Starting from sctatch is very difficult. But I know that better things are coming.Claudia, an asylum seeker waiting in a shelter at the US- Mexico border
Eight months of waiting in limbo. Eight months of wondering if you’ll ever see your parents again. Eight months of worrying that you might never feel safe, especially after extortion threats and violence forced you to quit the job you loved and leave. For Claudia, her son, and her brother Luis, this was their reality.
Waiting for an outcome you cannot control is nerve-wracking at best. Waiting while confined to a shelter because the surrounding area is too dangerous can sink a person into depression. This is what happened to Claudia until she joined a workshop in our Mexico-based tech program, which teaches people waiting at the border jobs, tech, English and life skills, so they will be better prepared for wherever they next call home. Luis was a tech program participant, too.
Our tech hubs originated in Iraq in order to help young Iraqis and Syrians displaced by war, poverty, and violence rebuild their lives. By providing IT, business soft skills, English language, and life skills training both in person and online, we are preparing youth impacted by conflict with the skills necessary to succeed in the modern labor market. Our professional development coaching and mentoring enables young people to change their stories from desperation to triumph.
Displaced people in Mexico face unique challenges. First, the areas surrounding shelters are sometimes dangerous. Traffickers, kidnappers, and other perpetrators of violence lurk in the shadows, ready to take advantage of vulnerable people if they leave the shelter grounds to buy water, food, or other necessities. After listening to our migrant friends confide their security fears, we pivoted our programming with a bold endeavor and launched our tech bus. Now, school comes to our migrant friends in the safety of their shelters.
The other challenge our migrant friends at the US-Mexico border face is a lack of control over their time. When they receive the call to cross to continue asylum proceedings, they have to go at that moment. They won’t be able to finish an eight-week course. We listened to our migrant friends’ concerns and pivoted our programming again. In addition to offering our eight-week courses, we now offer one-off workshops in which participants will master one topic in a single session. That way, if people waiting for news receive that life-changing phone call, they can take a complete capsule of knowledge and skills training with them.
We usually organize a package of four, once-a week workshops at a shelter. Topics themed around business skills include the following: how to present oneself, define oneself, and create a personal brand for business online, what to include on one’s social media profiles, and how to write a resume. Workshops addressing life skills teach English introductions, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, and how to say the date; food vocabulary, how to shop in a supermarket or farmers’ market, navigating the airport, and how to ask for and give directions.
These workshops not only give a feeling of accomplishment to participants but they also afford a glimpse into the future our migrant friends want to create for themselves. Thanks to our community of peacemakers, our tech bus is helping people in mobility like Luis and Claudia change their stories of violence into stories of vibrancy.