Over the past few years, increasing numbers of teenagers and young adults from El Salvador have come to the United States in search of safety and economic opportunity. Fleeing desperate poverty and horrific gang violence, these young migrants see no option other than to leave. However, they are often returned to El Salvador, either by the United States or Mexico. Many of them choose to make the long and dangerous journey again and again with no guarantee of safety or success.
In response to this humanitarian crisis, USCRI launched its Livelihoods Program in El Salvador in collaboration with the Salvadorian government. The Livelihoods Program provides job training, microenterprise development, case management, and a small stipend to returning young Salvadorans eager to escape poverty and find work. From the moment they return to El Salvador, USCRI is involved, often meeting these young people at the airport or bus station and offering them the option to enroll in the Livelihoods Program then and there.
Since 2016, 394 young adults have participated in the program, training for positions as bank tellers, auto mechanics, welders, HVAC technicians, bartenders, waiters, chefs, farmers, and more.
“The best part about the program is seeing a person’s transformation before your eyes,” says USCRI’s Carol Olivera. “I’ve seen a kid go from timid and lacking self-esteem to a vibrant young person who proudly says, “I can work hard and make a living.” It’s wonderful to see the pride they have in their work and their accomplishments.”
USCRI Centroamérica partners with local organizations such as INSAFORP (a vocational training school) and ITCA (a local engineering school), who provide hands-on training to young people in a variety of fields. USCRI staff work with local employers to assess workforce needs, secure job placements for youth, and ensure that young people have both the physical necessities (tools, clothing, etc.) and the skills needed to succeed in their chosen field.