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.
Our Community Partners
WHAT YOUR DONATIONS SUPPORT
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:
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.