The Juárez Project

History of Ciudad Juárez: The city of Juárez, Mexico across the border from El Paso, has long been a migrant gateway to the U.S. More than 17,000 people have come to Juárez between October 29, 2018 and August 2, 2019 to try and apply for political asylum in the United States.  ​Policies under the current USA administration aimed at reducing the number of new arrivals in the United States have led to tens of thousands of mainly Central American asylum seekers living for months in Mexico as they await U.S. court dates or interviews with border officials. ​

The numbers of migrants seeking asylum at the border is at the highest rates in 45 years and the US-Mexico border has never seen arrivals of children and parents like it is experiencing now. ​ A waiting list contains about 1,200 people, of which about 550 are staying in camps (tents) near the bridge to the United States, the Chihuahua state government has reported. Nearly half of those in the camps are children under the age of 12.

What we are doing: Voces is currently focusing on supporting the psycho-emotional health needs of asylum seekers on the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border. Our teams of expressive arts therapist, clinicians, artists and educators 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.

Compounded trauma creates regressive behavior in children such as bedwetting or withdrawal, and can create suicidal ideation in teenagers. If the trauma and stress continues and cortisol levels keep rising, (the hormone of the fight-flight-freeze response) then they are faced with the probability of learning disabilities, growth and developmental problems and long term medical issues. 

One of the most effective ways to treat and mitigate compounded trauma, especially while refugees remain in uncertain and hostile environments, is to use trauma informed expressive arts therapies to help them tell their stories and reattune to themselves and each other. Expressive arts therapies can help shift the fight-flight-freeze syndrome and significantly lower stress hormone levels. When children relax through joining in thoughtful creative projects where they are invited to express their feelings and desires in a meaningful way, then this process of expression helps to move frozen and turbulent emotions out of their bodies, furthers neuroplasticity, reregulates stress hormones and helps them begin to return to a baseline of relaxation.

Engaging in group arts activities that are fun as well as meaningful is essential to re-discovering a sense of well-being. This state of community enjoyment, then ripples out through bonds in a contagious resonance that adds to magnifying the resilience that already exists within the community and culture of the people. Group art activities can activate a healthy psycho-social and psycho-spiritual immunity. Bringing joy levels up through music and art making, laughter, attuning to a group sense of purpose can help bring stress hormones down in a whole group, creating a new dynamic that helps people to reconnect to their essential worth, their cultural background and beliefs, and the social and spiritual practices that have supported and sustained them for generations.

  • 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, witness their resilience and feel their longing for freedom and safety. They have expressed their 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 art, murals, music, audio recording and a video of music co-written and performed by asylum seekers. Some obvious concerns for people’s anonymity will be taken into account to ensure everyone’s safety.

Our Community Partners

  • We are working closely with COESPO, the State Population Council of the State of Chihuahua, a government agency in Ciudad Juárez 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 Juárez 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.
  • We are also partnering with Seguimos Adelante, a non-profit grassroots organization who provides asylum seekers with the holistic aid they need to support themselves and their families. To learn more go to their website:


  • In October and again in December, 2019 an initial assessment of the needs of the people housed in shelters was conducted to acquire a more 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 Juárez; 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 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and parts of Mexico fleeing the violence and murders imposed by powerful drug cartels, corrupt government officials and gangs.


Our first goal at this time is to help provide basic food and healthcare to asylum seekers who are having to live outside the shelters in Ciudad Juarez because of Covid 19 restrictions.

$25 will Provide Food and Health Care to refugees and immigrants living outside the the Shelters Please consider donating money for food for refugees on a monthly basis. A $25 donation provides food for a week for a family of four. Voces is partnering with Seguimos Adelante, a non-profit grassroots organization who provides asylum seekers with the holistic aid they need to support themselves and their families. To learn more about them go to their website:

Our second goal is to partner with Seguimos Adelante in purchasing additional equipment that will outfit Smart TVs for additional conferencing abilities. The TVs are being purchased by the UN group IOM.

Help purchase additional equipment that will outfit a Smart TV in the shelters in Ciudad Juarez

This will allow asylum seekers and migrants to access video conferencing platforms like Zoom so they can connect with family members, legal representation and also helps Voces and others provide educational, therapeutic and other programs for children and their families.

Ongoing Expressive Arts Therapy Programs and Trainings

Our teams of expressive arts therapists, clinicians, artists and educators are working to support the psycho-emotional health needs of asylum seekers on the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez 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 Operating Budget Includes:

  • Art Supplies: Different types of paper i.e., large rolls for group work, white and colored papered, glue sticks, scissors, paint brushes, paint, paint sticks, crayons, magic markers, colored pencils, pencils, erasers, tacks, scotch tape, fabric to make streamers
  • Music supplies: Shakers, drumsticks, tambourines, hand drums, bongos, congas, two guitars to leave in Juarez, a small keyboard case
  • Extra journals, art and music supplies to leave at all 17 shelters
  • Lodging costs for Voces teams of therapists, and gas and transportation costs in Ciudad Juárez traveling between shelters. We are a volunteer organization, so all flights and other expenses are covered by individual therapists and educators.

Training support staff on the ground: Voces team of therapists are offering training and support to volunteers and organizations who are already working at the shelters in Ciudad Juárez, especially now during the global Covid 19 pandemic. We are developing a train the trainer model for teachers, counselors and other support staff to implement an ongoing arts-based, trauma informed approach in the shelters. 

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