The project in brief
University of Virginia
US/Mexico Border (Matamoros, Mexico)
July 2019 - Ongoing
Provide integrated services to the refugee population in Matamoros, Mexico with a focus on ensuring the well-being and dignity of caregivers so they can best support their children’s development.
We have used financial resources and have benefited from technical support from a wide variety of areas, including early childhood development, mental health and trauma, physical health, legal support, marriage and religious support, etc.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Beyond supporting the Global Compact and addressing the Education area of focus, we demonstrate this good practice in several ways. Our project is aligned with SDG 4.2, ensuring that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development and care so they are ready for primary education. We work in partnership with a variety of stakeholders, including refugees, faith-based groups, academia, and civil society. We respond to identified needs of the refugee community and offer a one-stop-shop providing tangible benefits from food, clothing, and children’s toys or books to mental health counselling, parenting advice, and education opportunities for children. Our model has been used elsewhere on the US/Mexico border with ongoing success, so we see this as a replicable approach.
Our work is part of a commitment of $700,000 that the University of Virginia hopes to make at the Global Refugee Forum in support of early childhood development in humanitarian contexts.
- Kristin Clarens, attorney and human rights advocate, Pro Bono Coordinator at Legal Aid Justice Center
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Delivering services in a place that is controlled by cartels and therefore dangerous to both refugees and those who have come to help them
- Supporting caregivers to be able to support their own children
- Working in an environment of frequently changing policy directives
How we are overcoming these challenges
- We are working with local partners who know how to navigate the issue of the cartels and can help us secure safe spaces to deliver services.
- We recognize the critical importance of supporting caregivers’ mental and emotional health in order to help them support their children. We offer activities like providing marriage services and legal support to alleviate caregiver concerns as well as opportunities for play with children.
- We are trying to be nimble in our response to rapidly changing policies by sharing information quickly and modifying the intensity and focus of services we provide.
Results of the Good Practice
- Increased dignity of caregivers (e.g. thanks to marriage ceremonies and mental health counselling)
- Increased access to information (legal, mental health, parenting, etc.)
- Increased access to basic resources for caregivers and children (food, clothing, toys/books, etc.)
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
Our work supports two of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees. First, it aims to ease pressure on host countries by providing services that Mexico has neither resources nor mechanisms to provide.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Second, it enhances refugee self-reliance. Helping caregivers access basic resources and supporting their dignity as people puts them in a better position to support their children’s development, despite difficult circumstances. One example of this is marrying refugees so that they have legal rights to stay with their children and can feel joy and celebration, which helps their mental health and can, in turn, facilitate positive engagement with their children.
Expand and systematize the provision of services, get feedback from refugees on service provision focus and modality.