Resilient Friendships Amidst Migration Challenges

Daniel and Pablo* forged an enduring friendship when they met at the SOS Children’s Villages migrant center in Comitán, Mexico. Their story exemplifies the resilience and hope that can blossom even amidst the most challenging situations.

Pablo, 15, from Ecuador, lived with his grandmother but spent most of his time on the streets of Ecuador. He left in an attempt to escape from criminal groups that had proliferated in the southern cone.

Daniel, 19, from Honduras, faced a similar plight, leaving behind his studies to work and evade the menacing grasp of local gangs that sought to recruit him.

Daniel and Pablo are among the record  2.4 million migrants reaching the US southwestern border in 2023. Of those, an average of about 11,500 unaccompanied children or minors have arrived each month this year.

In Mexico, SOS Children’s Village Comitán is at a crucial juncture for migrants as the location serves as one of the most important border crossings for those migrating from Central and South America to the north.

Drivers of migration

Migration from Central and South America is driven by a complex interplay of economic struggles, the pursuit of better opportunities, climate change, and flight from violence. Most people are fleeing countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Guatemala, among others for opportunities in the United States.

Pablo’s decision to embark on a perilous journey to Mexico was fuelled by the desire for a brighter future with his father in the United States and a determination to escape the violence that plagued his homeland.

In Daniel’s case, his mother, knowing the imminent danger her son faced, made the heart-wrenching decision to part with him, sacrificing their life together to protect him from the threats of gang violence.

Daniel still remembers the words his mother said to him before leaving, “She told me to ask God to be well,” he says. “She will always want the best for me”.

The journey to a safer haven was not without obstacles. Mexican authorities detained Daniel due to his young age, leading him to SOS Children’s Villages. Here, he found not just shelter and sustenance but also crucial psychological and legal support for the arduous journey that lay ahead.

The Children’s Village at Comitán, under the guidance of Maria Teresa Gómez, offers specialised support through psychologists, lawyers, and other professionals. This holistic approach ensures that the hundreds of children and young people arriving in search of a better future receive the necessary assistance and protection.

‘Like brothers in soccer’

Friendship became a lifeline for Daniel and Pablo, who formed a bond that transcended borders. Despite being separated, they continued to communicate with their friend Marcelo, who had returned to Guatemala. Their camaraderie showcased the enduring power of connections made in times of adversity. “He is the best friend I have. …. We are like brothers in soccer,” Daniel says.

Olga Carolina, a social worker in Comitán, emphasises the importance of these young migrants recognising their rights. She notes, “We enforce all those rights that are violated at some point, and I think that an institution like SOS Children’s Villages, interested in young people and children who pass through as migrant populations, is sometimes the first thing to make them aware of their rights.”

Family reunification is one of the main objectives of the program, and in this process, allies play a key role. According to Teresa Gomez, “’Through institutional alliances, we have facilitated the reunification process for children, adolescents, and youth with the governing agency.”

Despite their diverse backgrounds, Daniel and Pablo share a common thread – the recognition of their rights and a shared hope for a better future. Both Daniel and Pablo have successfully reunited with their fathers in the USA, underscoring the potential for positive outcomes when resilience, friendship, and emotional support converge in the face of daunting migration challenges.

*Names changed by privacy protection policies.

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