AT RISK CHILDREN
~The battle is real, but our hope and efforts are strong.~
There are over 15o million at risk children in the world today. As we have continued to work on the front lines, we have quickly discovered that money cannot fully solve this problem. In fact, we strongly believe that throwing money at this problem only creates more suffering. Although money is an important tool, the true solution to this reality is about understanding, human solidarity and empowerment.
When you travel or support PoorPilgrim, you are investing in a project that is focused on protecting and empowering children though relationship. This is an authentic relationship that is focused on protecting and empowering each and every child. We are grateful to say that this mission is made possible because of the support from our trusted orphanges, schools, safe houses, families and the like.
Maria is a single mother who lives in ‘El Colosio,’ a small neighborhood located in the city of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Almost everyday we see Maria walking through the streets with an infant on her back, a 2 year old and a large grocery cart which she uses to collect cans. No matter the weather or the day, Maria is out on the streets collecting cans in exchange for money. In the morning she sells candy on the streets, and in the evening she collects cans. Her two boys are at her side all day and everyday.
The first day we met Maria, we were saddened by the reality and intensity of what we saw. We could not understand, nor accept, why this strong and passionate mother was walking the streets with an infant and small boy collecting cans.
Inspired to speak to her, we asked what her name was. As she spoke, we gazed into her powerful and sorrowful eyes. We saw great suffering; a suffering that was incomprehensible.
As the conversation continued, we asked her: ‘Where is your husband?’ She replied, ‘there is no one.’ Challenged more and more by what she was going through, we thought to offer her money (intentionally just to see what her reaction was).
In that moment, I told her: ‘Maria, if I give you money in exchange for your cans will you take your family home?’ She looked at me and appeared very confused. She nodded her head in a shy way as if she was saying yes. As we continued to talk for another 20 seconds, she all of a sudden said: ‘I have to go, I am sorry, I have to go.” We asked why, and she said: ‘It is too grave. I am sorry.’ Just as I was about to give her the money, Maria took off pacing with her two little boys…
The reality of Maria is a common reality in this part of Mexico. In fact, there are many mothers and even children engaging in these types of activities. Many of them will accept money, but no matter how much you offer them, you will see them on the streets the next day. We have discovered that these people do not desire just money; they desire friendship, love and human solidarity. They desire understanding and someone to care about their life and circumstances.
As our team continues to work with at risk children and the communities, we have discovered that this reality exists because of exterior circumstances and interior dispositions. These are but a few of what we have encountered:
-The lack of love in a family’s home
-The despair and belief that there is no greater reality or meaning to life
-The stubbornness and unwillingness to believe in the importance of empowerment
-Abuse and alcoholism
-The devaluing and lack of understanding of what it means to have a child, and the missing parent(s) who have abandoned a beautiful child.
PoorPilgrim cannot rid humanity of this reality, but we are helping children one by one. We believe in this strife, and we are excited for the future of your help and support. Currently we are protecting and empowering 13 little girls, and we hope to serve many more…
FACTS ABOUT THE CAUSE
UNESCO: Street Children (Link)
The Reality of Mexico
(Source: U.S. Department of State)
Mexico is a large source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Groups considered most vulnerable to human trafficking in Mexico include women, children, indigenous persons, persons with mental and physical disabilities, migrants, and LGBT Mexicans. Mexican women and children, and to a lesser extent men, are exploited in sex trafficking within Mexico and the United States, lured by fraudulent employment opportunities, deceptive offers of romantic relationships, or extortion, including through the retention of identification documents or threats to notify immigration officials of victims’ immigration status. NGOs report that transgender Mexicans in prostitution are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Mexican men, women, and children are exploited in forced labor in agriculture, domestic service, manufacturing, food processing, construction, the informal economy, forced begging, and street vending in both the United States and Mexico. In 2013, Mexican authorities identified 275 Mexican workers and family members exploited in debt bondage at a tomato processing plant. Residents at some substance addiction rehabilitation centers, women’s shelters, and state institutions for people with disabilities have been subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution by shelter staff or criminal groups.
The vast majority of foreign victims in forced labor and sexual servitude in Mexico are from Central and South America, particularly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; some of these victims are exploited along Mexico’s southern border. Victims from the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa have also been identified in Mexico, some en route to the United States. Child sex tourism persists in Mexico, especially in tourist areas such as Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun, and in northern border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. Many child sex tourists are from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, though some are Mexican citizens.
Organized criminal groups profit from Mexican citizens and foreign migrants in sex trafficking and force some Mexican and foreign men, women, and children to engage in illicit activities, including work as hit men, lookouts, and in the production, transportation, and sale of drugs. Media reports indicate that criminal groups use forced labor in coal mines and for digging drug-smuggling tunnels under the border with the United States. Some criminal groups have kidnapped professionals, including architects and engineers, for forced labor. In 2013, Mexican officials identified a religious sect that allegedly forced members to engage in prostitution and forced labor.
The Government of Mexico does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government issued implementing regulations for the 2012 anti-trafficking law and continued to operate a high-security shelter in the capital for female sex trafficking victims participating in the legal process against their traffickers. Federal and state governments engaged in a range of prevention activities. The government reported increased trafficking convictions and sentences in comparison with the previous year. It was difficult to assess government efforts to identify and assist victims and to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, as data collection on victim identification and law enforcement efforts was uneven. Official complicity continued to be a serious problem. Government funding for specialized victim services and shelters remained inadequate and these services were virtually nonexistent in much of the country. Victim identification and interagency coordination remained weak in many parts of the country.0