By: Ivonne Quiroz, Co-Director TIGRA
The stories that were read in the media in the summer of 2014 were upsetting. Using words like “surge” and “wave” to explain why unaccompanied minors were coming to the U.S. to seek protection, safety or to join their families, was depicted as a natural disaster that we needed to prepare for. The violence and poverty that these young people were trying to escape was far from natural and more of a human rights issue. And now, more than 65,000 Central American children and youth are in limbo in the US and have already been forgotten by the nation at large.
In the Bay Area, a place where many of these immigrant children have made a home, there are groups and organizations that are working together in order to make sure that children are not forgotten and that their stories are uplifted. We are one of these organizations, we are TIGRA: Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action.
In trying to understand our role in this complex and high-need time, the issue that came up the most when we spoke to those that work closely with them, is that the unaccompanied youth feel isolated, lost and just need someone to support them. So TIGRA has partnered with Oakland Unified School District’s Unaccompanied Minors Support Consultant and Social Justice Collaborative, a legal service provider in Oakland, to find and pair up these youth with mentors from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University.
The mentors are mostly first generation college students from immigrant families that have had to navigate different systems on their own in order to get where they are today. The mentors understand the struggle and sacrifice it takes to succeed in this country and now want to share their knowledge with others and make it easier for those who come after them. The mentors will support the youth, all high school age (14-18), in different aspects of their journey, from finding a job to guiding them to participate in extracurricular activities in Oakland. We want this mentorship to be robust and connect as many young people as we can to a mentor, but we can’t do that alone and without funds.
TIGRA is asking the community to support these young people through donations and spreading the word about this project. We know that grassroots efforts are the best way to raise money for the projects that we care about and we know that community will always answer the call to support. To donate to this program, please visit http://www.transnationalaction.org/supportourwork/ and hit the donate button.
The staff at TIGRA are truly grateful to the people who have supported, and are currently supporting, the piloting of this program. We hope to be able to continue and expand this program in the coming years.
TIGRA engages in strategies that leverage the economic power of transnational families to set economic justice and human rights standards in the policies and practices of industries that depend on their money and their labor—making migration an option and not a necessity for economic survival for millions. TIGRA seeks to promote the practice of “Economic Citizenship” by making every economic choice matter and upholding the values we hold dear: solidarity, cooperation, and empowerment.