and give her children the safety they desperately need and deserve. Nina had been experiencing complications with her pregnancy and other medical issues, which prevented her from working. Your generosity meant that Nina didn’t have to decide between buying food and diapers for her son or paying for her medical care to support the healthy growth of her unborn baby. 

Because Nina can use her food voucher to buy food staples and other necessities for James, she can afford medical care to ensure her unborn baby enters the world healthy. Nina sent pictures of James eating back to her mother. “My mother says, ‘Thank God, my daughter is fine.’ And, that’s everything.”

As we talked with Nina, she expressed her immense gratitude for programs like ours because they have restored her hope for her family’s future.“Thanks to God for the existence of organizations that want to support us [migrants] because we didn’t have the need to leave our country if we could have this kind of support in our country,” Nina said.

Peace creates a new beginning for those who face an uncertain future. With the steadfast resolve of our community, we can build peace at times when the world’s problems seem insurmountable. 

*not their real names