Johan is an 11-year-old boy born in Bluefields, who moved to Managua to live with his grandparents two years ago, when his father migrated to Costa Rica in search of better working conditions. His mother remained in Bluefields to take care of his siblings. Since the age of 9, he has been separated from his nuclear family and has experienced loneliness, the lack of closeness of his parents and siblings embrace. He has had to form many new relationships, including a new relationship with his grandparents, new friendships in school and adjust to a new community.

This story is true of thousands of children and adolescents throughout Central America and beyond. In Central America alone, it is estimated that 378,000 people migrate each year to northern countries motivated by food and economic insecurity, poverty, and violence. Between January and May 2022, an unprecedented migratory flow was reported in Nicaragua, more than 100,000 Nicaraguans left their country.

Each migrant leaves a fractured family behind, with children and young people experiencing less time and quality of love, companionship, emotional and psychosocial support and supervision, leaving youth feeling emotionally empty  and generating emotional distancing and greater vulnerability to dangers and risky behaviors.

Of over 1200 youth registering in the last 2 months of 2021 on the TeenSmart International online platform, a free public source of health promotion information, education, coaching and support, 35% or 1in 3 youth reported having a close family member who had migrated to another country. Additionally, among young people with migrant families, it was observed that:

  • 3 out of 5 of these youth reported not talking to their family about their problems, worries or doubts.
  • 1 out of 5 reported having no friends to talk with about their problems.
  • 3 out of 10 reported being depressed, with higher levels among girls and women (2 out of 5).
  • 2 out of 5 reported suicidal ideation and 1 out of 10 reported having attempted suicide.
  • 3 out of 10 young people reported having participated in fights in the last 3 months, with greater rates among underage young boys.
  • 1 in 10 boys and young men reported belonging to or having belonged to a gang.
  • 2 out of 5 have engaged in bullying, while 3 out of 10 have been victims.
  • 2 out of 5 young people between the ages of 14 and 24, reported being sexually active.
    • 3 out of 5 sexually active young people reported not always using a condom
    • 3% (6 cases) of the group reported having experienced a teen pregnancy.
  • 6% (19) reported experiencing sexual abuse.

In 2021, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) selected TeenSmart International (TSI) as a partner for it’s well known and established adolescent health promotion platform This platform provides health promotion and life skills information, education, coaching and support to over 100,000 Spanish-speaking youth from more than 20 countries. The new, unique online psychosocial care intervention was entitled  “My Future Without Borders” and provides  a psychosocial care intervention for young people between 10 and 24 years of age with families separated by migration. The intervention was designed by a group of twelve young people with migrant families, directed by a professional in migration issues and technically supported by TeenSmart staff. The virtual intervention is accessed on the platform and consists of two components: a virtual 3 module course and a sequence of weekly follow-up cues to action or micro messages that arrive in the young persons’ emails, on the JovenSalud mobile application and/or on a notification service on the web platform.

Four hundred young Nicaraguans from 15 provinces participated in the pilot intervention, with 80% of the participants concentrated in Carazo, Matagalpa, Managua, Boaco, and the North Atlantic Autonomous Region. Forty-four percent of the participating young people were between the ages of 10-13 and 50% were between the ages of 14 and 17.  Eighty-five percent of the young people completed the course, and 93% (9 out of 10) reported being very satisfied with it. In 85% of cases, participants stated that the course content was important and relevant to their lives. Positive trends in Improved skills and behaviors were observed, specifically improved relationships with migrant family member and in increased frequency of communication. Youth also reported displaying a greater interest, affection, and empathy when communicating with their migrant family members, and a greater sense of having people they can trust to help them in their country of origin.

Johan, 11 years old

“…The course helped me to understand my situation better, not just why my dad left, but to understand that there were several ways to relate to him, so it helped me improve my bond with my dad.”

Neysis, 14 years old

“…I have become more aware of the reasons and motivations behind migration. It has been of great help to my mental health because it has helped me recognize the emotions I need to work on. I highlight the Joven Salud platform because it not only addresses the topic of migration but also covers my physical and psychological well-being.”

This intervention is systematically being promoted to reach young people in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  Spanish-speaking youth with access to the internet and a mobile device such as a cellphone, tablet or computer can register on Positive youth development organizations, state institutions and international organizations are invited to promote and use this educational free resource to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who are daily confronting the challenges of migration.

If you are a young person from 10 to 24 years old, use Joven Salud! If you are over 24 but have young people in your life, recommend, free and confidential services with the purpose of empowering adolescents to make smart choices to live effective and satisfactory lives.

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