How long do you think it would take to walk and hitch-hike from Melbourne to Alice Springs, without having a source of money, food, shelter or water? This trip is a similar one made by thousands of Salvadoran children fleeing the violence in El Salvador to seek asylum in the United States. If a young boy from El Salvador were to make this journey alone on foot, it would take roughly 3 weeks .
It has been estimated that in the past two years 100,000 unaccompanied children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have made this journey . According to the Human Rights Watch over 35,000 of these children were apprehended in Mexico in 2015 . One cannot understate the uncertainties of this journey: the dangers, exposure to the elements and terrains, unreliable sources of food and safe drinking water, loneliness and risk of deportation from the USA if the trip is successful.
Why are children fleeing El Salvador? It appears that this trip is not being made out of ignorance, but is a heavy decision that is offset by the threat of violence that the children encounter in El Salvador. UNICEF reports that Salvadoran children are being threatened with theft, extortion and murder. Much of this is due to the powerful reach of the gangs that have a “join or die” approach. Heartbreakingly, these threats are certainly not empty, with El Salvador having the highest child murder rate in the world in 2014. Most notable, boys are 70% more likely to be affected by homicide, particularly in their adolescent years. Additionally, El Salvador has the lowest school attendance in Latin America, again owing to the fear of violence that occurs from going to school. Social inequality, extreme poverty and family instability add further complexity to the issues children face.
Knowing these problems can make you want to change the entire world; and at the same measure it can make you feel completely inadequate. How can we help if we are not law enforcement; if we are not the legal system; if we are not government; if we are not a human rights organisations? At Salvador’s Hope, we believe that we can help feed one child, we can sponsor one child’s education in a safe environment and we can help empower mothers to learn a trade.
We believe that hope starts by using the little in our hands, to help those who are most in need in this moment.