Rosa and her children were forced to flee from brutal organised gangs in Honduras.

Rosa has been trying to stay strong for her 14-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter since the three of them fled from Honduras to Mexico. But her voice quavers as she talks about why they had to run for their lives.

Rosa explains that in her old neighbourhood the local gangs, called maras, were becoming more powerful and vicious. Kidnappings, rapes and murders were everyday occurrences. Rosa and her children lived in constant fear.

She had no husband and supported her children by working as a tailor and cook. The maras extorted what scarce income she made and there was barely enough to keep them alive.

Her older son had done what so many had not – refused to join the maras that were terrorising their community. He wanted to build a future he could be proud of. He had a job at a plastic factory, a girlfriend, and a baby on the way.

Rosa explains that in her old neighbourhood the local gangs, called maras, were becoming more powerful and vicious. 

Rosa, her 14-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter fled Honduras after the family's eldest son was murdered by a local gang. They are seeking asylum in Mexico. ©UNHCR/Jordan J. Hay

Rosa reflects on the life her family left behind in Honduras. ©UNHCR/Jordan J. Hay

Rosa recounts the life her family left behind in Honduras. ©UNHCR/Jordan J. Hay

But refusing to join the maras is often akin to a death sentence. Late one night, Rosa’s son found several gang members waiting for him at the bus stop. His body was found the next morning. His girlfriend was grief stricken and soon afterwards lost the baby she was carrying.

Rosa’s remaining son had also received threats from the maras, even though he was only 14. Rosa knew they had to leave immediately. Packing only some clothing and a few treasured belongings, they travelled for two days to reach the Mexican border, then took a tiny boat across the river and a bus to Tapachula.

Rosa learned that she could apply for asylum and UNHCR staff provided her with support. They enrolled her in UNHCR’s cash assistance program, which helps her meet basic needs for her family. 

The cash assistance program helps Rosa cover the rent on the small room she shares with her children as well pay for groceries and other essentials like medicine.

The family has been in Mexico for a year now, and Rosa earns a small income working as a cleaner. Her children are going to school and have made new friends. Her son is excelling in his studies, and she proudly displays a picture of him and his classmates.

“School is much easier here,” says Rosa’s son. “People are nice. I miss my friends in Honduras sometimes. I haven’t heard from them in a very long time. But I like it here; I don’t want to go back.”

Children and families on the run from extreme violence in Northern Central America desperately need a safe haven. You can help them. 

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