18-year-old Yusad likes to write. He says that his first notebook, in which he wrote about his two-month journey to Mexico, got ruined in the rain, but he just bought a new one. He likes writing stories about the time when he left his country. He says it helps him process all his experiences and is a way of self-expression.
"I write about how I got here, all that I suffered," says Yusad. "I braved hunger, thirst, humiliation. I saw many things, but I had to keep going and overcome obstacles to achieve my goals."
Yusad does not like to talk about why he left his home country but admits that he would have lost his way if he had stayed. He describes himself as a brave person for all that he has been through, but he does not hesitate to admit that the hardest part is to be away from his family—especially his mother.
UNICEF says there are currently 9x more unaccompanied migrant children in Mexico since the beginning of 2021. Today, approximately 275 additional children find themselves in Mexico every day after being detected by the Mexican authorities.
Honduran families who are victims of gang violence and extortion choose to send their children abroad. Children often take the long journey to Mexico or the United States to save their lives. But on the most dangerous routes in the world, they also face life-threatening perils such as scams, assaults and violence. Even if they make it through, migrants can be exposed to various stress factors that influence their mental health and psychosocial well-being.
Ángel Sánchez, an SOS Youth Advisor and psychologist, says that most unaccompanied migrant minors who arrive in Mexico have suffered traumatic experiences. These lead to low self-esteem and insecurity, which do not allow young people to plan their future and take the next steps in life.
"Most of the emotional and mental anguish is directly related to current stress, worries and uncertainty about the future," says Sánchez. "As well as to experiences in their home countries or during their journeys."
SOS Children's Villages in Mexico offers temporary shelter to unaccompanied migrant minors while providing psychosocial support for emotional recovery and building resilience. Young men and women work on life development plans with SOS youth advisors, according to their needs and wishes. Many times, this entails continuing their education, insertion in the labor market or professional training.
SOS Children's Villages in Mexico also supports children in obtaining the refugee status that grants them access to basic services, such as healthcare and education.
Yusad walks around the city center with his two friends, Monica and Kenny. They try each other's ice cream and make jokes. The two young men stop to look at a blue cardigan for 20 pesos (approximately $1.36 USD), and after trying it on, they both buy one for each other. Monica jokes that they will look like twins.
The three Hondurans only met eight months ago at the SOS Children's Village, but it seems that they have known each other for ages. Although they all now live in different places, they stay in touch and see each other frequently.
"My friends are like my brother and sister because I have no family here," says Yusad. "We have been through thick and thin together. We have seen each other cry and laugh and cheered each other up."
Yusad recently moved to a room in the city. SOS Children's Villages in Mexico supports him with rent. He also meets with Angel, the SOS Youth Advisor, to talk about his plans, current challenges and needs. He received his refugee status in the country and now works at a shop that makes truck tarps, where he has learned to weld and make vinyl designs for cars.
Yusad is an avid learner and hard worker. His wish is that one day he will open his own workshop.
"I send a little money to my mother in Honduras. It is not much, but it is something, and she is proud of me," he says. "Someday, I will see her and give her a kiss and a hug because it's going to be a year that I haven't looked at her, hugged or kissed her."
*Names changed to protect privacy.