There’s no place like home.
For many of us, the word “home” evokes a sense of safety, love, affection, warmth and joy. As the holidays approach, home takes on an even greater significance. We will travel great distances to our childhood homes. We will welcome family and friends into our own homes, and celebrate with those closest to us. We will be home; warm in the glow of those we love, surrounded by laughter and the dizzying feeling that we are almost undeserving of the happiness found here.
Cecilia doesn’t have a home.
A 16 year old girl from El Paraíso, Guatemala, Cecilia heard the siren call of the smugglers, or “coyotes”, and knew this was her chance to escape the poverty and violence that plagued her town.
First documented in the New York Times, Cecilia’s story is appallingly common in Central America. After her stepfather was murdered, her mother and four younger siblings squeezed into her aunt’s small house, 10 people sharing three beds.
With no money and no job prospects, Cecilia’s family took out a $7,000 loan from a coyote to fund her journey, using her aunt’s home as a guarantee. Then Cecilia left for the unknown, a lonely girl on a bus to nowhere.
The coyotes told Cecilia that she would receive papers once she got to the United States that would allow her to stay and work. Cecilia planned to send $1,000 home a month to repay her loan and aid her family. That didn’t happen.
Cecilia is now a statistic in Miami. After a treacherous journey involving kidnapping, extortion, starvation, and nearly being sold into prostitution, she is one of more than 68,700 unaccompanied minors who have illegally immigrated to the United States from Central America within the last year.
The coyotes prey on a society dealing with a broken system. With little to no education, the vast majority of indigenous Guatemalans face bleak job prospects in their own hometowns. Poverty and violence are facts of life, forcing many to gamble their families’ savings, homes and lives on the incredibly risky journey northward. More and more children face kidnapping, rape, robbery and unimaginable danger to escape the home that has betrayed them.
Imagine a separate reality.
Imagine Cecilia is in high school studying for her next science test instead of holed up in a Florida border shelter. Imagine a reality where violence and murder aren’t an everyday occurrence, where children in Guatemala are able to stay in school long enough to graduate and find jobs that pay a living wage.
Imagine a safe, joyful home for every single one of those 68,700 children currently alone and scared thousands of miles from their families.
You can give these children a home again. President Obama asked for $3.7 billion to help deal with the border crisis.
For the same cost as caring for all of the kids at the border, Cooperative for Education could educate ten times as many children all the way through 12th grade in the Scholarship and Youth Development program.
The border crisis will never be solved if we don’t look beyond our own borders to the situations these kids are fleeing. By keeping Guatemalan children in school, you give them the tools they need to succeed in life.
You create a future reality where staying in school is a more viable alternative than risking everything for the vague possibility of financially helping one’s family.
You give them hope.
You can help educate children in Guatemala desperate for an opportunity.
You can make that opportunity a school book instead of a bus headed nowhere. Education is the only way these children will ever know Guatemala as a safe, warm, happy home. Education is their opportunity for a better life.
Laura Ingalls Wilder once wrote, “Home is the nicest word there is”. Wouldn’t it be extraordinary if every child in Guatemala knew this to be true? Will you consider making a year-end gift to help keep these kids in school; to help them break the cycle of poverty through education?
If home is the nicest word there is, your generosity is the nicest, most impactful gift you could ever give to these children. Thank you for your support.