Video: Juarez Project

A short video about our work in Juarez by Devon Govoni. (The faces of the children are deliberately not shown to protect their identities.)

The Juarez Project:

Our teams of expressive arts therapist, clinicians, artists and educators are working to support the psycho-emotional health needs of asylum seekers on the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border.

We currently have access to over 17 shelters, which houses roughly 300 children plus their families. The numbers are constantly shifting and some of the shelters are in undisclosed locations as they house highly vulnerable individuals and families.

  • We have already begun working in the shelters and are going to be scaffolding monthly groups with on the ground training and support to create a system of sustainable, holistic mental health support and increased avenues for training our community partners who are administering the bulk of services.
  • In each shelter in which we have worked, we have guided sessions in music, movement, art, and sharing with 30 to 100 children of all ages and their parents.  It has been powerful to hear from these courageous people and feel their longing for freedom and safety. They feel compassion for all immigrants, from all backgrounds, who have needed to flee an unsafe land in search of a better life.
  • We want to document the narratives of asylum seekers through audio recording and video (when appropriate) and will be setting up times to speak to those interested. Some obvious concerns for people’s anonymity will be taken into account to ensure everyone’s safety.
  • One of the overarching ideas, is to create a digital archive which can be used to advocate, teach and research best practices with this community. This digital archive can travel with team members to institutions as part of a larger installation (artwork, panel discussion, etc.) that will help amplify the experience of asylum seekers. We will charge a fee to institutions so that the money can go back into these shelters to support their myriad of needs. We are looking at how to successfully shift the resources from institutions and individuals to these marginalized populations.

Our Community Partners

  • We are working closely with COESPO, the State Population Council of the State of Guerrero, a government agency in Juarez Ciudad which promotes and coordinates the execution and specific actions in the matter of population, for the right to health protection, education, work, housing, the equality of men and women, and the protection and economic and social well-being of family rights.  COESPO is also overseeing all issues of resettlement of migrants, as well as shelter, food and legal advisement. Under the leadership of Enrique Valenzuela, and his very supportive staff, we are able to gain access to shelters in the greater Juarez area.
  • We are also in touch with and working closely with Lucero De Alva who works for Organización Mundial por la Paz (World Peace Organization) and the Servicios Educativos del Estado de Chihuahua (Educational Services of the State of Chihuhua), that currently provide services to refugees/asylum seekers.


  • In October and again in December, 2019 an initial assessment of the needs of the people housed in shelters was conducted which included an in depth understanding of the population, (including the video on our home page), and of the mental health needs within the historical trends and shifting dynamics of the community.   

  • There are 15,000 in migrants in Juarez; 1500 of them living in one of 17 shelters. It is estimated that there are over 300 children currently in shelters some with families, with 68% are from Guatemala or Honduras. Most are families from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and parts of Mexico fleeing the violence and murders imposed by powerful drug cartels and gangs.

According to the October 17-22, 2019 assessment several initiatives were acknowledged and areas of attention were identified.

Current programs working in the shelters:

  • UNICEF, Supports the emotional needs of children, in which local partners are trained and delivered services two times per week for 2.5 hours, which programmatically started in June 13, 2019 in Girasoles, a shelter supporting 43 individuals (20 mothers and 23 children and adolescents).
  • The Positive Child Rearing Formation Initiative, was started June 13, 2019, provides 2.5 hours of training weekly to mothers to foster positive child rearing practices intended to mitigate trauma responses and empower mothers to foster healthy habits in their child which include but are not limited to daily living routines, nutritional knowledge that affects behavior, emotional regulation for the parent to model for children, supporting budgeting economic resources.
  • Normalization of Educational Experience, initiated in June 13, 2019 for three months, children underwent an educational stabilized program aimed to prepare them to enroll and be successful in the mainstream school system in Mexico. Additionally, as students enroll in the school system, parents will be able to seek employment.


  1. Employment of Asylum Seekers with Teacher Certification from Honduras
  • VOCES is helping to develop a budget so that certified teachers from Honduras can teach children in the shelters of Juarez.General Budget: $400 dollars a month per teacher x 2 = $9,600/ year is a just and dignified rate.
  1. Employment and Empowerment
  • Bread Baking: implementation of bread baking training at $300 pesos per person ($16 US) for 90 hours of training, which covers the cost of trainer, coordination of program and the certificates recognized by the Mexican government. The installation of ovens and facilitation of materials necessary to establish a bread baking cooperative which provides economic opportunities and certification to generate income for asylum seekers who are housed in the Aposento Alto shelter. General Budget: 35 loaves at $5 pesos yields $175 pesos ($10 US).
  • Sewing Cooperative: implementation of training in Pasos de Fe y Girasoles shelters at a cost of $300 pesos ($16 US) per person for 90 hours of training, which covers the cost of trainer, coordination of program and the certificates recognized by the Mexican government. Installation of equipment and facilitation of material led to the launch of a production line manufacturing women’s tote bags along with a distribution network.General Budget: $16 x 30 women = $480 US
  • English Language Initiatives: Offered at Aposento Alto and Pasos de Fe as well as certified teachers offering classes in English as a Second Language (ESL). General Budget: to be determined.
  1. Nutritional assistance needed to supplement the diet in the shelters.
  • The directors of the 16 shelters in the network have identified the need to incorporate and increase the consumption of proteins, fruits and vegetables into the diet of asylum seeker as a number of issues have been documented that are directly connected to this deficiency. Currently, the shelters offer rice, beans, some fruits or vegetable.  We are trying to develop a budget to support a basic protein and vitamin rich diet with oatmeal, plantains, mandarins, oranges, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, rice and beans. There are 1600 people, children and adolescents so a daily supply of 3 plantains (9 pesos), onions (50 cents), tomatoes (2 pesos), mandarin and oranges (12 pesos) and oatmeal (5 pesos) creates a General Budget of $1.62 dollars per person per day x 30 days = $50/person x 135 (children) = $6,750/month.

  1. Ongoing Expressive Arts Therapy Programs and Trainings
  • Our teams of expressive arts therapist, clinicians, artists and educators are working to support the psycho-emotional health needs of asylum seekers on the El Paso-Juarez border. The arts are a powerful tool to address and lessen the short and long term effects of trauma. Arts-based trauma, informed therapeutic approaches are designed to understand the experiences of refugees/asylum seekers to begin to document and prioritize, in their own words and in their artwork, what they identify as their most important needs and mental health concerns.
    General Budget: For volunteers – to be determined
  • Training support staff on the ground: The therapists and trainers will be working with other organizations who have already started doing this work. We want to develop a train the trainer model for teachers, counselors and other support staff to implement an arts-based, trauma informed approach in the shelters. The goal is to help children thrive though they have experienced compounded trauma.

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