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Learning Space For Child Migrants Expands In Tijuana

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Hundreds of children from around the world are living in migrant shelters in Tijuana. A few of those children will have a chance to play and learn in two new places, specially designed to help them grow during a time where their future is uncertain.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Hundreds of children from around the world are living in migrant shelters in Tiguan have right now waiting with their parents for their chance to claim asylum in the U S now KPBS reporter max Rivlin Adler tells us a few of those children will have a chance to play and learn in to new places, especially designed to help them grow during a time when their future is uncertain.

Speaker 2: 00:25 Every day at eight 30 the doors open at a space called the nest where kids from the ages of zero to six are able to play, paint and build. There's a set of tubes they could build into fantastic shapes and said marbles tumbling through them. Light boards, they can decorate with translucent shapes and clay. They can pound into any form they choose. Each day begins with a song.

Speaker 3: 00:46 Yeah.

Speaker 2: 00:53 Then the children go off to different stations supervised by volunteers like hundreds of other migrant children in Tijuana. They're trying to make it to the United States to claim asylum with their parents. Some have been sent back to wait and Mexico under the remain in Mexico program while others are waiting to be admitted. To the U S to claim asylum after waiting on an unofficial list for months. The nest helps give them a routine, some smiling faces and a place to be kids says at least Ivy who founded the [inaudible],

Speaker 3: 01:24 so, but the idea is to create a space where children who have been displaced and dragged across borders can have a place where they can just be where they can heal.

Speaker 2: 01:36 The nest in Tijuana, which opened in September is one of four other spaces for refugees that Ivy has helped open with the pedagogical Institute of Los Angeles. The nest sits across from the [inaudible] shelter, which is where the children live for anywhere between two to five months as they wait to claim asylum. Family share a bed in the overcrowded shelter which receives no support from the Mexican government. The courtyard is filled with dry and clothes and children are left to entertain themselves in a small and chaotic courtyard. Parents there say the nest gives their children the opportunity to play in a safe space and gives them some time to themselves. Susanna Volos Torres 18 is from the Choa con. She fled last year with her two children after her husband disappeared and she received violent threats. Her three year old daughter Daniella attends the nest, which she describes as beautiful

Speaker 3: 02:30 [inaudible].

Speaker 2: 02:31 Not only does it help her daughter, Susanna explains, but it gives her time to help around the shelter.

Speaker 3: 02:39 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 02:40 she says she gets to work in the communal kitchen or to help clean up the shelter while the kids are occupied. The center isn't only helping occupied the youngest migrants. 17 year old Anna Medallia was chief pres is also from and show a con. She fled political violence with her parents and her two siblings. She's been volunteering at the nest for three weeks, helping the younger children play and learn.

Speaker 3: 03:06 [inaudible] [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 03:06 she says it helps her relax by getting to laugh with the kids during the day. She plans on becoming a teacher when she gets to the United States. Right now the nest across from the cadet to shelter serves around 30 children a day. This month. It's organizers plan on opening a second location in Tijuana and a Canyon that houses the in Baja daughters, the hazy shelter, which is one of the most isolated shelters in the city. It houses mostly central American migrants who have been returned to Mexico through the remain Mexico program. It's also near little Haiti where dozens of Haitians have settled while they decide whether to enter the U S

Speaker 3: 03:43 well. There are so many children living in these shelters and they're stuck on mattresses all day long. There's nothing for them and we know that this is a time of enormous brain development.

Speaker 2: 03:54 Ivy leads us on a tour of the new space which aims to serve 50 children a day. The conditions in the Canyon are extreme open sewage and burning trash, safe space with roosters and farm animals just a mile from the U S border. It's still the goal remains to create a space for children to have room to dream. Ivy is still fundraising to operate the space and is holding an open house next week for volunteers North of the border who want to get involved in to Quana and actually from an Adler. Hey PBS news

Speaker 1: 04:26 and KPBS reporter max Rivlin Adler joins us now. Max, welcome. Hi. So we just heard about this new space for migrant children in Tijuana and another one that will soon open. But how big is the overall need for asylum seeking families in Tijuana? Right now

Speaker 2: 04:43 the need is, is rather large. Right now there are thousands of uh, asylum seekers and migrants, some from Mexico, many from Mexico, some from central America as well stuck in Tijuana. There's no way to actually quantify how many children are living there. But I could just tell you from being in several shelters and, and from speaking with people, you know, there are so many children that are stuck in a situation where they don't have access to any environment that would foster growth or learning or things like that. And if they've already taken a perilous journey to get here. So where's the fun

Speaker 1: 05:15 didn't come from to run this child center?

Speaker 2: 05:17 The funding is entirely, you know, it's a nonprofit. It's a very small outfit. It's rather new. It's gotten some money, um, from, from other larger nonprofits. But, but really it's, it's kind of crowd funding. It's trying to get money on, on a smaller scale so that they can continue to build. One other thing that didn't quite get into in this piece is that they look for volunteers, especially from the San Diego area who would be interested in coming down and spending a week or two with the children and working down there. And they really want to encourage people who just want to, um, get time to give these kids a space and opportunity to, uh, to grow. I'm involved and with the large number of asylum seeking families in Mexico, are migrant children and T Quanta eligible to enroll in public schools? I mean, is that an option?

Speaker 2: 06:08 It is a, I mean, especially for the Mexican citizens, but it's not really something that the parents are considering by just being migrants themselves. They're putting themselves in high danger of being targets for kidnapping, extortion, things like that. They are really reticent to step outside of, um, kind of exactly where they need to, which would be the shelter. They're very wary of. Um, you know, trying to spread themselves too thin. So these people very often live in a very circumscribed area and, and sending their kids to school is not really an option. What about the local, state and federal government? What are government officials doing to help shelter and address the needs of migrants in Tijuana? I spoke with the federal delegate to Tijuana yesterday, uh, to the federal government sends to, to kind of coordinate how it's responding to the migrant crisis at, into Juana.

Speaker 2: 07:00 They've opened up one shelter, they plan on opening up another, but still the need is so great. The numbers are so large that it only scratches the surface. There is nowhere near enough bed space or shelter space or resources for all the people have that have come into Tijuana and over the past year or so. So they're really playing catch up. Uh, I think a lot of migrant organizations and people who speak on their behalf would say they haven't done near enough. Um, and, but as the federal delegate told me yesterday, it is the number one issue for the federal government in Tijuana, and that's how they're treating it. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter max Rivlin Adler max. Thank you. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.