Homies Unidos is requesting your financial support to put together the Third Annual Central American Youth Leadership Conference entitled, “Empowering through Resilience and Resistance.” This conference serves to formally welcome our Central American Refugee (CAR) youth to Los Angeles, and connect them with resources that address their trauma as refugees, the uncertainty of their immigration situations, as well as the social determinants of health and wellness.
CAR Youth were forced to emigrate due to ongoing violence in their country of origin. They embarked on a dangerous journey through the desserts of Mexico, and ended up incarcerated in U.S. detention centers. Once reunified with their parents or guardians, their hopes and dreams of starting a new life free from violence continues to be challenged through a complex transitioning and reintegration process.
If CAR Youth have family in the United States, they are unified with their family or relatives they have not seen for over a decade (which is about half of their lives for many of them). They must integrate into new schools with new cultural practices, without knowing the language. This results in a deep feeling of alienation. The reality is that many of the Los Angeles neighborhoods they come to live in are communities with high incidents of violence and low-income populations, and thereby lack proper health resources and social service systems.
CAR YOUTH are coping with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Of the over 250,000 youth who came in since 2014 about 40,000 have not shown up to their court hearings because of the fear they have that their motives for leaving their countries will be questioned unconvincing to the judge resulting in their deportation. These youths are currently the primary target of the U.S. Administration for deportation.
Organizations in Los Angeles like CARECEN, Bresee Foundation and Saint St. John’s Well Child Center among others step forward and do great work in providing help with their trauma; while some assist them with navigating their immigration legal process. Homies Unidos is helping CAR Youth with the culture shock they are experiencing in their schools and with their families.
Homies Unidos continues to reach out to schools and community service providers to refer youth who need mental health or legal services to these and other organizations. As part of a preventive strategy we began implementing the Joven Noble, character development program to provide a safe space where they can express themselves through empowerment of their cultural traditions and teaching tools to enable the transition into their new lives.
Through this Conference we will address the need to bring youth from other schools that are not benefiting from these services, where they can share experiences and be introduced to health service providers and other resources. Finally, we need to ensure these youths have a successful, healthy, safe, and well-supported integration to our communities.
Therefore, in solidarity with Central American refugees, Homies Unidos is proposing to put together the third Central American Youth Leadership Conference. The main purpose will be to ensure that these refugee youths feel welcomed and protected from deportation, introduce them to service providers and to celebrate and promote Central American art and culture, while making this conference locally accessible.
Our conference main goals look to:
– Strengthen our support for youth, especially for Central Americans and their families who have survived through resilience, the violence and economic difficulties from their country of origin and the culture shock in their communities. Creating spaces that will support them in their journey to healing the trauma from the violence and overcome with resilience in an anti-immigrant environment.
– Create the basis for solving the problems that our youth are faced with in a way that centers their main problems and basic demands in order to survive by obtaining decent jobs, continue their education and access holistic health services that will help ease their integration into our communities.
Central American youth participate and graduate from our summer Youth Leadership Training that prepares them to organize this conference themselves. Learning together to protect themselves under this current anti-immigrant environment as well as continue to organize outside of the conference around health disparities predicated by the social determinants surrounding health. Central American youth from various schools in Los Angeles will benefit from the health resources and cultural activities provided by organizations which in the long run can result in more support from the main community stakeholders, endorsers, funders, and the youth themselves; which in turn creates opportunities for health referrals, positive reinforcement, and self-esteem building for CAR youth.
Why it matters?
Currently, support for immigrant children and youth is not being prioritized and in fact is waning. In that context, the extremely difficult reality that Central American Immigrant Youth face once they integrate goes beyond their PTSD, the effects of displacement, and language barriers has been the focus of the Trump administration. Crimes committed by youth on the east coast have brought negative attention to the issue of refugee youth and their lives are at stake.
The families, shelter or school staff, are not able to reach or support this population without effectively building culturally relevant approaches and interventions. Traumatized immigrant youth are at risk, their families or guardians do not know how to deal with their experience and basic figures reflect most schools are ill prepared for this student population. Their needs are very different from that of American students.
By bringing youth to a conference, we will provide resource providers the opportunity to do outreach in one place to over 500 youth. Youth will feel the experience of a university setting, they will participate in workshops addressing many of their needs, in a non-judgmental environment where they will feel the support of the community.
The increasing number of deportations is incrementing the number of family separations and launches low-income-to extremely low-income families into dire economic hardship. The impact of loss and economic pressure is experienced in behavioral changes in older children who have had parents deported or incarcerated which often include: increase in aggression, PTSD symptoms (particularly if they witnessed their parents being arrested from inside the home); increased criminal activity; inter-community violence; juvenile incarceration (and getting caught in the vicious cycle of recidivism); and self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, self-injury, self-mutilation, and suicide. Historically, the consequence of not creating a plan to support and welcome refugees has created plenty to draw from to reconsider as the best opportunity to overcome the lack of planning, involved traditional and new stakeholders from the communities.
The Central American Youth Leadership Conference has been created for our youth, to welcome them into our communities, where they can feel safe, protected and encouraged. This is the third conference we will have. Our youth will be in the forefront and we encourage you to join us.
We will leverage our resources through fundraising activities. Build on the momentum already established in Los Angeles, focusing on organizing youth and involvement in community coalitions through a multi-lateral campaign that engages the immigrant community. We will have evaluation questionnaires of the conference. Focus groups and follow up communication forms after the conference will be utilized to implement and measure success of the goals. With feedback from the youth and community who attended the Leadership Training, forums and advocacy efforts, we can better determine the needs of the youth and families we support and how to meet them. In addition, we will report on the resolutions provided by our youth during the conference.
How will the funds be used?
The Central American Youth Leadership conference funds will be used to provide the immediate expenses for food, beverages, buses, and printing materials. These funds will help support the overall budget of $23,000. We will be conducting a fundraiser event in September 2017. We will also be providing sponsorship opportunities. There will be perks available to the different amounts of donations made through HipGive.
We are also providing volunteer opportunities for outreach as we get closer to the event and at the day of the event. You can also help by spreading the word to youth who may benefit from the event. We have social media outlets you can also share to your friends who may want to help.
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