Migrant Youth in the Dominican Republic

Luciano Cadoni | August 15, 2013

Adolfo participating in a CWS-supported workshop on handicrafts. Photo: Luciano Cadoni/CWS

Adolfo participating in a CWS-supported workshop on handicrafts. Photo: Luciano Cadoni/CWS

Young people make up a significant share of the global number of international migrants. In 2010, there were an estimated 27 million international young migrants. While migration can often offer valuable opportunities and contribute to the development of communities and society at large, it can also pose risks and lead to discrimination and exploitation.

One of them is 17-year-old Adolfo, who emigrated to Dominican Republic after the earthquake that in 2010 devastated his native land of Haiti. As he explains, “I lost my mother and lost everything; this is why I decided to come to the Dominican Republic. The situation in Haiti was very complex and there was a lot of insecurity and violence.”

He ended up in Boca Chica, a small coastal town located 45 minutes east of Santo Domingo, a sex tourism hot spot with high levels of sexual exploitation, drugs and child labor. A very dangerous environment for children and youth to live and work in.

Life in Boca Chica for Adolfo was not quite as he dreamt it when he left Haiti looking for greener pastures. “Since I did not know anyone I had to find a place to live on the street and I had to begin working as a shoe shiner.” Luckily, a few months after arriving, he learned about CWS-supported Caminante, a pioneering organization in the defense of children’s rights. “One of my fellow shoe shiners invited me to go with him to an activity organized by Caminante and since then I’ve never stopped attending. I know that the time I spent here I could be working and making money, but I still choose to come. I feel that Caminante helps me a lot,” he argues.

Many youth living in Adolfo’s situation end up involved in activities that, besides being illegal, pose a danger for their physical and mental health. For Adolfo, the participation in this CWS-supported program has given him another perspective. “I want to have my house, study and have a proper job. This is my dream.”

This is only one example of thousands of youth who, thanks to programs like this one that CWS supports in Latin America and the Caribbean, feel empowered to become leaders and to forge a better future.

Luciano Cadoni, Program Officer, CWS Latin America and Caribbean