This summer, AFSC’s American Friends Immigrant Services program held two weeks of camps for the #MadreTierraKIDS, a project aimed at challenging anti-immigrant stereotypes and hate speech in politics and society regarding immigrant children, their families and their culture.
The project was created by the American Friends Immigrant Services' Lis-Marie Alvarado, Organizing Coordinator, and Vanessa Urbina, Organizing Intern. We want our kids to tell their own stories in public
spaces—to local authorities, to reporters and through social media; We want to show the human face of migration and change the narrative about immigrant children, in particular those coming from Central America and Mexico; We do not want to depict children as powerless victims of an unjust immigration system; We want our children to recognize their own value and advocate for themselves. We want to make them grassroots leaders that support community building initiatives; We want to foster their creativity so they feel the power of imagination; We want to make them feel proud of remembering their roots and backgrounds and be able to recognize the intrinsic rights and values all kids and families have in the world no matter their immigration status.
Nothing about THEM without THEM!
Our group is comprised of kids from Central America and Mexico that crossed the U.S./Mexico border unaccompanied or with a family member. Others are U.S.-born with undocumented parents. Their ethnicities are: Latino, Garifuna and Guatemalan Maya. The ages are from 7 to 12; half of them live in low-income urban areas of Miami migrant and half in Homestead, a semi-rural community. Knowing that Miami Dade County is among the top five U.S. counties receiving unaccompanied children, and that Miami also has a large number of undocumented families, we know it is vital to create safe spaces for these kids.
This is a bilingual (English and Spanish) program because we recognize the importance and the value in speaking many languages. During our family visits one the moms told us that her son had said that
Spanish was ugly, that he didn’t want to speak. For us it is really important to reinforce that speaking Spanish is not something one should feel ashamed of. But many of the kids in our program do not only know English and Spanish, we also have a kid who understands Garifuna and other kids understand Mayan languages. By bringing kids from different backgrounds to the program, we highlight the many immigration stories and diversity of Central Americans and Mexicans and at the same time recognize the similar experiences they have faced as immigrants living in the United States.
We have seen many social justice programs dedicated to teenagers; however, not much has been done for our kids. We recognize the importance of children having a voice and leadership role within the immigration debate. We also see how critical is for us as social change makers to develop preventative social justice, environmental and cultural programs for our kids.
Through these camps, we have been able to transform racism through learning about culture, music, photography, drawing, painting and dancing—instilling a sense of pride and self-respect in our youth!
As part of our #MadreTierraKIDS program, we held a summer camp from July 11th to the 17th at the Farmworker Association (located at 450 Davis Parkway) in Florida City, FL, as well as a second week of activities called Cultura Cura (Culture Heals), dedicated fully to music and dance from July 18th through the 22nd. For more information contact us at LMalvarado@afsc.org. To learn more about our program FOLLOW US on Facebook: Madre Tierra KIDS and Instagram: madre_tierra_miami.