Each month, hundreds of children from some of the world’s most dangerous and impoverished countries find their way to the immigrant youth shelters of Southwest Key Programs. They carry with them incredible stories of resilience, courage and hope. While their stay with us is temporary, their stories leave lasting impressions. Some of their stories are shared below, changing names to protect their identity, so you may read about the life-changing services they are provided during their stay at Southwest Key.
Maya was a shy girl of nearly 18 when she arrived at a Southwest Key shelter in the summer of 2018. Quietly relaying her story to her case manager, she told of the two-year-old daughter back home in Honduras she had to leave behind to seek work in the U.S. While traveling through Mexico with a pregnant friend, she ran out of money. A man who offered to take them the rest of the way, sexually assaulted her.
Maya’s case manager recognized that this extreme form of trafficking qualified her for the federal Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program. URM status would provide Maya with a host of resources not available to other unaccompanied minors to help her deal with the trauma she endured on her journey.
Maya was thrilled when she learned she could apply for benefits in the United States to the same extent as a refugee, and she soon came out of her shell and revealed herself to be a leader among the other kids.
With Maya’s 18th birthday looming, Southwest Key staff sprang into action, helping her to apply. Maya was thrilled when she learned she could apply for benefits in the United States to the same extent as a refugee, and she soon came out of her shell and revealed herself to be a leader among the other kids. She was elected president of the student council, and by the time she received official URM status, Maya was regularly holding meetings for the kids to help advocate for their needs.
Maya’ s URM status allowed her to be placed with a family of South American origin. She will be attending school and receiving her permit to work in the near future. She is in communication with her family in Honduras, and her URM status could mean that her daughter could come live with her in the U.S. one day.