The Beauty of a Community Coming Together at the Border: An Emergency Responder Shares Her Story

Save the Children and GSK have been global partners since 2013 and have worked together in the U.S. since 2015. Together, our two organizations are helping children, with GSK providing corporate and employee donations to directly aid children. Angie is a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) employee who, as part of a partnership between Save the Children and GSK, was recently deployed to Las Cruces, New Mexico where Save the Children is running child-friendly spaces in transit shelters for children and families released by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol. Here is her story.

 

The Beauty of a Community Coming Together at the Border
Written by Angie, GSK

In early August, I was incredibly honored to have been selected for 6-month program that would allow me to take a leave of absence from my full-time job at GSK and work with Save the Children. My specific placement with Save the Children is with the DC-based U.S. Domestic Emergencies team.

This group is responsible for managing and implementing Save the Children’s emergency responses – simply put, the team deploys into communities so that families and caregivers can meet the unique needs of affected children.  My assignment is to identify and improve the operational efficiencies of the current model so that teams of people can deploy within 24-72 hours after an emergency strikes.  Additionally, I also deploy with the team to emergency response sites. Just three short days into my assignment, I was asked to do just that and support Save the Children’s efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border. Of course, my answer was yes. 

To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting into, but knew that help was needed. On July 19, I landed in El Paso and headed out to Las Cruces to meet a team of incredibly dedicated Save the Children staff and volunteers.  Thus began my work at the southern border.

The most common question from my family and friends is, “How are things at the border?” We see things in the media, and the purpose of this story is to give you my answer. Yes, there are stories and things I have seen that will leave a lasting impression and take some time to process and understand. Then there are the stories that we should all hear and embrace.

Save the Children and GSK have been global partners since 2013 and have worked together in the U.S. since 2015. Together, our two organizations are helping children, with GSK providing corporate and employee donations to directly aid children. Angie is a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) employee who, as part of a partnership between Save the Children and GSK, was recently deployed to Las Cruces, New Mexico where Save the Children is running child-friendly spaces in transit shelters for children and families released by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol. Here is her story.

The Save the Children crew on the ground is the epitome of what working with a team should be.  They received me with open arms and got me quickly up to speed. We would brief and debrief at the beginning and end of each day and ensured we looked after each other’s health, security and well-being.  Some of my best memories of deployment were cooking dinner for the team and chatting about our lives and everything in between, or travelling to a destination playing trivia and discovering new songs to listen to.  We laughed and helped each other out on our tough days by simply listening to each other.

We had many tasks, but the most important was to set up child-friendly play spaces in two shelter locations for children of families transiting onto their next destination after clearing detention. We did this every day and welcomed kids and parents open arms.  The thing is, based on my time in New Mexico, our work is a brief moment in someone else’s story. A child’s story. A child’s life. The children come into our child-friendly spaces and in the matter of a few seconds, they feel safe. They feel like they are children again. They just want to play and be kids. We created gardens, undersea magical kingdoms, and made it snow in the heat of a New Mexico summer using our imagination and some art supplies. We played soccer, football and endless games of Jenga. Every day, I saw new faces and smiles, and heard the laughter of children who had faced harrowing journeys. Despite different languages, we found a way to communicate, and more importantly, connect. 

I met a mom and her daughter who traveled for days with little or no food to get to the border. Upon reaching our space, the mom finally got to breathe and relax with her 2-year-old daughter. This beautiful mama sat in a rocking chair with a blissful smile on her face, while I played with her precocious daughter. She smiled, knowing she was about to give birth to her second child. She smiled, despite being separated from her husband and not knowing when she might see him again.  She smiled, moving into an uncertain future with a relative she had not seen in 6 years. 

I met another family who were waiting at the transit shelter for another family member to pick them up. That family member dropped everything and hopped into a car to drive 15 hours to pick up his sister and nephew. While they were waiting, the son very sweetly took care of his mom and all of the little ones around him. He played games, read to kids and colored. There was a kindness and curiosity about him that was infectious. We spent the latter part of the day looking at a map so he could understand where he came from and where he was heading. His curiosity shone brightly and by the end of the afternoon, a large group of us were standing around the map telling our stories. There were at least four different languages among us and yet we all understood.

After three weeks in the field, I now have an answer for those who ask about what’s happening at the border. I have met people with the courage, vulnerability and compassion to place humanity and common decency at the core of everything they do. I have seen the beauty of a community coming together to help people and children know that all is not lost and to inspire them to keep moving on their journey. I have seen the brilliant smiles of parents and children and heard their laughter. The work that team is undertaking at the border is quite possibly the first positive interaction some of these kids have had while heading towards their new homes. And yes, a brief moment in their lives, but hopefully a lasting memory that kindness, empathy and compassion can triumph over adversity. 

So please remember these stories – these are the stories that matter. 

 

 

The Irrevocable Harm of Indefinite Detention of Immigrant and Refugee Children  

This post originally posted by Save the Children Action Network.
Written by Megan McKenna, Senior Director of Communications and Community Engagement at KIND

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) provides legal support services to unaccompanied and separated children, working to ensure that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation. Earlier this summer, Save the Children initiated a partnership with KIND to support their critical work serving children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

harm of indefinite detention on immigrant refugee children

“Please don’t forget about us.”
-Unaccompanied child held in custody in California

The prolonged and indefinite detention of immigrant and refugee children in detention facilities – which the Trump Administration is proposing in new regulations – is without question an attack on the core values of the United States and will fundamentally change the way the U.S. treats vulnerable children.

The detention of children – regardless of the conditions – harms them in the short and long-term in profound ways. Studies have found that immigrant children held in detention are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, development delays, and attention deficit disorder. How deeply children are affected and the long-term impact depends on a variety of factors such as the age of the child, the trauma the child experienced previously, how long the child was held and under what conditions, and the child’s situation in relation to the child’s parent or caregiver.

In the best of circumstances, immigrant and refugee children have a difficult time understanding even the basics of the U.S. immigration system as they are new to the United States and know little to nothing about U.S. systems, law, or processes. They most likely do not speak English. They are scared of people in uniform, terrified that they will be sent back to the very harm they fled and carry a tremendous amount of uncertainty for their future.  

As a KIND beneficiary in Los Angeles said, “I was all alone. I was scared and I didn’t know what would happen to me. I didn’t understand the guards and that made them angry.”

Prolonged detention compounds any trauma immigrant and refugee children suffered in their home country that caused them to flee, or on the life-threatening journey to the United States. Most KIND clients have been traumatized in some way, many as a result of gang violence, including sexual and gender-based violence in their home country. These root causes of migration and the deeply personal emotional scarring they cause can become secondary to the damaging emotional and psychological impact of prolonged detention, thus impairing a child’s ability to make a case for U.S. protection.

Detention of children is unnecessary. Alternatives to detention have been used in the past and been very successful.

The findings of two doctors within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which has investigated DHS facilities, perhaps say it best. They wrote in a July 2018 letter to Congress, “In our professional opinion, there is no amount of programming that can ameliorate the harms created by the very act of confining children to detention centers. Detention of innocent children should never occur in a civilized society, especially if there are less restrictive options, because the risk of harm to children simply cannot be justified.”

Or, as a girl described during her time in detention, “[The officer] told me to stop crying….I tried, but I couldn’t stop.”

To learn more about how Save the Children is providing direct assistance to migrant children and their families, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION FROM CENTRAL AMERICA

Addressing the Root Causes of Migration from Central America

Save the Children is taking action to assist children and families affected by U.S. immigration policy in recent months, and to strengthen our work to address the root causes of migration from Central America. Bringing decades of humanitarian expertise, we seek to sustain and strengthen our ongoing work in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, where pervasive and often ruthless violence has families living in fear for their lives and safety.

Save the Children has a strong presence and longstanding child- and youth-focused programs in the countries of origin for the majority of migrating children, adolescents and families, and in Mexico, which is both a source and transit country. We have used our presence and expertise to launch humanitarian programs to protect children, address the needs of children returning from the U.S. and reduce violence.

We seek to prevent dangerous and forced migration through activities such as awareness campaigns on the risks and rights associated with migration and programs related to youth empowerment, jobs training and family livelihoods.

We also strengthen national protection systems to care for children and adolescents in their home communities, as well as during transit and return, including family reunification, so that they can access their rights to dignity, protection and security.

Recent examples of our work include:

  • Pilot projects to interrupt the cycle of gang violence in El Salvador and to create “Schools of Peace” at 70 schools in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
  • A collaboration among Save the Children, the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Secretary of Social Development and the German Cooperation Development group to prevent the migration of unaccompanied children from targeted communities by enhancing their livelihoods and life skills opportunities.
  • Advocating for violence reduction at the community and government levels in Honduras and Guatemala.
  • Preventing trafficking and smuggling of women and youth at risk or victims of human trafficking in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
  • Improving protection systems for children who have been displaced and/or returned to El Salvador and Honduras after migration.
  • Providing sexual and reproductive health services to returning adolescents in El Salvador and Guatemala.
  • Working to ensure that children in border shelters in Mexico are being protected from harm and have access to psychological and emotional support activities.
ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION FROM CENTRAL AMERICA
Estrella*, 16, is a local young leader involved in ECP peace-building workshops in the school near to Las Canoas, Guatemala

Save the Children is the national leader in child-focused disaster preparedness, response and recovery. We have over 80 years’ experience serving the needs of U.S. children and have well-trained national staff ready to deploy anywhere at a moment’s notice to assess needs, help protect children and provide critical relief. We are a partner of the Red Cross and a member of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.

We are also one of the few organizations in Central America with longstanding programs primarily focused on children and adolescents in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. Each year, we reach 2.8 million children in these countries with protection, health and education programs.

Save the Children was founded in 1919 on the pioneering belief that every last child has the right to survive, learn and be protected. Today, we continue this work, advocating for children facing inhumane treatment and potential irreparable harm at the U.S.-Mexico borderThrough all of the complexities of this crisis, one thing is clear and simple: we can and must do more to protect children and keep families together.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done in Guatemala to protect children so they are safe in their home communities, read our photo-essay on Medium.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT OUR BORDER CRISIS CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND.

How to Help Children in Crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Save the Children was founded in 1919 on the pioneering belief that every last child has the right to survive, learn and be protected. Today, we continue this work, advocating for children facing inhumane treatment and potential irreparable harm at the U.S.-Mexico border. Through all of the complexities of this crisis, one thing is clear and simple: we can and must do more to protect children and keep families together.

In response to this crisis, Save the Children is announcing new and expanded efforts to support vulnerable children, including supporting programs here in the United States, strengthening family reunification efforts, programming to address root causes in Latin America and continuing to speak out against policies that are harmful to children.

“Children and their families are fleeing unspeakable violence in their home countries and face a long and dangerous journey to the U.S. border, with the hope of a better life. Last year, I met a 13-year-old boy in El Salvador who recounted the story of how his best friend, beaten by a gang because he refused to join, died in his arms. After sharing that heart-wrenching story, he told me his fear: ‘I don’t think I’ll ever grow to be an adult in my country.’ No child should live with this kind of fear, with so little hope for the future,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children. “Simply put, our children deserve better.”

Save the Children is calling on all people who care about kids to use your voice and take a stand with Save the Children.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. MAKE A DONATION TODAY TO SUPPORT OUR BORDER CRISIS CHILDREN’S RELIEF FUND.

 

5 HARMFUL LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF FAMILY DETENTION ON CHILDREN

5 Harmful Long-Term Effects of Family Detention on Children

This post originally posted by Save the Children Action Network.

Written by Mira Tignor

It is difficult to imagine hearing the panicked cries of children being separated from their families, but this is the reality happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The separation of migrant families at the border has been the subject of intense media scrutiny and outrage. Even if the issue of family separation were to be resolved, children are still negatively impacted by indefinite family detention, with their well-being at risk.

Below are 5 harmful long-term effects of family detention on children:

  1. Harms family relationships and stability – Family separation can permanently damage familial relationships, even after reunification. Many children don’t understand why the separation is happening, and feel that their parent has abandoned them. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that “detention itself undermines parental authority and capacity to respond to their children’s needs,” and results in fraught parent-child relationships.
  2. Damages psycho-social development and well-being – Detention involves experiencing a loss of control, isolation from the outside world and detachment from community and culture. These experiences are harmful for people of all ages, but have a higher impact on children because their brains are still developing. The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that detention affects children’s brain chemistry in a way that is comparable to child abuse. Research has shown much higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal thoughts in children who have been detained.
  3. Worsened school performance – Detained children often experience impaired or delayed cognitive development, which affects concentration and other abilities that are crucial to academic success. This makes keeping up with the age-appropriate reading and math level especially difficult for detained children. Even once their period of detention is over, their learning capabilities are already behind those of their peers.
  4. Poor sleep quality – The lack of bedding for children sleeping on concrete floors, coupled with the mental stress they are under, often results in sleeping problems such as insomnia, sleepwalking, bedwetting and night terrors. Poor sleep quality, in turn, can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health.
  5. Risk of exploitation and abuse – Children are at higher risk of being exploited or abused while in detention centers. There have been reports of privately run detention centers paying extremely low wages to detainees for their labor, as well as experiences of physical and sexual abuse from guards and other officers. Some detention centers have been reported to use severe disciplinary measures to control children’s behavior, including drugging children without consent.

In order to help children address these consequences and prevent more children from having to experience them, we must contact our members of Congress and urge them to put the best interests of children first.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE.

ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Interviews Carolyn Miles on the U.S. Border Crisis

On Sunday, June 24, CEO and Save the Children President & CEO Carolyn Miles and International Rescue Committee President David Miliband were guests on ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” On the heels of World Refugee Day, their discussion focused on the treatment of immigrant families at the southern border and the worldwide refugee crisis.

Carolyn Miles spoke to the trauma that separating a child from his or her family inflicts. Her words supported the grave concern Save the Children has for the treatment and well-being of children from Mexico and Central American nations who are in the custody of the United States government after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Top of mind is also the Presidential Executive Order which Save the Children believes simply replaces family separation with indefinite family detention. ‘The trauma that happens to children is very real,” Carolyn Miles explained. “It’s psychological. It’s physical. It’s lasting. You see that what happens to kids when they’re separating from their families in these kind of crisis is something that stays with them.”

Carolyn Miles also shared a personal story of a boy she met while travelling in El Salvador. Working closely with local communities and organizations in El Salvador, Save the Children designs Sponsorship programs to help vulnerable children from early childhood to early adulthood — giving them a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm along the way.

Watch the full segment, visit ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” and sign Save the Children’s petition telling President Trump that we have ZERO TOLERANCE for policies that do not put children’s interests first.