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For migrant children in Mexico, a mobile classroom comes to them

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on December 24, 2019 - Duration: 02:25s

For migrant children in Mexico, a mobile classroom comes to them

Migrant children at the Tijuana border find hope aboard the Yes We Can World Foundation mobile classroom, designed to provide bilingual education and help children deal with their emotions, while their families wait for asylum - a process that can last weeks or months.

Zachary Goelman reports.

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For migrant children in Mexico, a mobile classroom comes to them

On a rainy morning two days before Christmas, a line of Central American children amble out of a migrant shelter in Tijuana, on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Their families are seeking asylum in America.

While their parents and guardians wait weeks or months for their cases to be heard, the kids seek refuge here: aboard a bus transformed into mobile classroom, outfitted with desks, chairs, and a teaching staff.

The bus is run by a nonprofit, the Yes We Can World Foundation, offering bilingual education.

Its founder, Estefania Rebellon, was herself once a child seeking refuge.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) YES WE CAN WORLD FOUNDATION FOUNDER, ESTEFANIA REBELLON, SAYING: "When I was 10 years old and our family had to migrate from Colombia to the United States and seek asylum and when I was a kid, school was the only thing that helped me get through the circumstances I was going through, so, when this happened I knew immediately that a school was... It's a survival mechanism for kids." The mobile classroom serves about 45 children between the ages of 5 and 15, and it's the first of its kind in the southern border.

These are students who fled violence in poverty in places such as Guatemala, making a perilous journey north.

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) STUDENT, JOSE, SAYING: "I'm crying with happiness because I have my friends here and they're much nicer than the friends I had before." The experience can be traumatic.

The school aims to offer them some stability.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) YES WE CAN WORLD FOUNDATION FOUNDER, ESTEFANIA REBELLON, SAYING: "We focus on happiness; we focus on the rights of children and we focus on having a welcoming safe space where they can just be children.

I think that the migration journey they're going through is something that it's out of their reach, something they didn't choose." (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) STUDENT, JOSE, SAYING: "I don't want my friends here to change and I want my teachers to be just the way they are, they are very nice." A Reuters analysis of government data found that from January through October, the U.S. government ordered 16,000 migrants under the age of 18 to wait with their families in Mexico for U.S. immigration court hearings.

The Yes We Can Mobile Classroom program is expanding to a second shelter in Tijuana and is expected to serve approximately 75 children.

A third bus is being prepped to serve children at the Texas border at the beginning of the year.

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