Gang violence. Domestic abuse. No means to put food on the table. These are the realities spurring Hondurans to migrate to the U.S. Many feel they have no other choice but to make the risky trip. According to the Honduran Consular and Migratory Observatory, 282,000 Hondurans have been deported in the past four years, with no indication of the trend decreasing.
But returned migrants are finding new life in Honduras, with support from the ELCA, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Mennonite Social Action Committee (CASM in Spanish). In response to God’s call to love and serve our neighbors, the ELCA supports both organizations as they assist returned migrants with holistic vocational support.
The ELCA has been committed to this ministry since 2016, when the Churchwide Assembly approved the AMMPARO strategy. AMMPARO stands for Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities, and it is the church’s response to the migration crisis affecting Central Americans. Through this strategy, the ELCA accompanies migrant children and families in the U.S. and back at home.
Though the migration crisis is daunting, there is hope. When returned Honduran migrants connect with the LWF or CASM, they discover meaningful work and refuge while rooted in their communities. Here are some of their stories.
Alex (last names of those profiled are withheld) tried to migrate to the U.S. to reunite with his family there and for employment opportunities. After three unsuccessful attempts, he connected with LWF World Service’s program for returned migrants in Olancho, Honduras. LWF World Service equipped Alex with education and seed money to start a pig farm.
“[LWF World Service] has helped me a lot because I have gone through several trainings,” he said. “Business plans, investments, human rights … these are all the workshops I have attended.”
Today, Alex supports himself and family members that remained in Honduras with funds from his farm. He dreams of growing his farm and, eventually, going to law school.
“I’ve learned to be strong; life has given me one more opportunity,” said Silvia of her involvement in LWF World Service’s vocational program.
The threat of violence caused her to flee home seven times—six to Mexico and once to the U.S. After her final return in 2017, Silvia connected with the program, which trained her in cosmetology, gave her resources to start a home business and connected her with mental health care for healing.
Now she’s filled with hope. “My vision is to expand my [cosmetology] business and create new sources of employment, not only for me but also for people who need it and may not get the same type of support I’m getting,” Silvia said. “If I’m able to convey my optimism and enthusiasm about the future to other young adults, if I can help them realize that there’s much more for us out there, we’ll get on in life. This is what motivates me every day.”
No employment and gangs that are “taking over the country” pushed John (name changed) to migrate to the U.S.
After he was deported and landed in San Pedro Sula, he began working with CASM’s returned migrant program. With support from CASM, John grew his woodworking business, obtained equipment and registered his home business to sell products outside of Honduras.
“The truth is, I feel good here in my country. I don’t want to migrate again,” he said. “Now I have the opportunity that [ELCA and CASM] have given me with this business. Now we want to make larger furniture, like china cabinets and kitchen tables.”
John looks forward to expanding his business to keep up with demand for products—and to hiring more young people.
CASM hosts a kiosk at the San Pedro Sula bus terminal to greet returned migrants and provide them with humanitarian aid, a hygiene kit and other essential resources.
Since 2015, with the support of the ELCA, CASM has helped more than 900 young people through its returned migrant program in the greater San Pedro Sula area. CASM provides mental health care, educational training and life-skills workshops to prepare deported youth for integration back into society.
Editor Jennifer Younker contributed to this story.